Despite the welcome progress Timor-Leste has achieved since its independence last year, persistent security and stability concerns prompted the Security Council today to adjust the composition and strength of the police component of the United Nations mission in the country and to slow the downsizing of the UN peacekeeping force.
Unanimously adopting a new resolution today, the Council decided to enhance the capability of the UN Mission of Support in East Timor (UNMISET) to address civil disturbances and to improve the capability of police to respond to emerging weaknesses. The decision also endorsed a more gradual downsizing of UNMISET's military component than had been foreseen when the successor mission was established in May 2002.
The Council's moves today were in line with specific measures proposed by Secretary-General Kofi Annan in a special report, which Council members debated in early March.
Citing "significant deterioration" in Timor-Leste's security environment, Mr. Annan called for a freeze in planned cutbacks of UN military and police forces and proposed broad recommendations to reinforce UNMISET's ability to develop the national police force, while taking the necessary steps to ensure the short-term security and stability required for that training to succeed.
Stressing that improving the overall capabilities of the Timor-Leste police force were a key priority, the adjustments adopted today comprise the inclusion of an international formed unit for one year, and the provision of additional training capacity in key areas specified in the Secretary-General's report, including crowd-control skills, police administration, forensics, tactical operations and border security.
Adjustments to the police force will also include greater emphasis on human rights and rule of law elements, and the retention of a greater monitoring and advisory presence in districts where policing authority has been handed over to the Timor-Leste police force.
The resolution further states that the schedule for downsizing UNMISET's military component through December would be adjusted according to recommendations made by the UN Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping in a recent letter. Accordingly, two battalions would be retained within regions adjoining the unofficial border with Indonesian-controlled West Timor during that period, together with associated force elements, including mobility.
In addition, the number of UN peacekeepers would be reduced to 1,750 more gradually than had been foreseen in Security Council resolution 1410, which had established UNMISET last year and originally decided that the Mission's downsizing should proceed "as quickly as possible" and fully devolve all operational responsibilities to the East Timorese authorities as soon as was feasible, without jeopardizing security.