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Friday 18 Aug 2017 | 15:58 | SYDNEY

Timor-Leste: Is UNMIT a dud?

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17 December 2010 09:47

Edward Rees is Senior Adviser with the Peace Divided Trust.

Well, it was always going to come down to this sooner or later: the days of a large UN peacekeeping operation in Timor-Leste are numbered. 

For this we should be thankful. However, its now time for Timor-Leste and its main bilateral partners to consider what next. With Australia, the US, Japan, the EU, and increasingly Indonesia and China in the game of helping Timor-Leste move from a fragile to a stable state, it may be worth considering a recent critique of the UN's record in Dili.

A new Crisis Group report has a hard look at the UN Integrated Mission in Timor-Leste (UNMIT) as the UN Security Council prepares to consider the mission's mandate in February 2011.

Crisis Group says UNMIT has proved pretty much a dud. It has neither reformed the national police service nor helped the Timorese Government conduct a review of how the country's security sector might be changed. It argues that the mission's police component (UNPol) should be phased out faster than now intended, its Security Sector Reform unit closed, and plans drawn up to move the mission out altogether.

UNMIT is now the longest standing of four UN peacekeeping missions in Timor-Leste in the last decade. Where does this less-than-flattering analysis of its work come from' Well, it's nothing new really. It has been well documented for several years that things are amiss in the UN's work in Dili. Have a look at a catalogue of critical analysis here.

In a way, judgments about UNMIT's performance are moot. Elections will be held in Timor-Leste in mid-2012 and the peacekeeping mission will draw down in that time-frame.

It's time for Timor-Leste and its partners to figure out what to do next. Other than the Timorese themselves, Australia clearly has the most to lose and gain in the ongoing process of building a successful country. With considerable development, police, and military engagement in Timor-Leste, Australia needs to craft a strategy in which it can play a substantive role while recognising that the large UN mission will no longer be present, other regional actors are becoming more prominent, and the Timorese are increasingly able and willing to call the shots.

Photo by Flickr user United Nations Photo.

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