Thursday, 16 December 2010

The United Nations in Timor-Leste: An Exercise in Hypocrisy

Jose Belo
Tempo Semanal
Be careful what you wish for because you just might get it. In October 1999 in the wake of the Popular Consultation in which Timor-Leste voted for independence, and suffered a wave of pro-Indonesia militia violence, the Timorese population wished for assistance from the United Nations. Seven years later after the 2006 Crisis the Timorese once again called for and received assistance from the United Nations.

The Timorese have on the one hand received generous help from the international community but on the other hand has received hypocrisy and shoddy performance.

It has been over ten years that Timor-Leste has hosted UN peacekeeping missions including, UNTAET (1999-2002), UNMISET (2002-2005), UNOTIL (2005-2006) and now the United Nations Integrated Mission in Timor-Leste (UNMIT). Being in place from 2006 to 2010 UNMIT is the longest running mission to date. The view of Timorese when it comes to considering the record of the UN in Timor-Leste is not entirely negative but is generally very dim.

The UN has used Timor-Leste as a place to experiment with UN reform and the improvement of UN performance in the delivery of United Nations Security Council mandates. The Timorese and the international taxpayer have paid the price.

The weekly newspaper in Dili, Tempo Semanal, recently revealed that the United Nations chief internal investigator the Office of Internal Oversight Services (OIOS) has conducted at least 25 audit reports of UNMIT performance in the last 3 years. These audits have investigated reports of sexual abuse, criminal negligence involving death, fraud, corruption, waste and mismanagement. The newspaper will be running a series of investigative reports on these audits in the coming weeks.

The United Nations has a mandate to promote good governance, accountability and transparency in Timor-Leste but when it comes to its own performance it does not exercise these attributes itself.

Last three weeks ago, when asked for copies of OIOS reports into UNMIT performance the United Nations refused to provide access, preferring to choose a course of action that is neither transparent nor accountable. It is an exercise in hypocrisy.

What does the international community and Timor-Leste get for the $208 million / annum cost of the UN mission in Timor-Leste? We get 6 major components in the mission.

Firstly, the United Nations Police (UNPOL) component is the largest part of the UN presence in Timor-Leste. With the exception perhaps of the Portuguese riot police unit, the GNR, it is hard to see what value for money UNPOL have delivered. Its officers are of such variable quality and its systems so poorly designed that UNPOL has delivered to Timorese a police institution which is as badly run in 2010 as it was in 2006. Police brutality is just as common, as is police corruption and other misconduct. To be sure the Timorese Government has played a role in this as well, however UNPOL is fond of stating it has higher standards.

Secondly, UNMIT also has a large Governance Unit, which seemingly does nothing but translate government laws into English for other parts of the UN. It is beyond public knowledge if the unit does much else.

Thirdly, the UNMIT Human Rights Unit monitors and reports on the status of human rights in Timor-Leste, and because it can report publically and independently once a year it is viewed by most as providing a valuable contribution even if contentious.

Fourthly, civil society, donors, and the Government as being a virtual non-entity roundly criticize the UNMIT Security Sector Support Unit. Despite being charged in 2006 with assisting the Government in a comprehensive security review this has yet to happen. Nor will it occur in any substantive sense, with the exception perhaps of the production of a vacuous report, which has little relation to the politics of the security sector in Timor-Leste. It will be a report written by foreigners for foreigners. Both the Secretary of State for Defense and the Secretary of State for Security, in addition to the Prime Minister, have been derisive of this unit’s activities. Costing millions of dollars a year in direct UN costs and an additional $4 million in donor funds (Norway, Australia and the EU) it can be characterized as a total failure.

Fifthly, the UNMIT Political Affairs section is viewed as being capable but behind a curtain of secrecy. No one knows what they write, and their “good offices” functions are unrecorded or available to the public record for scrutiny.

Sixthly, and most importantly in some respects, UNMIT has a large support and administration component. With hundreds of civilian staff it is responsible for supporting and administering the above sections of the mission. UNMIT administration is notorious for paying contractors late, favouring contractors with inside connections, and for not supporting local business in a manner which would help UNMIT have more positive economic impact.

As outlined by the OIOS reports in the possession of Tempo Semanal, all or some of these components have played a role in covering up the professional misconduct of UN staff in Timor-Leste.

If a Timorese kills someone in a fatal car accident, UNMIT will quite rightly demand access to justice on behalf of the victim and his/her family. But if a UNPOL or UN staff commits a crime such as this, it seeks to cover up the facts and circumstances and does not attempt to deliver justice to victims. This is also relevant in the cases of sexual assault, theft, misconduct and corruption involving UN staff.

Tempo Semanal can report that the UN Conduct and Discipline Unit in New York has recorded 301 allegations of professional misconduct by UN staff in Timor-Leste since 2007. Seven of these are related to sexual abuse and exploitation and an undetermined number relate to motor vehicle accidents involving fatalities or grievous injury. In at least one case a drunk UN Police officer was involved in a fatal hit and run accident in Dili, and no justice has been delivered.

The United Nations preaches the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and is quite rightly highly critical of the Government of Timor-Leste for its record on human rights both since 1999 and in relation to the question of crimes against humanity prior to 1999. However, the United Nations and in particular its peacekeeping mission in Timor-Leste, UNMIT, demonstrates a disregard for their responsibilities to uphold higher standards for itself in the conduct of its activities in Timor-Leste.

