Timor-Leste has made ‘remarkable progress’ but faces daunting challenges – UN
“Timor-Leste has reached a new stage, where there is an intensified focus on measures needed to sustain stability, deepen democracy and the rule of law, reduce poverty and strengthen institutions,” Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s Special Representative Ameerah Haq told the Security Council at the start of a debate on the country, which the UN shepherded to independence in 2002.
In 2006, after a dispute within the Timorese military spread throughout the country, leaving dozens of people dead and driving some 155,000 people, or roughly 15 per cent of the population, from their homes, the Council set up the UN Integrated Mission in Timor-Leste (UNMIT) to tackle the major political, humanitarian and security crisis that ensued.
“Timor-Leste, under the stewardship of its national leaders, is now working to consolidate the gains of the past and to ensure a smooth transition to the recovery and development phase,” Ms. Haq said.
“This will require continued efforts on the part of the Timorese as well as the continued support of the international community. The problems arising from the 2006 crisis were considerable, but the long-term challenges ahead may prove even more difficult to address.”
One of UNMIT’s major tasks is to conduct a comprehensive review of the security sector, training, mentoring and strengthening of the Timor-Leste National Police (PNTL). Ms. Haq said that the resumption of primary policing by PNTL “will require continued concentrated efforts,” adding that that there is “a strong possibility” that the process can be completed by the end of the year.
Although the resumption has taken place in some districts, she noted that the capital, Dili, and the Special Police Unit still do not meet the criteria and need further steps to strengthen their capacities.
Nearly all the Mission’s more than 1,550 uniformed personnel are police. Once the PNTL has fully resumed its functions, UNMIT will concentrate on supporting further skill development in such areas as appropriate use of force, criminal investigations and accountability mechanisms to avoid impunity for abuses, and Ms. Haq called on contributing countries to provide the necessary trainers.
“Long-term security and stability will depend on development of a national police force that is professional and impartial and operates with due respect for the rule of law and human rights,” she declared.
On the political front, she noted that democratic processes are maturing with leaders showing a willingness to work across party lines on issues of national importance such as moving to set up an anti-corruption committee.
“Perhaps the greatest long-term challenges for Timor-Leste will be socio-economic,” she stressed, citing the need to fight poverty, hunger, maternal and infant mortality, and improve access to health care and education. “It is essential that the Government redouble its effort to ensure that development benefits are felt equally in rural and urban areas,” she added.
“Also, significant efforts by Government and Parliament in areas such as gender responsive budgeting will require continued and intensified commitment in order to ensure the empowerment and meaningful participation of women in all sectors of society.”
More than 20 speakers are taking part in the debate which is considering Mr. Ban’s latest report on Timor-Leste, in which he called for the mandate of UNMIT to be extended for 12 more months, warning that many of the underlying causes of the 2006 crisis remained despite recent encouraging signs. He said the country’s security and justice institutions were fragile and possibly unable to withstand another major crisis.
“I think the overall agreement in the Council chamber was that the mandate of UNMIT will be renewed for an additional 12 months,” Ms. Haq told reporters afterwards, adding that the members also cautioned against some fragility and the need to strengthen not only security institutions but also state institutions and capacity building.
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