In ‘Eventful Year’ with Presidential, Legislative Elections, People of Timor-Leste Committed to Ensuring Peace in 2012 and Beyond, President Tells Security Council

22 February 2012
SC/10552

In ‘Eventful Year’ with Presidential, Legislative Elections, People of Timor-Leste Committed to Ensuring Peace in 2012 and Beyond, President Tells Security Council

22 February 2012
Security Council
SC/10552
Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Security Council

6720th Meeting (PM)

In ‘Eventful Year’ with Presidential, Legislative Elections, People of Timor-Leste

Committed to Ensuring Peace in 2012 and Beyond, President Tells Security Council

UN Mission Head Says 2012 Will Be Chance to Celebrate Peaceful Elections,

See Orderly Transition to New Government, Consult on Post-Mission UN Presence

Timor-Leste’s capital of Dili was a bustling city where peace was palpable and the people were committed to ensuring it in 2012 and beyond, the country’s President, José Ramos-Horta, told the Security Council this afternoon, adding that building peace must be block by block, community by community.

Addressing the Council on the eve of its consideration of the mandate of the United Nations Integrated Mission in Timor-Leste (UNMIT), whose extension in its present form might be the last before a drawdown at the end of the year, Mr. Ramos-Horta said the mark of a successful State was that it learned from its traumatic events, emerging stronger and determined to ensure they did not recur.

It would be an eventful year:  Timor-Leste would celebrate the tenth anniversary of its independence and hold presidential and legislative elections, he said.  Ten years on, the country had recorded considerable gains across a spectrum of concerns, but daunting challenges remained, he said, citing still-high poverty levels, child malnutrition and tuberculosis.  Public administration faced human resource shortages and clean water and sanitation access could be improved.

He, meanwhile, hailed the country’s dynamic multi-party political system, and noted that 13 candidates had been confirmed for the upcoming elections and 24 parties were registered for the legislative poll.  By the end of the year, he said, his Government would like to see peacekeeping in the country come to a close and a new partnership with the international community begin.

“Let me be clear”, he said, “we need and want international partnership underpinned by a modest United Nations mission in line with our country’s real needs and adjusted to the evolving reality on the ground”, for which his Government had established a High-Level Committee on Transition.

Briefing on developments from the United Nations perspective was the Secretary-General’s Special Representative and Head of UNMIT, Ameerah Haq, who said 2012 was indeed a critical year for Timor-Leste, marked by several key anniversaries.  This year would be an opportunity to celebrate peaceful elections, an orderly transition to a new Government, continued stability and security and further development of the capacities of the national police force.

This year would also be critical for the United Nations long engagement, she said.  In view of developments, the Secretary-General had asked the Council to extend UNMIT’s mandate until 31 December.  Following consultations with the new Government, and within 60 days of its formulation, the Secretary-General would submit his suggestions on UNMIT’s anticipated withdrawal and the post-UNMIT United Nations presence.  That report could form the basis of a seamless transition.

Security permitting, she said she envisaged that UNMIT police would begin a well-paced drawdown following the parliamentary elections and the new Government’s formation.  The early planning now under way for the post-UNMIT phase would enable well-informed discussions with the newly elected Government and lay the groundwork for a smooth transition to a new form of partnership.  It had consistently been expressed that, should things go well this year, there should be no uniformed United Nations personnel in Timor-Leste beyond 2012, but only a small political presence, with a link to the Secretariat, and through it, to the Security Council.

Among Council members, it was widely held that Timor-Leste was well on its way to a new stage of self-reliance, albeit with well-placed international and bilateral support.  Given progress in strengthening national police and building State institutions, and laying the ground for successful presidential and legislative elections, speakers expressed confidence that 2012 would be a year of milestones and one in which crucial capacity gaps were bridged.

Many speakers, including the representative of the United States, promised that the United Nations and international community would continue to partner with the young democracy.  That delegate welcomed the transfer of primary policing responsibility from UNMIT to the national police, cautioning that maintaining stability throughout the electoral period was vital.  The elections themselves should not be seen as an exit strategy, he said, encouraging Timor-Leste’s transition to be determined by progress on the ground.

Australia’s representative expressed optimism about the country’s future as UNMIT prepared to wind down its work at the end of the year.  With the help of its friends and international partners, Timor-Leste had made remarkable progress in recent years, but he agreed it was important to ensure that decisions on the pace of the withdrawal took full account of on-the-ground conditions following the planned presidential and parliamentary elections, as well as the wishes of the Timorese Government.

Timor-Leste’s journey had been far from easy, asserted Japan’s delegate, commending the Timorese people for its successes.  Today, with the help of successive United Nations missions and the efforts of the wider international community, “signs of steady progress can now be seen everywhere”.  As an example, he said the national police had been maintaining a situation of calm in the country.  The upcoming parliamentary and presidential elections were of the utmost importance, and nearly 100,000 more people — most of them youths — would participate than had taken part in the 2007 poll.

Similarly hopeful about the elections, Brazil’s representative said the polls and assumption to power of the newly elected Government would be a cornerstone for defining the future presence of the United Nations in Timor-Leste.  Congratulating the Timorese authorities on the measures taken to prepare for the elections, she said Brazil was convinced the stability the country had achieved would carefully be preserved, and acknowledged that since re-assuming primary responsibilities for policing almost a year ago, the national police had demonstrated its capacity to fully carry out the task.

Statements were also made by the Minister for State and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Cooperation of Togo, as well as the representatives of South Africa, India, United Kingdom, Portugal, Russian Federation, France, Morocco, Azerbaijan, Guatemala, Colombia, China, Germany, Pakistan, Angola (on behalf of Portuguese-speaking countries), Malaysia and New Zealand.

The European Union’s delegation also spoke.

The meeting was called to order at 3:12 p.m. and adjourned at 6:04 p.m.

