Press Releases

    SG/SM/8074
    12 December 2001

    EAST TIMOR’S MEMORABLE JOURNEY FROM HEARTBREAK
    TO INDEPENDENCE NEAR END SAYS SECRETARY-GENERAL,
    AS HE URGES LONG-TERM ENGAGEMENT FROM DONORS

    NEW YORK, 11 December (UN Headquarters) -- Following are the remarks of Secretary-General Kofi Annan to the opening sessions of a donor meeting on East Timor in Oslo 11 December:

    Helping the East Timorese people has been one of the most formidable responsibilities ever given to the United Nations. Today we are nearing the end of a memorable journey -– from the heartbreak and devastation of the post-ballot violence two years ago, to the moment next May when East Timor will declare its independence, and the newest nation of the new century will take its rightful place among the family of nations.

    The United Nations has worked with the East Timorese as true partners in every field, every step of the way. Security threats have been largely contained, and new police and defence forces have been established. New institutions are being built and staffed with newly trained civil servants. A successful electoral process has laid the foundations for democratic governance. Almost 190,000 refugees have returned. And the vital work of reconciliation has begun, with peoples and communities pursuing both justice and healing.

    None of these achievements would have been possible without unprecedented cooperation between the United Nations -- including the funds, programmes and specialized agencies -- and the World Bank, International Monetary Fund (IMF) and Asian Development Bank. Non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and private corporations have contributed their energies and expertise. And there has been a tremendous outpouring of support from governments, which have now gone well beyond the pledges made in the first donors’ conference in Tokyo in 1999.

    We look to the donor community again today because, of course, much remains to be done in East Timor. Institutions are fragile. Poverty is widespread. The situation of an estimated 60,000 East Timorese refugees has yet to be resolved.

    We look to you to help East Timor achieve its potential for sustainable development. It is essential that the Government inherit viable and stable administrative structures. International expertise will be required for a period beyond independence. And with timely, targeted investments, agricultural production can be increased; fish and coffee can become profitable exports; and revenue from oil and gas can boost long-term growth.

    But for all this to happen, East Timor will need donors to stay for the long haul. To have a lasting impact on poverty, and raise standards of living, development assistance will be needed for many years to come. I urge you to remain engaged.

    The United Nations, for its part, through the successor mission to the United Nations Transitional Administration in East Timor (UNTAET), will be steadfast in its support. There will be no precipitate exit from East Timor, but rather a planned and steady transformation of our role.

    The East Timorese leadership is committed to transparent, accountable government, to government that reaches out to every citizen and to all parts of the country, and to government that fosters national unity and tolerates diversity. The people of East Timor, by their participation in the electoral process, have made clear their aspiration for democracy and freedom. They have also voiced a keen desire to maintain peaceful coexistence with East Timor’s neighbours.

    Such resolve merits your support. Deliberations in the next two days can do just that. They can help to build the confidence of the government in its own handling of relations with development partners. And, I hope, they can convince you that the government’s development vision and fiscal strategy are appropriate, achievable and within the limits of external funding.

    I would like to thank the international donor community for its sustained interest in, and support for, the United Nations effort in East Timor. I would also like to express my appreciation to the United Nations Security Council for its unanimous backing. United Nations staff, meanwhile, should be proud of what they have accomplished, often in very difficult circumstances.

    I know you share my hope that lasting peace in East Timor will lead to new prosperity and rising standards of living for a people who have suffered so much for so long. It is within our power to help make this happen. Such an achievement would also be a significant contribution to regional stability.

    Let us all rise to this challenge, and thereby welcome into the family of the United Nations, on 20 May next year, an East Timor that is fully on the road to recovery and development.

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