12 November 2012Statement by Philip Parham, Deputy Permanent Representative of the UK Mission to the UN, at the Security Council debate on the situation in Timor-Leste
Thank you very much Mr President, and many thanks also to the acting SRSG for his briefing. And we very much appreciate, as well, the presence of the Foreign Minister of Timor-Leste, for his participation in this debate today.
This has been a pivotal year for Timor-Leste. It has marked the tenth anniversary of its independence and conducted a landmark general election, resulting in the democratic and peaceful transfer of power to a new government. That election was held against the backdrop of an increasingly stable security environment; it conformed to international standards; and its outcome was accepted by all parties.
We commend the government and people of Timor-Leste on these achievements. They are significant milestones in Timor-Leste’s continued development and represent real progress in consolidating their state. And the UN has played an essential role in this progress; helping the people of Timor-Leste get back on their feet.
Because of this progress, it is right that the international community’s relationship with Timor Leste should continue to evolve. Indeed, this year has seen a real shift in the United Nation’s relationship with Timor-Leste with the planned departure of the United Nations Integrated Mission. We welcome UNMIT’s successful drawdown and look forward to its full withdrawal by the end of this year.
The level of cooperation between UNMIT and the Timorese government throughout the mission’s mandate has been exemplary. The Joint Transition Plan has set the benchmark for future transitions, with the United Nations and host-state working closely together and producing a comprehensive, detailed plan for safeguarding the future stability of a country. This Joint Transition Plan will need to be looked at again in the light of the proposal that changes the UN’s engagement from a peacekeeping mission to a Country Team. For this change to be smooth, we must adequately plan to scale up the UN Country Team and ensure that it has the capabilities it needs.
UNMIT’s departure is a key test for Timor-Leste. To date, we have ensured that the mission’s drawdown proceeds effectively and efficiently, whilst safeguarding stability. This can be a difficult balance to strike. But, the drawdown has been an example of effective disengagement, establishing sound principles for future successful transitions elsewhere. The lessons learned from this process should be incorporated into the guidance on transition and mission drawdown which DPKO is now developing.
A great deal of thought has already gone into what shape the follow-on UN role should take. We support the Timor-Leste government’s desire to see the United Nations’ effort in Timor-Leste led by a UN Country Team, as set out in Prime Minister Xanana Gusmao’s September letter to the Security Council. At the same time, it is right that the Security Council should remain informed on the situation in Timor-Leste. We therefore propose that the Secretary-General give due consideration to how best this might be achieved.
As the United Nations draws down and transitions into a Country Team, we also welcome the willingness demonstrated by the Timorese government and people to take responsibility for their development and for safeguarding their hard-won security.
In this regard, we applaud Timor-Leste’s leadership in promoting implementation of the New Deal for Engagement in Fragile States, its role as a co-chair of the Group of Seven Plus Fragile States, and its decision to act as a pilot country for the New Deal.
While UNMIT, along with the people and governments of Timor-Leste, has laid firm foundations for peace and security, we will need to continue to be vigilant to protect this progress. Relapses into conflict can be all too sudden. The United Nations should keep the Council informed of any warning signs in this regard, perhaps through the reports of a Special Envoy, or through the horizon-scanning conducted by the Department of Political Affairs. Hard won gains in security and stability should not be lost for want of keeping alert to, and acting on, signs of renewed fragility.
Mr President, almost exactly ten years ago Timor-Leste was the 191st state to join the UN family. The intervening years have been turbulent and tough. It is a tribute to the people of Timor-Leste and to the commitment of the international community that a country, while still fragile, is able to take another step towards sustained peace and stability.