February 2008 Monthly Forecast

Posted 29 January 2008
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Expected Council Action
The Council is expected to renew the mandate of the UN Mission in Timor-Leste (UNMIT), which expires on 26 February. There is some interest in looking into UNMIT’s mandate in light of the Council visit last November. It is unclear whether adjustments will be necessary or whether signalling key messages on the implementation of UNMIT’s mandate will be sufficient.

Key Recent Developments
The humanitarian and security situation in Timor-Leste continues to be fragile, including threats from gang activity, weakness of the security sector and the uncertain future of the “petitioners” (whose sacking from the military was one of the immediate causes of the 2006 violence). An estimated 100,000 civilians remain displaced as of result of the 2006 riots.

Major political divisions among the Timorese leadership continue. The opposition has reiterated its rejection of the legality of the current government and called for early elections.

In December, Timor was the focus of high-level international activity, including a Council open debate. There were also visits by the Secretary-General and by Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd, who pledged that Australian military assistance would continue.

The Secretary-General’s 17 January report noted ongoing difficulties in UNMIT’s training and mentoring of Timorese police. Some government officials have raised concerns, appealing for a speedier handover of policing responsibilities, as well as the number of UNMIT police with appropriate training skill sets. Other concerns include a relatively low number of UNMIT police deployed in the districts and their high turnover.

The report notes, however, that the current training standards should not be lowered, and that a phased handover—which would determine UNMIT’s future size—could start in April.

Options for the Council include a resolution renewing UNMIT and:

  • reiterating support for the new government and concern with the ongoing fragile situation;
  • reiterating its commitment to long-term stability in Timor-Leste;
  • reiterating the urgent need for progress with security sector reform, particularly the finalisation of a national security framework, reconstitution of the police and reforming the military;
  • requesting the Secretary-General to pay particular attention to the optimum integration of the various UNMIT elements and to address this aspect in future reports; and
  • reinforcing the need for accountability for the 2006 violence, in particular the implementation of the recommendations of the Commission of Inquiry, and conditions for the return of displaced persons.

Other possibilities include:

  • asking the Secretary-General to pay close attention to UNMIT’s role and relationship with the Timorese police;
  • deciding to emphasise the issues of effective security sector reform and optimum mission integration by inviting key stakeholders to an Arria-style meeting;
  • adjusting UNMIT’s mandate to emphasise needs and gaps in security sector reform and training, and strengthening UNMIT’s role on political reconciliation; and
  • addressing in the resolution accountability issues for the 1999 violence.

Key Issues
The key issue for the Council is ensuring that key elements contributing to the overall security situation are addressed, particularly:

  • political reconciliation;
  • overcoming institutional weaknesses, especially through reform of the security sector (including the military, the police and the judiciary);
  • the interplay between reconciliation and accountability; and
  • the root causes of instability (such as development-related issues including unemployment).

A procedural issue is whether security sector reform and mission integration aspects can be addressed in sufficient depth in the time available or whether a separate ongoing process of consideration should be launched.

A number of related issues regarding UNMIT are likely to loom large, including:

  • whether to consider changes to UNMIT’s mandate now or at a later stage; and
  • devising a longer-term strategy for UN assistance that ensures Timorese self-reliance.

Council Dynamics
At a Council open debate on 13 December, members highlighted conclusions from the November visit, including political reconciliation, the need for economic development, security sector reform and unresolved aspects of the 2006 unrest, such as accountability for the violence, the “petitioners” issue and the future of displaced persons were emphasised.

There seemed to be consensus on the need for a continuing UNMIT presence in Timor-Leste. Most, however, emphasised that UN assistance should focus on building key capacities towards Timorese self-reliance and that the Secretary-General should outline how much assistance would still be needed. There seems to be some concern with creating a dependency on international involvement along with a consciousness of the need to avoid repeating past mistakes from a premature pull-out.

Some supported a review of UNMIT’s responsibilities vis-à-vis those of the Timorese police and emphasised the mission’s role in the reform of the security sector. The US, in particular, also indicated support for a stronger UNMIT role in political reconciliation and assistance in policy objectives such as economic development and governance and perhaps adjusting the mandate to this end.

UN Documents

Selected Security Council Resolutions

  • S/RES/1745 (22 February 2007) renewed UNMIT until 26 February 2008.
  • S/RES/1704 (25 August 2006) established UNMIT.

Latest Report of the Secretary-General


Other Relevant Facts

Special Representative of the Secretary-General

Atul Khare (India)

Size, Composition and Cost

  • Maximum authorised strength: up to 1,608 police and 34 military officers
  • Police/military as of 31 December 2007: 1,480 police and 33 military
  • Civilian staff as of 30 November 2007: 445 international and 765 local
  • Key police contributors: Malaysia, Bangladesh, Pakistan and Portugal
  • Approved Budget (1 July 2007–30 June 2008): $153.1 million


25 August 2006 to present; mandate expires 26 February 2008

International Stabilisation Force

  • Size as of 14 November 2007: approximately 950 troops
  • Contributors: Australia (780 troops) and New Zealand (170 troops)

Useful Additional Sources

International Crisis Group, Timor-Leste: Security Sector Reform, Asia Report no. 143, 17 January 2008

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