Subject: NYTimes Oped: Remember Timor

Remember Timor

By SHASHI THAROOR Published: September 28, 2006

REDUCING the United Nations presence in East Timor was a mistake that, given the chance to step back in time, I believe we would not make again. In May 2005, we pulled out the last of the peacekeepers, who had played a prominent role since 1999 in restoring peace to a ravaged land, leaving behind a small group of civilian advisers.

In hindsight, itís clear that this departure came too soon. Less than a year later, East Timorís hard-won peace broke down. In June, the countryís first president, Xanana Gusm„o, asked the United Nations to send the peacekeepers back, and in August the Security Council complied.

Few would deny that nation-building is a long and arduous task. But just how much international assistance is enough? And how do we keep conflicts from reigniting when peacekeepers leave?

The organizational change Iíd emphasize is one thatís just occurring: the establishment of a Peacebuilding Commission, a body charged with managing the transition from keeping a peace to building a stable society. We need to ensure that the commission becomes effective, pulling together Security Council members, troop contributors and development agencies to help bolster the economies and democratic institutions of countries emerging from conflict. To make peace truly sustainable, I would also involve our new Democracy Fund. If the United Nations can act to support democratic forces in post-conflict societies, we will help fulfill the founding ideals of our charter while preventing the horrible waste of lives, effort and money that occurs when peace, once established, proves too fragile to last.

≠ SHASHI THAROOR of India, the United Nations under secretary general for communications and public information.

Shashi Tharoor is the United Nations nformation. 

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