February 2011 Monthly Forecast

Posted 28 January 2011
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Timor-Leste

Expected Council Action

The Council is expected to renew the mandate of the UN operation in Timor-Leste, UNMIT, for a further 12 months prior to its 26 February expiry. Prime Minister of Timor-Leste Xanana Gusmão will address an open debate of the Council and Special Representative of the Secretary-General in Timor-Leste Ameerah Haq will brief the Council. The Secretary-General’s report on UNMIT will be published the first week of February.

The Council will convene a meeting with member states contributing police to UNMIT prior to the expiration of its current mandate.

Key Recent Developments
The Council last held an open debate on Timor-Leste on 19 October 2010. The head of the UN Integrated Mission in Timor-Leste (UNMIT), Ameerah Haq, told the Council that Timor-Leste was entering a “crucial period” that would determine whether the country had overcome the political and institutional weaknesses that contributed to the violent events of 2006. Several members of the core group on Timor-Leste, including Australia, New Zealand, Malaysia and Portugal, also participated. (The core group, established in 1999, is made up of Australia, Brazil, France, Japan, New Zealand, Malaysia, the Philippines, Portugal, South Africa, the UK and the US.)

On 12 October 2010 UN Police Adviser Ann-Marie Orler visited Timor-Leste to assess the handover of primary responsibility for police operations from UN police to the national police of Timor-Leste (policia nacional de Timor-Leste—PNTL) in ten out of the country’s 13 districts. During her visit, Orler met President José Ramos-Horta and discussed progress and the remaining operational challenges facing PNTL in assuming primary policing responsibilities in the final three districts (Dili and the border districts of Bobonaro and Cova Lima). Haq’s briefing to the Council had highlighted that PNTL officers who failed certification in other districts had been transferred primarily to Dili to allow for the resumption of PNTL responsibility in those districts.

On 8 November 2010, the 2010 Human Development Report ranked Timor-Leste 120 out of 169 countries, marking an improvement of twenty places since 2005. This places Timor-Leste in the “medium” human development category, which UN Resident Coordinator in Timor-Leste Finn Reske-Nielsen said was a “real achievement” for the country.

On 10 November, Timor-Leste was elected for two-years to the executive board of UN Women. This followed the successful election of a Timorese expert, Maria Pires, to the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women in June 2010.

On 18 November, Haq briefed the Timorese Council of Ministers on planning for the eventual withdrawal of UNMIT from Timor-Leste, taking into account the transition of remaining responsibilities from the UN to Timorese authorities and the conduct of presidential and parliamentary elections in 2012. The Council of Ministers asked that any withdrawal be conducted in a “structured way” to mitigate possible effects over the next two years and decided to form a high-level committee on transition with representatives from UNMIT and the government to “plan and develop the transition.”

A proposed Council visit to Timor-Leste in December 2010 was cancelled at the request of the Japanese Mission in New York due to developments that required the presence in New York of the Japanese permanent representative who was to lead the mission. There are no plans for a resumed visit at this stage.

On 20 August 2010, President Ramos-Horta commuted the sentences of 23 persons incarcerated in the 11 February 2008 attacks on himself and the prime minister. On the same day, the president commuted the sentences of three F-FDTL members convicted of homicide and attempted homicide in the shooting deaths of eight PNTL officers, who were shot whilst under unarmed UN police escort in May 2006. All were released.

Key Issues
A key issue is whether the relative stability of the last two years is evidence of successful institution building or simply reflects a lull at the mid-term of the current five-year election cycle. A related question is whether a resurgence of unrest could accompany political activity in the lead up to the 2012 elections.

A second key issue is whether the Council will consider incorporating possible longer-term roles for the UN, either with regard to the elections or peacebuilding, into the current mandate and the related question of a transition from UNMIT at this debate or postpone such matters until a later stage.

A practical issue is how to balance the authorised level of UN police taking into account both the ongoing reconstitution of the PNTL (and the corresponding reduced role for UN police) with the need for a stable security environment in the lead-up to the mid-2012 elections.

A separate issue for the Council is the ongoing question of addressing issues of justice and impunity arising from the violence in 1999 and the recommendations of the Commission of Inquiry into the violence of 2006.

Options
In renewing the mandate of UNMIT, the Council could:

  • request the government and UNMIT to continue addressing the obstacles to handing back all remaining districts to the PNTL seriously and without undue haste;
  • underscore the ongoing importance of addressing questions of justice and impunity:
  • emphasise the importance of UNMIT’s coordinating closely with bilateral and regional partners in institution-building (bearing in mind the presidential statement adopted on this topic in January);
  • request a more regular reporting cycle on transition planning and the work of the high-level committee on transition, including with regard to peacebuilding; and
  • in view of the UN police drawdown schedule outlined in most recent Secretary-General’s reports, reconsider the current authorised levels in a way that would allow flexibility in the event of unanticipated problems.

Council Dynamics
Brazil has taken over as lead country in the Council and seems to be emphasising that consideration of UNMIT’s mandate be in close consultation with the Government of Timor-Leste. Brazil, supported by Portugal, also seems to favour a cautious approach to the eventual drawdown of UNMIT. There is some concern that Council members that are significant contributors to the UN peacekeeping budget might be drawn to support opportunities to rapidly reduce UNMIT’s force size.

Six members of the core group are currently on the Council—Brazil, Portugal, the US, the UK, France and South Africa. The Council’s consideration of UNMIT should therefore be informed by a good understanding of the situation on the ground and the perspective of key development partners. (It is usual practice that the core group prepares an initial draft for the Council.)

Questions around justice and impunity were to be a focus of the Council’s mission to Dili in December 2010. Despite a different Council composition, several members of the Council could be expected to push this issue, such as the US, the UK, France and Germany. South Africa has a close association with Timor-Leste on issues of truth and reconciliation (Timor-Leste modelled its truth and reconciliation commission on South Africa’s example).

UN Documents

Selected Security Council Resolutions

  • S/RES/1912 (26 February 2010) extended UNMIT until 26 February 2011.
  • S/RES/1704 (25 August 2006) established UNMIT.

Selected Presidential Statement

  • S/PRST/2011/2 (21 January 2011) was on the importance of institution-building in post-conflict peacebuilding.

Selected Meeting Records

  • S/PV.6405 (19 October 2010) was a Council debate on Timor-Leste.

Latest Secretary-General’s reports

  • S/2011/32 (25 January 2011) covers the period 21 September 2010 to 7 January 2011.
  • S/2010/522 (13 October 2010) covers the period 21 January to 20 September 2010.
  • S/2009/72 (4 February 2009) contains an annex which sets out the medium-term strategy and benchmarks for UNMIT’s four priority mandated areas.

Other Relevant Facts

Special Representative of the Secretary-General and Head of Mission

Ameerah Haq (Bangladesh)

UNMIT: Size, Composition, Cost and Duration

  • Maximum authorised strength: up to 1,608 police and 34 military officers
  • Size as of 31 October 2010: 1,513 police and 33 military liaison officers
  • Civilian staff as of 31 October 2010: 355 international and 891 local, 175 UN Volunteers
  • Key police contributors: Malaysia, Portugal, Bangladesh, Pakistan and Philippines
  • Approved budget (1 July 2010–30 June 2011): $206.31 million
  • 25 August 2006 to present; mandate expires 26 February 2011

International Stabilisation Force

  • Size as of January 2011: approximately 475 troops
  • Contributors: Australia (400 troops) and New Zealand (75 troops)

Full forecast