The top United Nations envoy to Timor-Leste today called for sustained international support as the country seeks to move from post-conflict recovery towards long-term development.
“Timor-Leste’s development needs are still massive and continued outside assistance is required for several years,” Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s Special Representative Atul Khare told a meeting of the country’s development partners.
Mr. Khare, who also heads the UN Integrated Mission in Timor-Leste (UNMIT), noted that 2008 turned out to be a good year for the country, despite the “deplorable events” of February – when President José Ramos-Horta and Prime Minister Xanana Gusmão were targeted in two separate attacks.
Peace and security has been re-established, and significant progress was made in the return and reintegration of internally displaced persons (IDPs), he said, citing some of the achievements of the past year.
“The challenge is now to ensure the long-term sustainability of the progress recorded in the restoration of peace and security,” Mr. Khare stated. “It is indeed time to focus on a shift from immediate post-conflict recovery and emergency stabilization to a development agenda.”
He noted that the basis for joint efforts to promote lasting and sustainable peace in the country is the Medium-Term Strategy 2009-2013, developed in consultation with Timorese stakeholders and international partners.
The proposed plan incorporates efforts to achieve the globally agreed anti-poverty targets with a 2015 deadline, known as the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), as well as four other key objectives: an improvement of security sector institutions; an effective justice and penal system that fully uphold the rule of law; democratic governance; and economic and social development.
“Many of these fundamental priorities will require sustained long-term attention well beyond UNMIT’s lifespan,” Mr. Khare said.
Noting that Timor-Leste is “blessed” with significant natural resources, the Special Representative highlighted the need for equitable management of the national wealth. In this regard, the Petroleum Fund – which is still the country’s only major source of income – must continue to be managed in line with the law to ensure predictable returns from oil and gas revenues in the longer term.
It is also crucial to give special consideration to the needs of vulnerable communities and women, he added. “Some progress towards gender equality has been recorded, but gaps exist in the protection of victims of sexual and gender-based violence, which constitutes nearly a quarter of the crimes committed in the country.”
Mr. Khare also cited youth employment and strengthening education and training as priorities for the young nation, which the UN helped shepherd to independence in 2002.