Timor-Leste: When intervention is successful

Timor-Leste Holds Parliamentary Elections

On the 31st December 2012 the UN mission to Timor-Leste or East Timor officially concluded its mandate. This is an example of where international intervention is successful and can help bring stability to a conflict ridden country. Timor-Leste celebrated its 10th anniversary of independence this year and held largely peaceful elections showing the extent of democracy within the country despite its long history of violence. This is not to say that UN intervention will always be the right course of action as in many cases it fails or is rejected by the people, but in this case UN assistance in a supporting role to the government was successful.

Following the outbreak of deadly violence in 2006, the former UN peacekeeping missions in Timor-Leste were replaced with the United Nations Integrated Mission in Timor-Leste (UNMIT) and through Security Council resolution 1704 of 25th August 2006 UNMIT was mandated to support the government and its institutions with stability strengthening and democracy building as well as developing the police force and the human rights security of the people. 2007 saw UNMIT supervision of presidential and parliamentary elections.

Further resolutions came following the resurgence in violence and the attempted assassination of the president and prime minister. Without the UN support following these events it is possible that the country could have been destabilised  and the progress undone, so further efforts have been made to strengthen the judicial process and gradually more and more power was given over to the police force.

The conditions in Timor-Leste are believed to have strengthened to such an extent that the mandate of UNMIT is not to be renewed and the peacekeeping troops are to be withdrawn with a handful remaining for the early months of 2013 to ensure there are no problems with the transition. There will be continued engagement with Timor-Leste from the UN and UN agencies as there are anticipated to be some policing capacity challenges following the complete withdrawal of troops.

The UN Security Council has praised Timor-Leste and the government for its ‘remarkable’ achievements over the last decade. In August Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon praised the development of the security sector which is widely held to be solid and there is hope that it will remain so following the withdrawal of the UN mission and the shift in focus to the economic and social development of the country.

Timor-Leste is a positive example for intervention when a country is struggling to govern its people. The UN troops have successfully aided the re-establishment of government and strengthened the country to such an extent that it can support itself and maintain law and order. Of course, part of the success may be due to the small size of Timor-Leste meaning it was not as big a task as in other countries such as the DRC or Somalia. Nonetheless it has shown that if the right course of action is taken by the UN and they work alongside the people and respect their needs when the country is in crisis, unable to resolve the issue themselves then intervention can be a positive thing.

Bex Dunn