Background

The Security Council had before it the Report of the Secretary-General on the United Nations Integrated Mission in Timor-Leste for the period from 20 September 2011 to 6 January 2012 (document S/2012/43), in which an extension of mandate is recommended until 31 December 2012 — the anticipated departure date of the Mission, known as UNMIT — in view of continued need for institutional development and capacity-building of the National Police, as well as election-related assistance this year.

The overall situation in Timor-Leste remained calm during the reporting period, the Secretary-General says in the report, while adding that it is critical to intensify efforts to further strengthen the Police in the areas of criminal investigations, community policing and internal accountability.  In anticipation of the withdrawal of the Mission, he encourages Member States, as well as bilateral and multilateral partners, to engage with the Government and the Mission to ensure continued support in these areas, and he reiterates his appeal to all countries concerned to approve requests for the extension of deployment of police officers serving in key UNMIT positions.

He also expresses hope that the Timor-Leste Parliament will soon resume debate on the draft laws on reparations, as well as on the follow-up institutions to the Commission on Reception, Truth and Reconciliation and on the Commission on Truth and Friendship, and hopes for further progress on implementation of their recommendations.

In regard to presidential and parliamentary elections planned for this year, he says that steady progress has been made in preparations.  He cites the approval of subsidiary electoral legislation by the National Electoral Commission, the successful conduct of voter registration and ongoing efforts to increase the participation of women and youth in the electoral process.  All political leaders have continued to express their commitment to peace, stability and dialogue.  The general stability that prevailed in 2011 may, therefore, be expected to continue in 2012, a year that will mark the tenth anniversary of the restoration of Timor-Leste’s independence, he comments.

Nevertheless, his Special Representative will continue to play her good offices role with all parties to ensure a peaceful and credible political process, he says, warning that the elections could reignite localized tensions among individuals and groups, particularly martial arts groups.  He calls it reassuring that the National Police, with support from UNMIT, has made operational planning for the elections a priority.  UNMIT police will continue to stand ready to provide operational support, if required and requested.

In view of the expected departure of UNMIT at the end of 2012, he welcomes UNMIT’s focus on enhancing the skills of its national staff, commenting that further efforts should be made to ensure that those functions currently provided by the Mission needed beyond the mandate are either transferred to State institutions or taken over by bilateral and multilateral partners, the United Nations country team or other entities.

In that regard, he says, a key priority for all stakeholders should be the implementation of the Joint Transition Plan, accompanied by regular review of progress.  The nature and size of the post-UNMIT engagement of the United Nations in Timor-Leste will be influenced by that progress, he expects.

Briefings

AMEERAH HAQ, Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Timor-Leste and Head of UNMIT, noted that President José Ramos-Horta told her often about the request he had made in 2006 in this chamber to establish UNMIT.  The Mission was supporting the country’s efforts to ensure that the prevailing stability and security continued through 2012 and beyond.  Timor-Leste was about to hold presidential and parliamentary elections, and she had every reason to believe those would be successful.  The electoral management bodies were striving to deliver a transparent and fair process.  Their capacities had increased since 2007 and there had been an accompanying decrease in the level of United Nations support.  Still, the United Nations continued to provide integrated technical assistance through the joint United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and UNMIT electoral support team.  The final group of 130 United Nations Volunteers had now deployed country-wide and national institutions were taking increased ownership of dialogue.

She said that maintaining a favourable security environment was the most important task for the Policia Nacional de Timor-Leste (PNTL).  In an effort to prevent such incidents as had occurred in December 2011 from becoming a trend, the Council of Ministers had recently passed a resolution prohibiting martial arts group activities for one year.  PNTL, with UNMIT police support, was getting ready to ensure security during the electoral period, and a live exercise this month tested the ability of the respective forces to respond to possible security incidents.  Alongside the electoral preparations were additional capacity-building activities supported by UNMIT police.  Notable achievements included the creation of a PNTL human resources database and various training in the districts, including on human rights and discipline.

Her assessment, she said, was that PNTL would fulfil its role in maintaining stability through 2012, with UNMIT’s support.  Of course, building a professional and effective police force was a major task, which would continue long after UNMIT’s departure, and she hoped that bilateral and multilateral support would be forthcoming for the force’s further development.  Already, the institution was on the right path, and that would continue as long as it demonstrated its commitment to integrity, professionalism and capacity-building.

Additionally, the Government and UNMIT had made good progress in advancing UNMIT’s transition, she noted.  On 22 December 2011, for example, the Prime Minister had signed a decree establishing an inter-ministerial committee to manage the transfer of certain UNMIT assets to national authorities, a strong sign of the Government’s commitment to an orderly transition.  In close collaboration with the Government, UNMIT was also working to ensure that many of the Mission’s activities could transition seamlessly to the United Nations country team to safeguard Timor-Leste’s gains.  She hoped the Council would recognize both the progress made in key areas of UNMIT’s mandate and the requirement for further consolidation in the areas of justice, governance, human rights, and civilian capacity-building for PNTL.

Transition planning, she said, also entailed improving the capacity of national staff to enable them to contribute positively to Timor-Leste’s development after UNMIT left.  At the end of January, a joint team from the Department of Peacekeeping Operations, the Department of Political Affairs, the United Nations Development Group and UNMIT had conducted a detailed assessment of possible options for the United Nations post-UNMIT engagement, based on those identified in the Joint Transition Plan.  In its meetings with various interlocutors, the team had encountered a remarkable degree of coherence in views; it was consistently expressed that, on the understanding that things went well this year, there should be no uniformed United Nations personnel in Timor-Leste beyond 2012, but that there was a need for a small political presence, with a link to the Secretariat, and through it, to the Security Council.

