Statement to the UN Security Council regarding the UN Integrated Mission in Timor-Leste (UNMIT)
UN Integrated Mission in Timor-Leste (UNMIT)
Statement by H.E. Gary Quinlan, Ambassador and Permanent
Representative of Australia to the United Nations
Thank you Mr President for convening this significant meeting. I especially want to welcome President Ramos Horta's presence today- despite difficult family circumstances for him – and that of his delegation. I must say how much his personal contribution to the emergence of an independent and increasingly vibrant Timor-Leste is admired in Australia. I should assure you that for my country Timor-Leste will never be – to use your earlier words – "just a corner of the world". Thank you also to Special Representative Ameerah Haq for her report today. And, of course, to her and all her team for their work.
As we know, 2012 will be an historic year for Timor-Leste, with elections and its 10th anniversary on 20 May. Timor-Leste has made remarkable progress in recent years, including an impressive GDP growth rate of 10 per cent expected this year, a strong Petroleum Fund underpinning the prospects of long-term and sustainable economic development, and important efforts to build the country's infrastructure.
We recognise that the challenge of improving standards of health and education in particular is ongoing – as is building the institutions which underpin democracy. Nonetheless, we share an optimistic view of Timor-Leste's future as UNMIT prepares to wind-down at the end of the year.
Australia supports the renewal of UNMIT's mandate until the end of 2012. This will ensure UNMIT support to Timorese authorities – at the political level, as well as support from UN Police –throughout the full election cycle, including after the formation of a new government. It will be important that decisions on the pace of the withdrawal of UNMIT staff following the mid-year parliamentary elections take full account of the conditions on the ground and the wishes of the Government of Timor-Leste.
The elections will, of course, be a test for the institutions and people of Timor-Leste. But Australia has confidence in the electoral authorities' capacity to conduct effective elections.
We know that extensive preparations are being undertaken by the police (PNTL) and military (F-FDTL) with the support of UNPOL and the International Stabilisation Forces (ISF) provided by Australia and New Zealand to ensure detailed planning for election security is in place. This preparation will be critical to ensure stability is maintained – the ISF, of course, stands ready to provide the necessary support to Timorese security services and UN police in the unexpected event that the need arises.
While these preparations are crucial, as we all know, elections are often unpredictable and tightly fought. We have been encouraged by commitments made across the political spectrum in Timor-Leste to participate in a democratic spirit and peacefully. Australia would also like to commend Timor-Leste for increasing the number of female candidates for Parliament from 1 in 4 to 1 in 3 on all political party lists – this will help to give the women of Timor-Leste an even greater say in how their country is governed.
Looking ahead, Australia welcomes the Secretary-General's intention to report to the Council sixty days after the formation of the new government during the second half of 2012. His assessment will be a critical element in finalising decisions on the final pace of UNMIT's drawdown, as well as the possible roles and functions for the UN in Timor-Leste after the departure of the peacekeeping mission. We are pleased that work has started on this planning and underscore the importance of the incoming government of Timor-Leste reaching a timely decision on the future shape of a UN presence in Timor-Leste. I note President Ramos Horta's comments today about the emerging consensus on that.
An important factor in all these decisions is the success of the innovative Joint Transition Plan, for which we commend UNMIT and Timor Leste's leaders. Ongoing dialogue between the Government, UNMIT and bilateral and multilateral partners will be needed to ensure a smooth transition, in which strengthening key institutions, such as the PNTL will be a decisive part.
This morning's member-state consultations were an important step in this regard. And we look forward to continuing these consultations in the next few months to ensure alignment of donor and international efforts with the trajectory mapped out by the Government of Timor-Leste itself.
In this, Timor-Leste's own long-term Strategic Development Plan must remain the cornerstone of international assistance. Last November, Australia signed a partnership agreement with Timor-Leste in the margins of the High-Level Meeting on Aid Effectiveness in Busan that aligns our development assistance with the Strategic Development Plan. Under the Agreement, Australian aid will be focused on strengthening services such as health and education, improved governance and security – including through continuing institutional support to the PNTL – and promoting economic growth through agricultural and infrastructure development. Dealing with youth unemployment must remain a special focus.
Busan was the same venue where Timor-Leste, as leader of the g7+ group of fragile and post-conflict states launched a "New Deal" for engagement in these states, demonstrating the importance of joint partnership – rather than just finance – in assisting such countries. Timor-Leste's leadership of the g7+ is a strong statement of how far it has come in its first ten years as an independent country and member of the United Nations.
The Timorese have much to celebrate in this 10th anniversary year and we congratulate them on their achievements. We have much to learn from this success.
In concluding, I would like to thank South Africa as new Chair of the Core Group on Timor-Leste for its hard work in coordinating the draft resolution renewing UNMIT's mandate for the Council's consideration and adoption this week. And also Brazil for its effective leadership of the Group last year. We look forward to continuing to work with the Group under its new Chair.