Thank you, Mister President, and thank you, Ambassador Haq, for your briefing on UNMIT and the Secretary-General’s recent report. Let me also thank you for your dedicated leadership and your commitment to solidifying peace in Timor-Leste.
Mr. President, my government welcomes the Secretary-General’s report on UNMIT’s important work. The United Nations and the international community as a whole played a critical role in Timor-Leste’s independence. Sustained international support will be critical in ensuring this young country’s success. This interim report provides an important opportunity to think about Timor-Leste’s needs and begin long-term planning for future UN engagement there.
Today let me focus on five key points.
First, the United States is encouraged that Timor-Leste’s security situation remains stable. We are further encouraged that this stability continued despite a slight reduction in UNMIT’s force size. We continue to support the UN and development partners’ roles assisting the Government of Timor-Leste as it further solidifies peace and security throughout the country. As Timor-Leste continues on the path from conflict to stability, we are heartened to see that it can look to long-term challenges and plan for a peaceful, prosperous future.
Second, the transfer of primary policing responsibilities from UNMIT to the Timorese National Police is critical to further cementing the country’s stability. Building local capacity is the key to peacekeeping mission’s success, and we commend UNMIT, the PNTL, and bilateral donors for their hard work in this area. For peacekeeping missions to succeed, their mandates must match their capabilities, and we strongly support UNMIT’s efforts to ensure that its police component has the appropriate, specialized skills to emphasize skills building and institutional development. But the excessive use of force and lack of accountability continue to be a concern for the PNTL. We urge the PNTL, with UNMIT’s support, to establish the mechanisms to address these challenges.
We recognize the improved professionalism of the Timorese police and military, and we note Timor-Leste's progress in developing a national security policy. The United States is pleased to help facilitate this process through our multi-stakeholder National Security Workshops, hosted by the Asia Pacific Center for Security Studies in Honolulu. The United States is also pleased to note that, to help facilitate the full resumption of national policing, we will be increasing our bilateral assistance to further strengthen the PNTL over the coming years—including in the areas of community policing, criminal investigations, and border and maritime policing.
Developing competent, professional security institutions, police, and military will be critical to Timor-Leste’s long term success. It is critical that the Government of Timor-Leste develop clear lines of authority and areas of responsibility for its military and police.
Third, Mr. President, we are pleased at the progress that has been made toward implementing the recommendations of the Commission for Reception, Truth, and Reconciliation and the Commission of Truth and Friendship. We are also encouraged by the launch of the Justice Sector Strategic Plan. These advances are critical to ensuring that the Timorese have faith in the justice sector, continuing this active dialogue, and further the national reconciliation process. But the commutations of the sentences of those convicted in the February 2008 attacks against the President and Prime Minister contribute to our continuing concern about the danger of creating a culture of impunity. We urge the Government of Timor-Leste to address impunity and to hold individuals accountable for their actions.
We also note the establishment of the Anti-Corruption Commission. An environment of transparency and accountability is essential to sustainable development. The United States looks forward to working with the Government of Timor-Leste through our Millennium Challenge Corporation’s new threshold program.
Fourth, let me congratulate UNMIT on the absence of reported cases of sexual exploitation and abuse during the reporting period. We’re also pleased to note UNMIT’s work with the PNTL to create and implement a training course on investigations of gender-based violence. We commend UNMIT for giving a high priority to the zero-tolerance policy on sexual exploitation and abuse, as well as for its emphasis on training its personnel.
Finally, we are pleased to note that planning has begun for the transition for UNMIT’s departure. We have seen significant progress over the last reporting period, but UNMIT continues to play a vital role. UNMIT must continue to stress building local capacity, and the Government of Timor-Leste must continue to strengthen institutions for peace and stability so that they can take firm root throughout the country. We encourage UNMIT and the Government of Timor-Leste to continue their efforts and create a gradual, methodical, and thoughtful transition plan.
In closing, Mr. President, let me again thank the peacekeepers of UNMIT, as well as their Timorese partners on the ground and their international supporters, for the continued dedication to peace and security in Timor-Leste. The Timorese have made great strides toward peace and stability, and we hope and trust that they will continue to do so, with the presence and commitment of strong international partners.
Thank you very much, Mr. President.
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