She said that such a presence, it had been suggested, should focus on consolidating a culture of democratic governance, nurturing a generation of future leaders, consolidating gains in the areas of justice, governance, human rights, and providing civilian advice to the PNTL.  Consultations on the post-UNMIT United Nations presence would continue in the coming months on the understanding that any final decision on the matter would only be taken following discussion with the Government formed after the parliamentary elections.  The early planning currently under way would enable well-informed discussions with the newly elected Government and lay the groundwork for a seamless transition to a new form of partnership.

This year was a critical one for Timor-Leste, marked by several key anniversaries, including the tenth of the restoration of independence, she said.  She was counting on this year to provide the opportunity to celebrate peaceful elections, an orderly transition to a new Government, continued stability and security and further development of PNTL’s technical capacities.  This year would also be critical for the United Nations long engagement.  In view of developments, the Secretary-General had asked the Council to extend UNMIT’s mandate until 31 December.  Following consultations with the new Government, and within 60 days of its formulation, the Secretary-General would submit a report with his suggestions on UNMIT’s anticipated withdrawal and the post-UNMIT United Nations presence.  That report could form the basis of a Council meeting to enable a seamless transition to the post-UNMIT presence.  As the security situation permitted, she envisaged that UNMIT police would begin a well-paced drawdown following the parliamentary elections and the formation of a new Government.

JOSÉ RAMOS-HORTA, President of Timor-Leste, who was accompanied by a large delegation that included his country’s Minister of Finance and Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs, said that 2012 would mark another milestone in Timor-Leste’s history with the United Nations.  He had lost track of how many times he had walked the halls of the United Nations between 1975 and 1999, he said, recalling friends and colleagues that had offered a hand to his country.  While some of those visits had been discouraging, nearly all States underwent traumatic events of the sort that had affected his country in 2006.  Yet, the mark of a successful State was that it learned from such experiences, emerged stronger and was determined to ensure they did not recur.  In that regard, he said the people of Timor-Leste were committed to ensuring that the prevailing peace and stability remained throughout 2012, and beyond.

While acknowledging that the 2006 crisis could have been averted if minor problems within the defence forces had not been allowed to fester and boil over into the streets of Dili, he said that he was addressing the Council today under much different circumstances.  Today, Dili was a bustling city where peace was palpable.  “Peace has returned to our cities, our streets, our communities, our schools, our homes.”  His Office had undertaken a number of measures to address the root causes of that crisis and to foster a culture of peace and non-violence.

As an example, he noted that the “Dili, City of Peace” initiative had been launched in 2009 as a series of monthly dialogues with communities across the country.  It had included major sports and cultural programmes and had been accompanied by fast-tracked anti-poverty initiatives.  “Healing wounds in communities requires patient efforts, with special attention given to the wounds of the soul”, he said, stressing that “peace must be built block by block; community by community”.

Stressing that his country would not have made such progress without generous assistance from the United Nations and the wider international community, he reiterated that 2012 looked to be an eventful year.  Timor-Leste would celebrate the tenth anniversary of its independence and would be holding major elections:  presidential elections on 17 March, with a legislative poll at the end of June.  Ten years on, life expectancy in the young country had increased by more than two years; gross national product (GNP) had jumped by 228 per cent; average growth had been in the double digits for the past four years; and real, non-oil GDP growth remained strong.

Continuing, he said school enrolment had risen from a modest 63 per cent in 2006 to 90 per cent today.  In the health sector, significant progress had been made, with much credit going to Cuba.  Infant mortality in children under 5 had been cut in half, and incidents of malaria and dengue had also decreased.  He went on to say that there could be no nobler mission than rescuing fellow human beings from the centuries-old illness of leprosy.  With the help of the Nipon Foundation, incidence of the disease was now less than 1 case per 10,000 people.  Indeed, the World Health Organization (WHO) considered leprosy to be medically eradicated in Timor-Leste, the first time in centuries.

Yet, he said, daunting challenges remained.  Poverty levels, which had dropped significantly over the past decade, nevertheless remained high.  Child malnutrition was extremely high and “is an indictment of us all, we the Timorese leaders and our partners”, he said, adding that tuberculosis remained rampant and was the country’s number one health problem.  While he acknowledged the shortcomings of the Government on that front, he stressed that it was high time for Timor-Leste’s partners, including international non-governmental organizations, to accept their share of the responsibility for the failures in that critical field.

He said that public administration still faced human resource shortages and the Government was committed to improving efficiency on budget expenditure and State investment in basic infrastructure.  It was also committed to prioritize access to clean water and sanitation, and to bolstering the public health sector.

As for the country’s political system, he hailed its dynamic multi-party system, and noted that 13 candidates had been confirmed for the upcoming elections and 24 parties were registered for the legislative poll.  “I must have been doing a terrible job all these years as President that so many people were standing for election these years,” he said, adding that he was also a candidate.

He said that by the end of the year, the Timorese Government would like to see peacekeeping in the country come to a close and for a new partnership with the international community to begin.  “Let me be clear:  we need and want international partnership underpinned by a modest United Nations mission in line with our country’s real needs and adjusted to the evolving reality on the ground,” he said.  To achieve that, the Government had established a High-Level Committee on Transition, which he chaired, with the support of the Prime Minister and the Special Representative of the Secretary-General.  The Committee met each month and had developed a relevant plan, which had been signed by the three officials in September 2011.  “The level of commitment from both the Government and the United Nations is steadfast, and I am confident that the plan will be implemented,” he said.

Continuing on that matter, he said that discussions between the Timorese Government and the United Nations on the potential options for a post-UNMIT role for the world body had begun in January, and the emerging consensus was that the United Nations could work to, among other things, enhance democratic institutions, build capacity in the security sector, and continue support of governance, justice and human rights.  The Government and all stakeholders would remain actively engaged in those discussions to ensure that the option that emerged would be tailored to the country’s specific needs.

