Encouraging signs in Timor-Leste but core challenges persist, Ban warns

18 February 2010 – Many of the underlying causes that contributed to the 2006 political crisis in Timor-Leste remain, despite recent encouraging signs, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon warns, calling the country’s security and justice institutions fragile and possibly unable to withstand another major crisis.

A dispute within the Timorese military in 2006 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.

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, in his latest report on the United Nations Integrated Mission in Timor-Leste (UNMIT), says tensions among the political elite, difficulties within the security institutions, poverty, persistent unemployment, and the lack of an effective land and property regime were the underlying causes of that crisis.

“Whatever weight is attributed to the various factors contributing to the 2006 crisis, it is unlikely that they will be fully resolved by 2012,” he writes. “A reasonable goal is to ensure that the democratic institutions and processes established are robust enough to continue addressing those issues without regression to violence.”

In the report, Mr. Ban took note of the successful elections last October for village (suco) council members, which he called “a further democratic milestone and a tribute to the growing capacity of the country’s electoral management bodies.”

The suco elections were particularly important as local leaders resolve disputes and problems within the community that are at the centre of life in Timor-Leste.

On a wider scale, the Secretary-General noted the continued difficulties involved in establishing accountability for past crimes.

“I remain concerned, as conveyed in my previous report, that the prolonged delay in delivering justice and providing repatriations to victims and their families may further adversely affect public confidence in the rule of law,” he said.

He added that UNMIT will continue to play an active role in addressing these challenges.

The Secretary-General noted the efforts of his Special Representative Ameerah Haq, who took office on 5 January, to continue tackling challenges through inclusive dialogue at the local, regional and national levels.

“National and local leaders, as well as many civil society actors, continue to have faith in the resolve of the United Nations to serve as an impartial arbiter that also shares their goals of sustainable stability, rule of law, democratic governance and socio-economic development,” the Secretary-General wrote.

He also recommended that the mandate of UNMIT be extended for 12 more months. The current mandate is due to expire at the end of this month. The Security-Council is scheduled to discuss the topic next week, including any possible changes to the mandate, which includes providing assistance to the security sector, strengthening support for protection of human rights and supporting the Government and relevant institutions to stabilize the country.

In his report, the Secretary-General noted the “broad desire of the Timorese leadership and other national stakeholders for the United Nations to maintain the integrated support provided through UNMIT in all major areas of the mandate,” while also planning “the downsizing of UNMIT during the period through 2012 and the transition of functions, where appropriate, to the Government, the United Nations country team and bilateral partners.”

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