The Timorese have learned a few tricks from the UN. In our own system people get promoted for bad performance involving unaccountability. Between 2007 and 2010 the head of UNMIT was Mr.. Atul Khare of India. He was also Chief of Staff and Deputy Head of UNMISET from 2002-2005. The vast majority of OIOS investigations (a total of 72%) into UN misconduct occurred while Mr. Khare was in office. Mr. Khare has since been promoted to Assistant Secretary General for Peacekeeping Operations in New York. This is an explicit example of UN hypocrisy.
Below is a complete list of OIOS reports 2007-2010 which Tempo Semanal has in its possession (8) and has requested from UNMIT (17), but as yet UNMIT has refused to act in a transparent and accountable manner.

Notte:  OIOS report list for UNMIT.
1. 03/10/2007 Risk Assessment UNMIT No.AP2007/682/06 (on file with TS)

2. 29/11/2007 Investigation into an allegation of sexual molestation by a contingent formed police unit officer in the United Nations integrated Mission in Timor-Leste 0404/07 UNMIT ID
3. 04/03/2008 Audit Report UN Police in UNMIT, Recruitment at UNMIT, No. AP2007/682/01 (on file with TS)

4. 09/05/2008 Closure report on allegations of false expense claims by UN Contractors in the United Nations Integrated Mission in Timor-Leste (UNMIT). 0482/07 OIOS IA

5. 09/05/2008 Closure report on harassment by UN Civilian Police Chief of Staff in the United Nations Integrated Mission in Timor-Leste (UNMIT). 0039/08 OIOS ID

6. 15/05/2008 Closure report on possible misconduct of staff member in the United Nations Integrated Mission in Timor-Leste (UNMIT). 0640/07 OIOS ID

7. 27/05/2008 Closure report on death threat allegations at the United Nations Integrated Mission in Timor-Leste (UNMIT). 0590/07 OIOS ID

8. 27/05/2008 Investigation report on sexual assault by a Formed Police Unit member in the United Nations Integrated Mission in Timor-Leste (UNMIT). 0113/08 DFS ID

9. 19/11/2008 Closure report on possible misconduct by a UNPOL Officer at the United Nations Office in Timor-Leste (UNMIT) ID 0681/07 OIOS

10. 28/11/2008 Closure report on possible theft of personal property at the United Nations Office in Timor-Leste (UNMIT) ID 0423/08 OIOS

11. 05/12/2008 Audit Report Recruitment at UNMIT, No. AP2008/682/04 (on file with TS)

12. 10/02/2009 Serious Crimes Investigation Programme in UNMIT, Delays in commencement of investigative work has resulted in a backlog of cases, No. AP2008/682/06 (on file with TS)

13. 21/04/2009 Closure report on possible misconduct by a staff member of the United Nations Mission in Timor-Leste (UNMIT) ID 0112/09 DFS

14. 24/07/2009 Closure report on fatal traffic accident in the United Nations Integrated Mission in Timor-Leste (UNMIT) DFS 0580/08 ID

15. 07/08/2009 Audit of procurement management in UNMIT - Further improvements to the procurement process needed to ensure compliance with the Procurement Manual UNMIT AP2008/682/07 IAD (on file with TS)

16. 27/08/2009 Travel arrangements in UNMIT - Inadequate internal controls over travel and related entitlements UNMIT AP2009/682/06 IAD (on file with TS)

17. 28/09/2009 Closure report on possible misconduct by staff members at the United Nations Integrated Mission in East Timor (UNMIT) DFS 0068/08 ID

18. 23/12/2009 Audit Report, Management of the Security Sector Support Programme in UNMIT - UNMIT's Support to security sector review and reform in Timor-Leste has not been fully effective UNMIT AP2009/682/02 IAD (on file with TS)

19. 29/01/2010 Investigation report on the fraudulent wire transfer by a staff member at the United Nations Integrated Mission in Timor-Leste (UNMIT) DFS 0290/09 ID

20. 26/02/2010 Preliminary Investigation report on misuse of communication and information technology resources by a United Nations Police Officer at the United Nations Integrated Mission in Timor-Leste (UNMIT) DFS 0222/09 ID

21. 01/03/2010 Support to the development of the administration of justice in Timor-Leste - Progress has been made in supporting the development of the capacity of the justice sector; however, more efforts are needed to increase the level of engagement with national counterparts UNMIT AP2009/682/03 IAD (on file with TS)

22. 28/05/2010 Investigation report on misuse of information and communication technology resources by a staff member at the United Nations Integrated Mission in Timor-Leste (UNMIT) DFS 0172/10 ID

23. 28/05/2010 Advisory on the misuse of information and communication technology resources in the United Nations Integrated Mission in Timor-Leste (UNMIT) 0222/09, 0170/10, 0171/10, 0172/10 DFS ID

24. 11/06/2010 Investigation report on misuse of information and communication technology resources by a staff member at the United Nations Integrated Mission in Timor-Leste (UNMIT) DFS 0170/10 ID

25. 15/06/2010 Public information services in UNMIT - Ineffective planning and weak governance diminished the efficiency and effectiveness of UNMIT's public information services UNMIT AP2009/682/04 IAD.

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