What's In Blue

Posted Tue 18 Dec 2012

Timor-Leste Presidential Statement

The Security Council is set to adopt a presidential statement on Timor-Leste tomorrow morning (19 December). The statement, which has been agreed, is likely to be the Council’s last pronouncement on Timor-Leste in the foreseeable future. It comes as the UN Integrated Mission in Timor-Leste (UNMIT) mandate approaches its 31 December deadline. No Council outcome was required in order for the mission to end, but it seems that some members considered it important to formally mark its conclusion.

Following the UNMIT debate in the Council on 12 November, which in turn came shortly after a Council visiting “mini-mission” to Timor-Leste from 3-6 November, some Council members were initially of the opinion that no further pronouncements on the issue would be necessary. However, it seems that there was some appetite to adopt a statement—including from South Africa, the lead on Timor-Leste—noting the significant achievements that the country had undergone over the past decade. The presidential statement makes specific mention of the progress made in 2012 with the successful presidential and parliamentary elections.

One issue that has arisen in recent months is whether Timor-Leste should formally be removed from the Council’s agenda, or should remain on the list of issues with which the Council is seized, as is customary, for a further three years. (Even if it were to remain, there would be no regularly scheduled debates on Timor-Leste or reporting to the Council.) The issue gained prominence following a 20 September letter from Prime Minister Xanana Gusmão to the Secretary-General which provided his government’s view that there was “no requirement for the continued consideration of Timor-Leste affairs by the Security Council.” While Council members were universally pleased with the progress that Timor-Leste has made, it seemed that some—including some of the P3—were in the end reluctant to remove the agenda item and the presidential statement makes no mention of removing it. Some members may have otherwise been comfortable adhering to Timor-Leste’s wishes but were concerned about the precedent this would set.

Concerning the substance of the statement Council members recognise the important contribution that UNMIT made in promoting peace, stability and development in Timor-Leste, notably in the important area of strengthening the capacity of the national police force. The text also recalls that Timor-Leste has indicated that the UN will continue to be an important partner in the country’s next phase and welcomes the ongoing engagement of the UN country team.

It seems that when the Core Group discussed the text there was agreement for the presidential statement to be relatively succinct. As a result, the remaining challenges that Timor-Leste faces, which may not strictly be related to international peace and security, are not set out in detail – rather, broader language promoting sustainable development, the rule of law and the strengthening of human rights institutions is used. Another area that might have been highlighted if there had been a greater desire to include more specific references would be the outstanding work of the Serious Crimes Investigations Team that will not be completed by the time of UNMIT’s departure. There is also no mention in the text of a potential non-resident Special Adviser who would report directly to the Secretary-General from next year, as had been suggested in Prime Minister Gusmão’s 20 September letter.

Generally, Timor-Leste is considered a success story and the presidential statement reflects the very positive sentiments Council—and Core Group—members have about the country’s recent progress.

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