In closing, he invited all Council members to come to Timor-Leste in 2012 to see “the good news”.  The death of a close relative had almost forced him to cancel his trip to New York, but after watching the news and seeing all the reports about the challenges facing so many countries he had decided to come and “share the good news that was happening in at least one corner of the world”.  As the Organization tried to manage the many conflicts and other challenges, he had thought:  “Maybe I should go give these people at least some good news.  So, this is the good news.  I hope this is a comfort to you, for what we have all achieved together.”

Statements

BASO SANGQU ( South Africa) congratulated Timor-Leste on 10 years of independence, which was a milestone, not only for its Government and people, but a victory for all peoples of the work championing the right to self-determination.  As an indication of the country’s remarkable progress, it had moved from hosting a peacekeeping mission to deploying personnel in those missions.  That was a testament to its growing strength and capacity and of the will of the Timorese authorities to peace and security.  This year was also one which would see a drawdown of UNMIT’s activities and a transfer of complete authority to the Government of full function of its institutions.  There had been further improvements in the political and security situations, and the strong commitment of the leadership and other stakeholders to national dialogue and peaceful democratic processes was evident.

In the area of governance, he noted that the Timorese authorities had adopted additional legislation to strengthen the capacity and effectiveness of State institutions.  He was also pleased to note progress made in preparations for the upcoming presidential and legislative elections.  That process would further entrench democratic stability.  Particularly encouraging were the ongoing efforts of the electoral bodies to include women and other minorities in the process.  Still, much remained to be done.  There was a need for further support of PNTL and he, therefore, requested UNMIT for the remainder of this year to continue to do so.  Truth and reconciliation were also important to the country’s long-term stability and he urged implementation of those body’s recommendations.

MANJEEV SINGH PURI ( India) said it was a matter of great satisfaction that the overall situation in Timor-Leste remained calm and stable and that the country was firmly on the path to long-term peace, stability and development.  This year would be an important milestone for the consolidation of a democratic transition.  The active engagement of all political parties in the democratic processes and the forthcoming elections were an encouraging indicator of Timor-Leste’s abiding commitment to democracy.  There had been steady preparatory progress, and an enabling legislative framework had been put in place.  He commended the PNTL for its efforts towards institutional development and capacity-building, noting that it had successfully assumed responsibility for the conduct, command and control of all police operations in the country.  Forthcoming elections would be the final litmus test of its preparedness to maintain law and order.

Moving ahead, he said, it was critical that the necessary legislative and operational framework be in place for a clear delineation of authority between the military and the police.  India supported the Government’s efforts for enhanced regional engagement and for addressing development challenges confronting the country.  It was pleased at the overall economic growth, including proceeds from the oil and gas sector, which were robust.  The Government’s ongoing focus on infrastructure and capital development would be helpful in ushering in a rapid socio-economic transition.  As UMMIT moved towards a drawdown and the Government assumed full responsibility for various processes, the United Nations system and agencies in the field must work coherently and critical aspects related to the transition must be decided in close consultation with the Government.  The progress achieved so far gave him confidence that things were moving in the right direction and that UNMIT was well along the path to becoming a success story.

PHILIP PARHAM ( United Kingdom) said 2012 would be a pivotal year for the Timorese people, who would be asked to elect a President and parliament.  The need to ensure free and fair polls would be critical to consolidating the country’s democratic future.  He also stressed that 2012 would set a standard for peacebuilding and peacekeeping transition.  Timor-Leste had remained stable and he commended the joint transition plan adopted by the Government and the United Nations, and hoped it could set an example for others to follow.  Such a plan would show that the United Nations and host States could produce a strategy for future stability, growth and development and security, supported by the Council.

He said it was important for the plan to not only succeed in its own right, but also to show that the United Nations could successfully manage transition.  At the same time, the transition must be watched closely, so that the Organization could help effectively address any changes that occurred on the ground.  He went on to say that it was necessary to ensure that UNMIT’s drawdown took place in an environment that ensured safety and security of the population.  Yet, UNMIT’s withdrawal did not mean the Council would turn its back on the country.  He sincerely hoped the United Nations and the Government would continue to enjoy the cooperation that had led to the adoption of the transition plan, in order to define the shape and objectives of the Organization’s post-UNMIT presence, drawing on input from relevant agencies and the international community.  Benchmarks must be clear and the aim must be to transition to a regular United Nations country team presence as soon as possible.

JOSÉ FILIPE MORAES CABRAL ( Portugal) said 2012 would be a decisive year for Timor-Leste and planned elections would set the stage for the situation in the country for years to come.  The country would also be considering a post-UNMIT presence, as well as celebrating the tenth anniversary of its independence.  Timor-Leste was a success story, and Portugal was certain that the coming elections would take place in a climate of peace and according to international standards.  It was a very positive sign that the PNTL had been preparing for months to ensure the polls were held in a safe environment.

He said the resolution the Council was set to adopt tomorrow on UNMIT was a good framework for the work to be carried out going forward.  The Government had already expressed its interest in having the United Nations maintain a presence in the country after UNMIT’s withdrawal.  That issue would undoubtedly be the subject of further discussions during the second half of the year.  Timor-Leste had consistently worked to enhance its development and strengthen its economy and governance structures.  Portugal had and would continue its bilateral cooperation, including in the training of teachers, and bolstering judicial and governance structures.  Consistent international support would still be an essential way to provide support, as the country moved into the next phase of its development. 

JEFFREY DELAURENTIS ( United States) said the United Nations and the international community as a whole had worked together since Timor-Leste’s independence and would continue to partner with that young democracy.  It was also necessary to focus on the process of UNMIT’s planned withdrawal and begin to consider post-Mission engagement.  The United States welcomed the transfer of primary policing responsibility from UNMIT to PNTL.  Maintaining stability throughout the upcoming electoral period would be crucial and that transfer was a key step in that process.  He noted the remaining challenges and encouraged the Government to more clearly define the respective responsibilities of PNTL and the defence forces.  As Timor-Leste continued to develop its national security institutions, clearly defined authority, as well as accountability and impartiality, were crucial.  The United States was committed to supporting the development of the military and police forces and had recently increased its bilateral support in that area.

