NEW YORK, 30 JANUARY 2002
STATEMENT BY H.E. Mr. FRANCISCO SEIXAS DA COSTA, AMBASSADOR AND PERMANENT REPRESENTATIVE OF PORTUGAL TO THE UNITED NATIONS, TO THE SECURITY COUNCIL (Public meeting on East Timor)
Portugal fully supports the statement that has been delivered by Ambassador Inocencio Arias, of Spain, on behalf of the Presidency of the European Union. Since a lot of our views are contained in that statement I will focus my own on some issues of particular relevance to my country.
Like others, I would like to start by thanking you for convening this meeting and giving the general membership of the UN the opportunity to participate in this debate. I also want to thank the Special Representative of the Secretary General, Mr. Sergio Vieira de Mello, for taking time from his very busy agenda in Dili to come to New York and brief us on the progress achieved by UNTAET as well as on his views for the future of the UN presence in East Timor. Finally, I must express our appreciation to Senior Minister for Foreign Affairs and Cooperation, Mr. Josť Ramos Horta, for sharing with us the insights of the East Timorese leadership.
I would especially like to thank the Secretary-General and his staff for the report we have before us. In it the Secretary-General reaffirms his recommendations for the United Nations peacekeeping mission that will succeed UNTAET, as well as the measures being taken to achieve as seamless a transition as possible from one to the other. The fact that the framework defined several months ago and amply discussed with the Timorese is now being reaffirmed and reinforced, clearly shows how well the UN knows the situation on the ground and how seriously it has engaged in the planing exercise.
Portugal supports fully the recommendation contained in paragraph 104 of the Secretary-Generals report to extend the current UNTAET mandate until the date of independence. As this historic day approaches, I believe we need to look closely at what has been done until now, as well as at the way ahead of us.
We have all many times congratulated UNTAET for the progress it has achieved, together with the Timorese and the rest of the international community, in East Timors security, political, economic and social life. But I think we have grown used to looking at UNTAET and East Timor as a success story and to take that for granted. We sometimes loose sight of how difficult and complex UNTAETs task was and still is.
The initial UNTAET mandate, contained in resolution 1272, was approved in October 1999. Although the first UN officials moved to Dili very soon after that, it was not until the first trimester of 2000 that the mission was fully deployed. This means that we are having this debate just about two years after the very start of UNTAET. Two years is really not much time to work literally from scratch on establishing a security environment, building a democratic government, improving human capacity, rebuilding infrastructure and restarting the economy.
We all have very strong reasons to feel proud if we consider that, only two years after the widespread violence that followed the popular consultation, the Timorese can reasonably expect to have, not only their long fought for independence, but also a functioning administration, a democratic and human rights abiding regime, and prospects for economic sustainability.
In just two years security has been reestablished; the training of local police and defence forces is under way; 192.000 refugees have returned and been successfully reintegrated in their communities; the health and education systems are working again; many roads, bridges and public building have been rebuilt; water and electricity are being provided to the population; a Constitutional Assembly has been elected and a transitional government subsequently appointed; new legislation has been passed in all areas of activity and the courts and prisons are functioning.
I believe we should be asking ourselves how many UN missions can claim such an extensive record of achievements. How many of our own countries can report similar developments in such a short time and under such difficult conditions? East Timor is four months into the process approving a Constitution and very close to concluding it. I dont believe it would be feasible to accelerate this and other processes without serious risk to their future sustainability.
My Government strongly believes that all these are reasons that amply justify the continued engagement of the UN and the international community in East Timor, especially after independence. The fact that UNTAET and the Timorese have achieved so much is all the more reason to continue supporting them, so they can finish and strengthen the tasks that the Security Council entrusted them with. Any other option would be irresponsible and unacceptable. It would be like punishing the good student because he has been doing all his homework and is, therefore, getting better results than his colleagues.
Paragraphs 67 through 94 of the Secretary-Generals report outline with some detail the plans for the transition to the post-independence UN mission in East Timor. Portugal strongly supports the framework and line of action proposed, as well as the timeline envisaged for that process. We believe that an integrated peacekeeping mission, comprising military, police and civilian components, is the best approach to the post-independence support for East Timor. We feel very strongly that a number of civilian support positions should be included in that mission and financed through assessed contributions, in order to ensure minimum stability to the new administration in its early stage of independence.
