Timor-Leste can count on UN’s help to address its challenges – Secretary-General

14 December 2007

The United Nations will continue to help Timor-Leste in addressing the many challenges it faces, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon pledged today during a visit to the tiny nation that the world body helped shepherd to independence in 2002.

“Timor-Leste was, and remains, a young nation that needs more support,” Mr. Ban said in an address to Parliament, noting that the challenges ahead for the country are enormous.

These include strengthening the security sector, governance and the rule of law, including the justice system, as well as accelerating economic and social development and addressing unemployment, Mr. Ban said.

The Secretary-General also emphasized the need to address the underlying causes of the crisis that engulfed the fledgling nation in 2006. Deadly fighting, attributed to differences between the eastern and western regions, broke out in April and May last year and caused the deaths of at least 37 people. About 155,000 others – or 15 per cent of the population – were forced to flee their homes.

“The crisis that Timor-Leste experienced last year should not be seen as a failure of all that had been undertaken until then,” he stated, adding that perhaps it was a sign that the country’s fledgling institutions were not yet strong enough to deal with the serious challenges that emerged. “This is not uncommon in the earliest life of a country,” Mr. Ban noted.

As Timor-Leste continues on the road to nation-building, it can count on the sustained support and partnership of the entire UN family, the Secretary-General pledged. “We will remain your trusted allies as you continue on your journey.”

While in Dili Mr. Ban also met with President José Ramos-Horta, and had a working luncheon with Prime Minister Xanana Gusmão and members of the Cabinet. He also met with civil society representatives and visited a police station and a camp for internally displaced persons (IDPs).

Addressing the fate of about 100,000 IDPs is a major issue the country has to grapple with, along with its other challenges, the Secretary-General said.

“The UN system continues to be fully engaged with the Government to find a durable solution to the complex humanitarian issue of the displaced,” Mr. Ban later told reporters.

He also reaffirmed the UN’s long-term commitment to assist the country through the work of its Integrated Mission in Timor-Leste (UNMIT).

Mr. Ban’s visit follows a recent mission to Timor-Leste by the Security Council, which advocates that the mandate of UNMIT be renewed when it expires next February, given the vital role it plays in assisting the Timorese to tackle its many challenges.

 

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