He commended the Government’s electoral preparations, as well as United Nations efforts and those of other international partners.  The success of that process would indicate a further solidification of peace and security and signify continued progress towards a positive future.  He urged all political parties to respect the outcomes.  The development of competent and strong rule-of-law institutions was critical to the country’s long-term success.  He was encouraged by the Government’s progress in ending corruption, and he encouraged resolution of all truth and reconciliation issues.  He hoped the crime investigation team would also be able to complete its important work within its mandate.  At the same time, he recognized the “truly impressive” level of collaboration between UNMIT and the Government in developing a transition plan for the Mission’s withdrawal by the end of 2012 and he encouraged them to continue to focus on that, even as the election cycle began, to ensure that any capability gaps were identified and filled.  The elections themselves should not be an exit strategy, but rather, Timor-Leste’s transition should be determined by progress on the ground.

ALEXANDER A. PANKIN ( Russian Federation) said he was pleased with developments.  Internal political trends were positive, which was particularly important in light of the upcoming elections.  The security situation was also stable, and he commended UNMIT’s efforts to support the country in enhancing that sector, particularly the national police.  Hopefully, during the election period, the Mission would serve as a back-up to the national authorities.  He was also pleased that the Government was taking full responsibility for capacity-building of the national police and, in the election run-up, had taken special measures to improve logistical support to the law-and-order forces.  There would soon be a “type of graduation test” for the Mission, at the end of which a final decision would be taken on the modalities for a drawdown.

No less important in the second part of the year would be the issue of the United Nations’ further presence in Timor-Leste, the scale and nature of which should be determined in consultation with the Government and other United Nations bodies, he said.  After the withdrawal, there would be an ongoing need for support and peacebuilding, and the United Nations should continue in that regard through its specialized agencies, programmes and funds.  Also, post-withdrawal should not leave the Timorese with the feeling that the international presence had fled the country.  He was pleased with the international community’s efforts to ensure crisis settlement and post-conflict peacebuilding could yield positive results, and the situation in Timor-Leste was “a very good example of that”.  He supported the Council’s resolution to extend UNMIT’s mandate until the end of the year.

EMMANUEL BONNE ( France) said that, while Timor-Leste was entering a “delicate” electoral phase this year, the solid successes it had achieved in the past gave his delegation every reason to believe that such progress would continue.  While the handover to national police had gone smoothly, the international community must continue to remain watchful of the situation in the country.  The transition would be an opportunity to prove that the United Nations could walk the path of progress, with concerned countries laying the groundwork for their own futures.  Yet, the UNMIT drawdown did not mean the international community was “drawing away” from Timor-Leste.  Indeed, the European Union would remain committed to providing assistance to the country based on priorities set by the Timorese Government.

LOTFI BOUCHAARA ( Morocco) welcomed the fact that the report had noted that the situation in Timor-Leste had remained calm during the period under review.  What was important now was to ensure that country’s success continued apace, in line with the joint development strategy.  Turning to other issues, he cited real successes in areas such as the rule of law, and in the justice sector, where a backlog of legal cases had been tackled.  The upcoming elections would mark a turning point in the country’s history.  It was, therefore, necessary that all people of the country were committed to ensuring a satisfactory electoral process.  Meanwhile, the Government must remain committed to implementing social and economic reforms.

AGSHIN MEHDIYEV ( Azerbaijan) said that important progress had been made in preparation for the elections and important steps had been taken to complete the legal framework for that process, but “it is obvious” that the security situation and stability on the ground remained a key issue in the run-up period.  The PNTL had made operational planning for the elections a priority and UNMIT police would stand ready to support the national police.  It was encouraging that, since the PNTL had assumed full responsibility for law enforcement in March 2011, the security situation country-wide had remained stable and calm and the reported crime rate had remained low.  The institutional development of the force must be strengthened and implementation of the Police Joint Development Plan supported.

He welcomed the progress achieved in the areas of rule of law, justice and human rights, and encouraged all stakeholders to seek to strengthen the capacity of national institutions.  He commended the Government for its constructive response following the review of its national report through the Human Rights Council’s periodic review mechanism.  Further efforts towards establishing accountability for past serious criminal offences would have a positive impact on long-term peace and stability.  Against the background of many challenges, the country still needed the assistance of bilateral and multilateral partners in order to fully realize its potential for equitable and inclusive sustainable growth.  He welcomed the Dili Development Pact between the Government and donor community in July 2011 and considered it essential that UNMIT continue to cooperate with United Nations agencies, funds and programmes, as well as with relevant partners, to support the Timorese Government.

GERT ROSENTHAL ( Guatemala), said his country, aware that consolidating a democracy and building a system of governance was a long-term process, knew that international support would still be needed after UNMIT’s withdrawal, particularly in consolidating that country’s institutions that were still forming, such as the police, a sector in which the United Nations had heavily invested.  Noting that there were many challenges to overcome, he said that the political, economic and security situation in Timor-Leste attested to the goodwill and resilience of the Timorese.

The presence of the United Nations after UNMIT’s withdrawal needed to be consistent with the situation on the ground and needed to respect the priorities of the Government to be elected in the coming months, he said.  Timor-Leste was endowed with natural resources, whose good management was essential for the country’s sustainable development.  In that regard, greater investment and resources needed to be allocated in such areas as education and youth employment, health and agriculture.

He said he was encouraged by the increasing integration of Timor-Leste; for instance, in efforts to apply for membership in the Association of South-East Asian Nations (ASEAN).  He also recognized the important role the United Nations had played in Timor-Leste since 1999.  The Organization had become a better institution, not only because of the work realized in Timor-Leste, but also by drawing on the lessons it had learned there.  Its trajectory was a shared success.

