Subject: UN: Security Council 2006 Round-up on Timor-Leste


12 January 2007 Security Council SC/8940

Security Council 2006 Round-up




The Council’s consideration of the Organization’s future presence in Timor-Leste, particularly in the wake of violence that erupted there in April-May, culminated in the establishment of a new, expanded United Nations Mission in August, formally known as United Nations Integrated Mission in Timor-Leste (UNMIT).

The Organization’s presence in Timor-Leste had been drawn down since the original United Nations Transitional Administration in East Timor (UNTAET), set up in 1999, helped to usher the South-East Asian country to independence in 2002. That was then replaced with a downsized operation, the United Nations Mission of Support in East Timor (UNMISET), which, in turn, was succeeded by a residual United Nations Office in Timor-Leste (UNOTIL).

With UNOTIL’s one-year mandate expiring in May, the country’s President, Kay Rala Xanana Gusmão, asked the Security Council on 23 January to consider establishing a follow-on special political office in his country. During that meeting, the Council also had a debate on the situation in Timor-Leste, following a briefing by the Secretary-General’s Special Representative and head of UNOTIL, Sukehiro Hasegawa.

Expressing gratitude for the critical role that the Security Council had played in Timor-Leste’s recent history, President Gusmão said that the senseless violence and destruction of 1999 might seem like a thing of the past, but it should not be forgotten that it had all happened only a few years ago. Much remained to be done in ensuring further improvement of State institutions, law and order agencies and the administration. In view of upcoming presidential and parliamentary elections in 2007, the proposed United Nations presence should also have an electoral assistance component.

A reminder that the situation in Timor-Leste remained fragile came at the next briefing to the Council on 5 May, when the Secretary-General’s Special Representative described recent violence in Timor-Leste, sparked by dismissal of nearly 600 soldiers, with five people killed and thousands fleeing the capital. Mr. Hasegawa said that, despite the achievements of the past five years, State institutions were increasingly challenged in addressing the grievances of various groups and the rising expectations of the people, as well as the potential risks associated with the conduct of the first post-independence presidential and parliamentary elections next year.

Expressing its deep concern over the April incidents, the Council, unanimously adopting resolution 1677 on 12 May, extended the mandate of UNOTIL until 20 June, also requesting the Secretary-General to provide an update on the situation and on the role of the United Nations following the expiration of UNOTIL’s mandate.

With the security situation in Timor-Leste deteriorating even further, the Council, in a presidential statement on 25 May, urged the country’s Government to take all necessary steps to end the violence and urged all parties to participate in the democratic process. It also fully supported the deployment of defence and security forces from Portugal, Australia, New Zealand and Malaysia, in response to a request from the Timorese Government, and welcomed the initiatives of the Secretary-General, including his intention to send a special envoy to Timor-Leste in order to facilitate political dialogue.

After deadly incidents in April and May had displaced more than 100,000 people and troops had been deployed from four countries to quell the violence, the Security Council considered the situation in the country again on 13 June. Addressing the Council, Secretary-General Kofi Annan pointed out that Timor-Leste was a “child of the international community” that the United Nations was determined not to abandon at its time of need.

Through four successive missions, the United Nations had played a key role in laying the foundation for Timor-Leste’s democratic institutions and processes, he said. Today, however, those stood exposed. “We have learned -- at a painful price for Timor-Leste -- that the building of institutions on the basic principles of democracy and the rule of law is not a simple process that can be completed within a few short years,” he concluded. Clearly, tremendous work lay ahead, both for the Government and the international community.

The Council was also briefed by the Secretary-General’s Special Envoy, Ian Martin, who highlighted not only immediate security challenges, but also the complex political situation and other problems, requiring longer-term attention of the political leadership and support of the international community. At the same time, he cautioned against viewing Timor-Leste as a failed State, saying that, rather, it was a four-year-old State “struggling to stand on its two feet and learn to practice democratic governance”.

On 20 June, the Council, unanimously adopting resolution 1690, extended the mandate of UNOTIL for two months, giving the Secretary-General until 7 August to report on the United Nations future role after that mandate expired.

The Secretary-General’s recommendations for a new, “multidimensional and integrated” United Nations mission in Timor-Leste were considered on 15 August. Introducing the Secretary-General’s proposals, Mr. Martin said that, asked to mandate a large mission after downsizing former missions, the Council should not see it as a reversion. The proposals would establish a more effective compact between Timor-Leste and the international community. The central failure revealed by the April and May crisis had been in the security sector -- therefore, reforming that sector was a core task. Also, the challenge to the justice system as it confronted serious crimes was greater than ever, and the protection of human rights needed strengthening.

Minister for Foreign Affairs and Cooperation of Timor-Leste, Jose Luis Guterres, conveyed his people’s gratitude to Australia, Malaysia, New Zealand and Portugal -- the countries that had contributed to the international stabilization force after the April events. Those developments had revealed an acute need for continued long-term international assistance for the building of viable State institutions, notably in the areas of security, justice and development, he said.

Many speakers in the debate stressed that, despite the “regrettable” events of April and May, the young country had made great strides forward and deserved continued international support. The representative of the Philippines echoed many speakers’ sentiments, by saying that, despite the events in the past months, Timor-Leste was still one of the best examples of a successful international enterprise engineered through combined cooperative efforts of the United Nations, regional players and partners.

As deliberations on the Secretary-General’s proposal for a new mission continued, the Council extended the mandate of UNOTIL for another five days on 18 August, unanimously adopting resolution 1703.

Finally, on 25 August, the Council established a new, expanded operation ­ the United Nations Integrated Mission in Timor-Leste (UNMIT) -- for an initial period of six months, to be manned with up to 1,608 police personnel and up to 34 military officers.

According to resolution 1704, which was unanimously adopted that day, UNMIT’s mandate would include supporting the Government in “consolidating stability, enhancing a culture of democratic governance, and facilitating political dialogue among Timorese stakeholders in their efforts to bring about a process of national reconciliation”.

The Mission was also tasked with supporting the country in holding 2007 presidential and parliamentary elections and to ensure, through the presence of United Nations police, the restoration and maintenance of public security. Also, its mandate also included providing assistance to the Government in reviewing the security sector; strengthening the national capacity for promoting and protecting human rights; and promoting justice and reconciliation. The international security forces from Australia, Malaysia, New Zealand and Portugal were called on to fully cooperate with, and provide assistance to, UNMIT.

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