Thank you for convening this timely and important debate. It is most suitable that we address this issue under your chairmanship, given your country’s remarkable transition from post-conflict to a stable democracy.
I also thank the Secretary-General for his important statement.
I wish to extend a most cordial welcome to Mr. José Luís Guterres, Vice-Prime Minister of Timor-Leste, a country which is also a paradigm of today’s subject, and a success in the UN’s peacebuilding efforts.
Today, less than 8 years after its independence, Timor-Leste is a democracy with stable institutions, looking confidently to the future. This is due to the success of the peacebuilding efforts carried out in Timor Leste with institution building at its centre. But it is mainly due to the will of the Timorese and the vision of its political leaders, of national ownership and leadership.
Portugal is honoured, alongside the other members of the Portuguese Speaking Community, to be deeply associated with the successful path Timor-Leste has followed.
In the early stages of the UN reform process, Mozambique and Portugal jointly proposed the creation of a framework within the UN system that would help to bridge the gap between the needs of security and the needs to rebuild stable institutions that would allow Governments in post conflict situations to pursue effectively their main tasks, without which stability would be illusive and relapse into conflict a serious possibility.
This proposal became in time the Peacebuilding Commission, which has been chaired by our colleague Peter Wittig, whom I congratulate for his commitment and leadership. I must say I share his analysis and suggestions, concerning enhancing the role of the PBC.
It is now a common assumption that peacekeeping and peacebuilding should be seen as an integrated effort, no longer as sequential activities, and that peacebuilding activities should start being carried out as soon as the situation of the ground permits it, well within the span of the foreseeable duration of a peacekeeping operation and throughout its cycle.
The UN must enhance its capacity in defining integrated strategies from the outset and in coordinating the activities of the different actors on the ground, between those in charge of security and the development agencies and NGOs, enhancing interaction with all the relevant stakeholders, including regional and sub-regional organizations, neighbouring countries, peacebuilding configurations and troop and police contributing countries. Much has been done in this sense, but more still needs to be done.
Only with legitimate, credible and resilient institutions will a State be able to discharge its functions and meet the expectations of its citizens. Only such institutions will be able to address the many issues that remain is post conflict situations and to bring the resolution of political disputes into the political process.
Each country is a different and specific case. General recipes are dangerous, to say the least. But two further elements are common and equally important in all peacebuilding strategies: economic and social development, and national ownership.
Institution building, alone, will not suffice since no country will achieve sustainable peace and stability without economic and social development. Unemployment, especially youth unemployment, must be addressed at an early stage of peacebuilding efforts through concrete, focused initiatives. International economic aid should concentrate on projects that take into account the economic, social and even cultural realities of the country, its specific capacities, and the potential they offer for foreign investment. Adequate management of natural resources should also be instilled early into development programmes, as well as infrastructure reconstruction. Development of national capacities must be a constant objective in all areas.
There is an obvious link between development and peace. The nature of this link is perhaps not totally clear nor can one build upon a casual relationship between the two. But they are surely mutually reinforcing.
No one can understand better the situation in a country than the people that live there. And no foreign commitment can replace their will. Without it, no peacebuilding effort will be sustainable. The centrality of national actors is therefore indispensable.
The importance of national ownership in post-conflict peacebuilding is well known to us all. The partnership between the State and the international partners must be based on a shared strategic understanding of the objectives and of the way forward, with clear common goals, permanent dialogue and interaction with the people of the country, authorities, opposition parties and the civil society as a whole; and it must include a smooth exit strategy for the international actors. Gender issues and the instrumental role that women play in economic recovery, social cohesion and political legitimacy, expanding the scope of national capacity are also of particular importance.
Peacebuilding, Mr. President, is also an exercise in managing expectations, those of the authorities and the civil society of the country in question, and those of the mission and other international bodies. This can only be attained trough constant dialogue and trough a real grasp of political, social, economic and cultural realities, their dynamics and evolution.
National ownership contributes to institution building, and, on the other hand, institution building reinforces national ownership and national responsibility, thus paving the way for a successful exit strategy of international partners and self-sustained peace and stability.
The European Union has long been committed to supporting institutional development in post-conflict countries. In this regard, as a member of the EU, Portugal naturally shares the position that will be expressed by its representative during this debate.
In concluding, I would like to recall an expression of Sérgio Vieira de Mello’s (who personifies UN’s involvement both is Bosnia and Herzegovina and in Timor-Leste): “the UN is an instrument, a frame, an engine, as dynamic, as conciliatory, as innovative and as successful (as member States) wish it, allow it and make it be.” This is our common challenge and our shared responsibility. Bearing this mind, let me assure you of Portugal’s full commitment to contribute to a more effective and coherent international response to post-conflict peacebuilding.