NÉSTOR OSORIO ( Colombia) highlighted the many successes that had been achieved in Timor-Leste to promote security, development and democracy.  He also applauded the efforts that had been carried out to ensure free, fair and broadly participatory elections in 2012.  He said the upcoming polls would be a test for the national police force, which should ensure that they were carried out in a safe and secure environment.  He also urged the current Government to ensure that the national police had the resources that were required for them to carry out their duties effectively.  While Timor-Leste had achieved many successes, challenges remained, including in the public health and public administration sectors.  He supported the decision to extend UNMIT’s mandate through the end of the year, especially given that, over the coming months, the mission’s support would be needed to help bolster institutions and prepare for elections.

YANG TAO ( China) said that, since the Council’s review of UNMIT last year, the situation in Timor-Lest had improved further due to the unremitting efforts of the Timorese Government and people, along with broad international support.  Going forward, the international community must support the Timorese Government’s capacity-building efforts.  Development and long-term security ultimately belonged to the people, and China hoped the international community would support the Government’s efforts to bolster public administration, the participation of women, job creation and public health structures.  The international community should also work to ensure the upcoming elections took place in a safe and secure environment.  He supported the Secretary-General’s recommendation to extend UNMIT until the end of the year and said that China hoped the Secretariat would coordinate closely with the Timorese Government in defining a post-UNMIT presence in the country.  He looked forward to the submission by the Secretary-General of further proposals on the matter.

MIGUEL BERGER (Germany), aligning himself with the statement to be made on behalf of the European Union, said his country was “entirely confident” that the people of Timor-Leste, with the support of the United Nations and international partners, would remain on the right track, and today’s briefings underpinned that optimism.  He welcomed the continued overall progress, including with regard to the consolidation of the substantial institutional achievements, the generally calm security environment, and electoral preparations.  In the latter context, Germany welcomed the invitation by the Timorese Government to the European Union to send an election observation mission.  Ten years after independence and in light of that progress, his delegation was assured that successful completion of another electoral cycle this year would mark the right moment for UNMIT’s withdrawal.

At this stage, he said, Germany encouraged maximum attention to a smooth and sustainable transition to the Timorese Government and to bilateral and multilateral partners.  It was crucial to develop an understanding of “what we are transitioning into”.  There, his delegation considered it very helpful that a national consensus was taking shape on the nature of future United Nations support, post-UNMIT.  He encouraged a timely decision by the next Government.  Concerning the remaining volatilities, his country felt that the right lessons had been drawn from the past, yet he underlined the medium-term requirements for further consolidation in the areas of justice, governance, human rights and civilian capacity-building.  Germany supported its Timorese partners in their expectation to maintain a close link to the Council “for as long as volatilities remain”.

RAZA BASHIR TARAR ( Pakistan) said that successful elections would be a milestone in the transition and a key test of the viability of Timor-Leste’s State institutions.  It was important to hold peaceful elections in accordance with the country’s Constitution, and UNMIT and the bilateral partners should extend maximum support.  The operational and logistical gaps facing the PNTL must be filled in a timely manner.  Implementation of the Joint Transition Plan between the Timorese Government and UNMIT would be critical to the smooth transition of the Mission and the country’s continued development.  The transfer of UNMIT’s functions and assets to the Government must take place in a systematic and coordinated manner, ensuring that the national authorities had the capabilities to assume the functions being transferred to them.  He looked forward to determination of the post-UNMIT United Nations engagement from one of the four options identified in the plan, based on close consultations with the Timorese authorities.  The international community must continue to assist the country for the duration of the transition plan.

He said the presence of effective security forces was critical for maintaining the country’s stability.  In that, UNMIT must continue to support PNTL in its capacity-building in accordance with the Police Joint Development Plan.  He commended steps taken by the Government to increase budgetary allocations for bridging the capacity gaps faced by PNTL through provision of resources and expertise.  Simultaneously, the authorities must take steps to build and consolidate judicial authorities and institutions in order to ensure accountability and prevent impunity.  He was encouraged by the country’s economic performance.  While the international community had played its part, it was now up to the Timorese leadership to seize the opportunity and build a better future.

ELLIOT OHIN, Minister of State and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Cooperation of Togo, said UNMIT must support the Government and public institutions and facilitate a political dialogue among all stakeholders in fostering social cohesion and national reconciliation.  In that endeavour, the Government had signed a joint agreement with UNMIT to bolster development and improvement of law enforcement and security sectors, including capacity-building of the national police.  Togo hoped the dialogue between all parties in the country would continue during the run-up to and after the elections.  On other matters, he hoped the Government would take action on a number of issues, including elaborating a law on combating corruption and terrorist financing.

He said that UNMIT, the Government and other stakeholders must continue to press ahead with the transition process, which was in line with the aim of promoting peace and security in the country.  And indeed, while the situation in the country remained calm, the international community must remain cognizant of local-level tensions, including among the population and martial arts groups.  Togo believed that more efforts must be made to promote equitable and lasting socio-economic growth and development, and he called on Timor-Leste’s international partners to provide assistance to that end.  He also called for more support for capacity-building and development of the PNTL.

ANTÓNIO COELHO RAMOS DA CRUZ (Angola), speaking on behalf of the Community of Portuguese Speaking Countries (CPLP), paid tribute to the progress made by Timor-Leste in recent times and how the Secretary-General’s report did justice to it; pointing out that the country was one of the scenarios where cooperation within the CPLP had proved important for all Member Sates.  He hoped that the result of those joint efforts was a benefit to the Timorese nation.  The installation of the Permanent Representation of the CPLP in Dili was making progress, thanks to the invaluable support of the Timorese authorities.

