Timor-Leste is making significant progress in consolidating its social, security and political stability despite a number of challenges, a senior United Nations said today, noting that presidential and legislative elections slated for next year will be key milestones in that process.
“The elections are widely expected to lead to a peaceful transition to a new Government in Timor-Leste by the third quarter of 2012, with the space for meaningful engagement of an opposition,” said Ameerah Haq, the Special Representative of the Secretary-General and head of the UN Integrated Mission in Timor-Leste (UNMIT), told the Security Council.
She encouraged international partners to show commitment to Timor-Leste by sending observers for the elections and providing the financial support required for UN electoral activities, to be conducted at the request of the Government.
Challenges faced by the country include enhancing institutional capacity, strengthening the security sector and building the capacity of its human resources, she said.
Introducing the Secretary-General’s latest report on UNMIT to the Council, Ms. Haq noted that the handing over by the mission in March of policing duties to the country’s national force, the Policia Nacional de Timor-Leste (PNTL), was also an important milestone.
“Since the PNTL’s resumption of policing responsibilities on 27 March, PNTL officers have effectively addressed incidents, and there has been no impact on the continuing low rate of crime,” said Ms. Haq, adding that the effectiveness of the force will, to a large extent, depend on its ability to maintain the trust of the public.
UNMIT was set up in 2006, following an outbreak of deadly violence, to replace several earlier missions in the small South-East Asian country that the UN shepherded to independence in 2002 after it broke away from Indonesia.
It will maintain a police presence of up to 1,280 personnel to support the PNTL until after next year’s elections, when the mission is planning to withdraw.
Ms. Haq said preparations for the phasing out of UNMIT are under way, and that she had in September signed a joint transition plan with Prime Minister Xanana Gusmão to guide the transition.
“The planned and orderly conclusion of a peacekeeping mission is only one aspect of a successful transition,” she said. “Equally important is establishing, in consultation with the Government in view of its priorities and requirements, what form of UN engagement will be needed thereafter by the country.”
Consultations will continue on the various options for a UN presence in Timor-Leste after the departure of UNMIT. Options will need to be discussed with the Government formed after next year’s elections.