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Ramos-Horta's new security sector reform 'mechanism'

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26 March 2009 09:41

Jim Della-Giacoma is an Associate Director at the Conflict Prevention and Peace Forum at the Social Science Research Council in New York City.

After extensive travels abroad, President José Ramos-Horta addressed the Timor-Leste parliament last week in a speech titled 'Timor-Leste: Reflections on the road to peace and prosperity'. It is a fascinating read for many reasons, but the section on the reform and development of the security sector particularly caught my eye.

Last month, I wrote about the lack of traction the UN Integrated Mission in Timor-Leste (UNMIT) was having with its security sector review. On 26 February, UNMIT’s mandate was extended for 12 months; the mandate included a reaffirmation of 'the continued importance of the review and reform of the security sector in Timor-Leste'.

But Ramos-Horta’s speech again demonstrates the Timorese desire to be in control of this vital sector, particularly with the announcement of a new whole-of-government 'mechanism' for security cooperation that appears to omit the UN mission.

The reform and development of the security sector are essential to consolidate the institutions that are now coming into being. Hence, the process represents an important contribution to strengthen and consolidate our democratic State.

In order to coordinate the reform process, the Prime Minister, the President of the National Parliament and myself have agreed to set up a mechanism that enables the cooperation of all sovereign bodies and State departments involved. Our aim is to ensure that there is a consensus on key issues of the reform and that there is a harmonious implementation of the measures aimed at the reform and development of the security sector in the different departments of the State involved. (Emphasis in original text.)

Curiously, there is no mention of UNMIT in the sixteen paragraphs of this speech on the security sector, showing who is driving the process and who is sitting in the backseat. But it could also be argued that not being talked about may be the ultimate in the 'local ownership' that the UN has been striving for.

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