With the CPLP Strategic Plan for Timor expected to be in place soon, especially in the areas of promotion and dissemination of the Portuguese language, the reformulation of the mandate of the Permanent Representation that was agreed at the summit in Luanda, with a strong cultural component and support for the use of Portuguese in Timor-Lest, in addition to the political component, assumed a new importance.  Timor-Leste’s commitment to forging a strong relationship with the CPLP had also been demonstrated in its performance as the current President of the CPLP Parliamentary Assembly and the good results achieved in its third session held in Dili in September 2011, he said.  The CPLP had confidence in the country’s political stability and supported the initiatives of the Government concerning stabilization and reconciliation through institutional dialogue.

Continuing, he reaffirmed the CPLP’s commitment to continued cooperation with Timor-Leste to strengthen its stability, the consolidation of its institutions and the growth of its economy — a process that also contributed to the growing assertion of the country in its region, which was beneficial to the CPLP’s projection in South-East Asia and the Pacific.  Timor-Leste’s successful application for membership in ASEAN and the appointment of a working group to examine the accession process was in itself a demonstration of how the country had progressed in recent years.  The CPLP was further pleased that the country was taking its first steps as a country that contributed to peace and security in the world, with the integration of the soldiers in the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) and the United Nations Integrated Peacebuilding Office in Guinea-Bissau (UNIOGBIS), as well as a military observer in South Sudan.

REGINA MARIA CORDEIRO DUNLOP ( Brazil) said the upcoming elections in Timor-Leste would be a particularly significant moment in the country’s history, in that they would mark the third democratic election carried out by the Timorese people and would occur at a symbolically important celebration of the tenth anniversary of Timorese independence.  More importantly, the elections and the assumption of the newly elected Government would be a cornerstone for the definition of the future presence of the United Nations in Timor-Leste.  Thus, Brazil trusted the elections would be carried out successfully.

Congratulating the Timorese authorities on the measures taken to prepare for the elections, she said Brazil was convinced the stability the country had achieved would carefully be preserved, and acknowledged that since re-assuming primary responsibilities for policing almost a year ago, the PNTL had demonstrated its capacity to fully carry out the task.  Also, the work of UNMIT with PNTL, including through the implementation of the Joint Development Plan, had been of great importance.

The groundbreaking initiative of the Joint Transition Plan set a valid example of the importance of the dialogue between the host country and the United Nations to allow for the efficient transfer of responsibilities to the Government after the departure of the United Nations Mission, she said.  In that regard, Brazil supported the extension of UNMIT’s mandate until the end of the year and looked forward to the Secretary-General’s assessment on the political and security situation in the country.  It was crucial that the gradual drawdown of UNMIT took into account the wishes of the Government of Timor-Leste, the conditions on the ground and the successful completion of the electoral process, she added.

IOANNIS VRAILAS, Deputy Head of Delegation, European Union, said that, over the years, Timor-Leste had accomplished impressive progress in terms of stability, democracy, rule of law, human rights and economic growth.  It had demonstrated to the international community its resolve to stay the course, with this year’s elections as yet another important milestone.  The gradual downsizing and proposed ultimate withdrawal of UNMIT by the end of this election year were logical steps on that path.  He shared the Secretary-General’s positive appraisal of the steady progress in preparing for the elections.  Particularly encouraging was the constructive and responsible way in which political leaders, security forces, and civil society had been interacting, at national and local levels.

He said that, in view of the coming electoral period, continued close cooperation between the PNTL and United Nations police, as mutually agreed, remained important.  An “EU Election Exploratory Mission” would visit Timor-Leste next week to assess the merit and feasibility of a European Union election observation mission for the upcoming parliamentary elections, and he said a decision on the deployment of such a mission would be taken in the immediate weeks following.  In addition to consolidating democracy, reconciliation remained an important precondition for long-term stability, and he called on the National Parliament to resume discussions on the two draft laws before it on the Memorial Institute and Reparations, and on the implementation of the recommendations of the Commission of Reception, Truth and Reconciliation.

Also requiring continuing attention was security sector reform, he said.  Although considerable progress had been achieved in terms of higher standards of professionalism and discipline, accountability mechanisms, and integrity, he encouraged Timor-Leste to consolidate efforts.  Concerning the post-UNMIT landscape, the necessary decisions should be taken in coordination with the Timorese Government and the United Nations.  Whichever “set-up” was agreed, from a European perspective, it should be designed to ensure a smooth transition, without any significant gaps, and preserve the considerable achievements of UNMIT’s activities to date.  Also important was follow-up of the Mission’s important work on, among others, justice, rule of law and human rights.  “We have stood by Timor-Leste’s side through its challenging times and remain committed to do so in future.  As the focus is shifting from security and stability to development issues, the international community should remain strongly engaged,” he concluded.

GARY FRANCIS QUINLAN ( Australia) said that Timor-Leste, with the help of its friends and international partners had made remarkable progress in recent years, including logging impressive GDP growth and the creation of a strong petroleum fund that underpinned the prospects for sustainable socio-economic development.  At the same time, he recognized the ongoing challenges the country faced as it endeavoured to improve health and education standards, and build institutions which could support democracy.  Nonetheless, he was optimistic about the country’s future as UNMIT prepared to wind down its work at the end of the year.  On that exercise, he said it would be important to ensure that decisions on the pace of the Mission’s withdrawal took full account of on-the-ground conditions following the planned presidential and parliamentary elections, as well as the wishes of the Timorese Government.

Looking ahead, he welcomed the Secretary-General’s intention to report to the Council 60 days after the formation of a new Timorese Government, and that assessment would be a critical element in finalizing the decisions on the details of the final stages of UNMIT’s drawdown, as well as on any possible roles and functions the United Nations might undertake after the mission departed.  Australia was pleased that work had already begun on such planning and he underscored the importance of ensuring that the incoming Government reached a timely decision on the future shape of the Organization’s presence.  He went on to say that Timor-Leste’s own long-term strategic development plan must remain the cornerstone of international assistance.  To that end, Australia had signed a partnership agreement with Timor-Leste aligning its development assistance with that plan.  Under the agreement, Australia’s assistance would help with efforts to improve governance and security and to bolster the health and education sectors.