I would like to highlight the recommendations of the Secretary General in the area of security. We noted that despite the significant improvements there are still some risks and that the planed downsize of the peacekeeping force is taking this into account. We also noted that the Secretary-General linked the progressive downsizing of the military and police components of UNTAET to the progress in the training and operationalization of the East Timorese Police and Defence Forces. We very much support this approach by the SG, which is based on the continued analysis of the prevailing situation on the ground.
The Security Council as a whole, and its member states individually, have been instrumental in the progress of East Timor towards independence. By handing down to UNTAET a very comprehensive mandate the Council did not make the missions goal any easier, but it certainly allowed it to develop an integrated and wide-ranging approach to peace and stability in the country. It allowed the UN and the international community to develop its action with due regard for the "interlinked nature of the requirements for stability". We all know that in todays world there is hardly any separation between security, political, social and economic problems. To address one, we have to address all of them in a coordinated manner. This is by no means an easy task but its the only way to address conflict and post-conflict situations if we are to reach sustainable solutions. This is valid for East Timor as it is valid everywhere.
In its presidential statement of 31st October 2001, the Council endorsed the Secretary-Generals recommendations for the post-independence mission in East Timor, including the need to ensure assessed funding for a number of civilian positions. The Council has, thus, made clear that it is willing to continue to have a very supportive and constructive role in East Timors independence and stability. It has also made possible for the Secretariat to have an early and very clear basis on which to develop an exit strategy that takes into account the Unites Nations capacities, the situation on the ground and the wishes of the people of the country. I believe for the first time in its peacekeeping history the UN is analysing the impact of its withdrawal from a country and trying to define timely measures to counter or reduce its negative effects. This means we are learning from past mistakes and establishing good precedents for the future.
Looking at the post-independence period in East Timor I must underline a number of areas that we believe are crucial for the sustainability of democracy and rule of law in East Timor. These are the training of the Timorese police and military, the development of the judiciary and the establishment of a Human Rights culture. In all these areas several steps have been taken, both through UNTAET, as well as through UN agencies, NGOs and bilateral donors. But in all of them a lot remains to be done.
Without a strong and well-trained judiciary, the basic premise of democracy - the separations of powers cannot become a reality and the people will not be able to trust their government institutions. Also, without a strong judiciary there is not much room for reconciliation and healing of the society. Reconciliation and justice must go hand in hand. I believe the Timorese have shown they are very tolerant and willing to forgive. They want to leave the past behind them and build a new future. But this is not likely to last if there are no assurances that in that future crimes will not go unpunished.
Similarly, the police and military must absolutely be perceived as professional forces, subject to civilian rule, that exist to protect and help the citizens. As for human rights I do not need to point out how important it is that they are not only formally contained in the legal basis of the state, but also that they are implemented in the daily administration of the country.
Portugal believes that the post independence presence in East Timor must continue to have a strong role in these areas. Building credible institutions will be the best legacy that the UN, indeed all of us, can leave in East Timor. And it is not an area where we can afford to fail. I can assure you that Portugal has done and will continue to do its utmost to support these endeavours.
In the four months ahead of us the role of this Council will continue to be crucial. A number of aspects, both substantive and procedural, will need to be discussed and agreed so that the Council can take timely action to turn the planning exercise into a reality. We are looking forward to further recommendations from the Secretary-General on issues like the mechanisms of cooperation between the UN and the Timorese authorities after independence, especially in the area of security, or the mechanisms that will trigger the post independence UN mission in the country.
Portugal would welcome an early discussion of these issues among Council members and between these and other interested countries.
The independence of East Timor will not be a historic moment only for the Timorese. It will be so also and very specially for the UN. Some people have said that East Timor is the child of the UN. I would say rather that East Timor is the child of its own very difficult struggle, but that it would not be about to stand on its own if it were not for the excellent care taker leading it in its first years.
The independence of East Timor is an important date in a long process in which the East Timorese were always the major players, as masters of its own destiny. In the past they were prepared to die in order to prove that they were alive. In the future I am sure they will give us a lesson of responsibility in the management of their new democratic state.
But lets not forget that the international community cannot assume a neutral role in the building process of their nation, because the international community implicitly recognized that it was, for many years, guilty for the neutrality it assumed when the Timorese were the innocent victims of the injustices of History.
The UN were able to reconcile the international community with the Timorese. This Council, as one of its major organs, has the duty to guarantee that the responsibility of the UN is exerted until the adequate means are put at disposal of the Timorese to run their country. This Council has also the opportunity to reflect, throught the Timorese case, on the way the UN operates in its peacekeeping missions in all its dimensions. Not being currently a member of this Council, I am sure you will not disapoint those who trust its "sagesse".