KAZUO KODAMA (Japan) said Timor-Leste’s journey had been far from easy, but the Timorese people were successfully taking steps forward, and with the help of successive United Nations missions and the efforts of the wider international community, “signs of steady progress can now be seen everywhere.”  Indeed, the national police had been maintaining a situation of calm in the country, and the F-FDTL had greatly improved its own capabilities with the assistance provided by Australia and New Zealand.  To consolidate such achievements and to open the door to future progress, the upcoming parliamentary and presidential elections were of the utmost importance.  Maintaining the security situation before, during and after those polls would be critical in allowing the Timorese people to express their political will through a democratic process.  In that regard, Japan called for further enhancement of the capabilities of the national Army and sustained cooperation from UNMIT police and international security forces.

He went on to note that nearly 100,000 more people — most of them youths — would participate in the upcoming election than had taken part in the 2007 poll.  Those young voters had great potential and could positively influence their country’s future.  It was necessary, therefore, to address high youth unemployment.  On development matters, he was concerned that Timor-Leste’s economy was disproportionately dependent on oil.  That dependence should be gradually reduced so that the country’s rate of economic growth would not be adversely affected.  Finally, he said that his delegation supported the elements of the draft resolution under consideration regarding a final extension of the mandate of UNMIT, and looked forward to the report of the Secretary-General requested therein on the situation in Timor-Leste following the upcoming elections.

HUSSEIN HANIFF (Malaysia), like speakers before him, also registered his satisfaction at the progress achieved in Timor-Leste, and praised the leaders and people of Timor-Leste, who, with the assistance of UNMIT and other international partners, had been successful in maintaining peace and stability in the country.  The encouraging security situation was a testimony to the capability of the judicial and security institutions of Timor-Leste, especially the PNTL in carrying out its policing responsibilities.  In that regard, he called for continuous efforts in strengthening those institutions; and the implementation of the Joint Transition Plan and the recently announced Strategic Development Plan.

He also commended the progress made towards democratization and good governance, called the upcoming elections important and urged all parties to respect the outcome, so as to ensure that stability continued to prevail in Timor-Leste.  Malaysia was ready to consider sending election observers to monitor the elections, if formally invited by the Government.  Malaysia had been actively participating in Timor-Leste since 1999 and, to date, the country had a total of 230 police personnel and two military observers serving in the country.  At the request of the United Nations, Malaysia had approved the deployment of an additional 20 police personnel to UNMIT, which will bring the total to 250, making Malaysia the top police contributor to Timor-Leste.

Further, Malaysia was committed to assisting Timor-Leste in its nation-building efforts, and had to that end provided substantial assistance to the country through its Malaysia Technical Cooperation Programme (MTCP) and the Malaysia Defence Cooperation Programme (MDCP).  Since 2001, Malaysia had provided assistance to Timor-Leste in the area of human resource development through various training programmes, and as of November 2011, a total of 350 officials from Timor-Leste had been trained through the MTCP in the areas of Public Administration, Crisis Management and Diplomacy; Training of Trainers for Timor-Leste Police Academy; Airport Management; and Microfinance among many others.  He pledged his country’s commitment to expand on what he termed the “excellent state of relations” Malaysia had with Timor-Leste.

BERNADETTE CAVANAGH ( New Zealand) highlighted three key issues that demanded the international community’s attention in the year ahead with regard to the situation in Timor-Leste.  First, and the top priority, was facilitating stable, fair and credible elections.  New Zealand was committed to supporting those efforts; and was pleased that her country hosted Timorese electoral officials to observe the results of its own electoral process in November and was now consulting international partners on the appropriate framework for providing observers to the upcoming elections in Timor-Leste.

The second key issue was the need for good use of the time remaining to UNMIT to consolidate gains made across its mandate and to prepare the ground for the transfer of residual tasks and responsibilities to national and international partners.  While progress had been made since 2006 in strengthening and professionalizing security institutions, justice and corrections capacities and core governance and accountability mechanisms, more work was required in key areas, including further strengthening the operational capacities of the Timorese police.  Similarly, consolidating a moderate and inclusive political culture and achieving open and transparent democratic governance took many years, while tackling poverty, generating employment and achieving sustainable and inclusive growth were intergenerational challenges.

Moreover, the Government and people of Timor-Leste were still grappling with how best to resolve outstanding issues and allegations arising from the crises of 1999 and 2006, she said.  New Zealand hoped further progress would be possible in all those areas during the time remaining to the Mission; and urged careful planning to transfer key aspects of that “unfinished business” to national and international partners, given the reality of the upcoming elections which may constrain what was possible in that regard.  As a long-term bilateral partner, New Zealand was committed to playing its part, she affirmed.

The third and last key issue was ensuring careful coordination during the transition process amongst all relevant stakeholders, she said stressing that the drawdown of a large, multifaceted Mission like UNMIT was a complex business, and her country had been impressed with the meticulous planning, tireless effort and the spirit of partnership with which the Mission and the Timorese Government had approached that task, drawing on the comprehensive blueprint mutually agreed in the Joint Transition Plan.  Attention was also turning to what would replace UNMIT if, as expected, it completed its withdrawal by year’s end.  Identifying a suitable framework for facilitating continued international engagement and effective coordination would thus be crucial; whether it was through continued Security Council oversight, the leadership of a United Nations political mission, or a UNDP resident coordinator.  “Two thousand twelve is shaping up as an historic year for this proud young country,” she said.  Successful elections and the smooth withdrawal of UNMIT would be a suitable way for it to mark its tenth year of independence, and to cap what had been a decade of remarkable progress since its birth.

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For information media • not an official record
For information media. Not an official record.