DILI, 25 october 2023 (TATOLI) – The United Nations and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Cooperation, along with representatives from Diplomatic Missions and development partners, on tuesday, celebrated United Nations Day in Timor-Leste. This annual observance marks the establishment of the United Nations.
As a member of the United Nations since 2002, Timor-Leste is dedicated to advancing the three pillars of the United Nations: peace and security, human rights, and sustainable development. It continues to collaborate with other Member States, upholding multilateralism and fostering global cooperation on the international stage.
In the words of UN Secretary-General António Guterres: “The United Nations is a reflection of the world as it is—and an aspiration of the world we know it can be. It is our responsibility to help build that world of peace, sustainable development, and human rights for all.”
The UN Day celebration in Timor-Leste took place in the courtyard of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Cooperation, featuring President of the Republic, His Excellency Jose Ramos Horta as the keynote speaker. The event included a message from UN Resident Coordinator Funmi Balogun and remarks by Minister of Foreign Affairs and Cooperation Bendito Soares.
“Since 1945, we have had amazing hope for the future, periods of great prosperity and innovation, but there also exists despair about the state of our planet, of our people, with poverty continuing to grow especially among the most vulnerable, shifts in international alliances and power, and increasing conflicts and wars, within and between countries. As we struggle to resolve all that ail us, we continue to hold out and believe that the UN continues to be the best model of multilateralism that we have,” Balogun said in her remark at the celebration of the United Nations Day, at the Office of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Cooperation, in Dili, on tuesday.
“In the words of UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, “Multilateral cooperation is the beating heart of the United Nations, its raison d’être and guiding vision. The establishment of the United Nations in 1945 represented humanity’s best attempt to prevent any repetition of the horrors of two world wars and the Holocaust”. Over the past 78 years, the multilateral system as represented by the UN, even with its flaws, continues to deliver, to all peoples, not just hope, but progress on peace, climate, human rights, and development,” said Balogun
She said that UN has made incredible progress over the last 78 years: “For instance, in East Asia and the Pacific, approximately 84% of the population lived in extreme poverty in 1981 compared to just 1.9% in 2019. Additionally, while there were around 770.6 million children in school in 1950, this number rose to approximately 1.9 billion in 2020. We have made great achievements in upholding the universality of human rights, the right to vote, majority rule and democratic governance, and freedoms of speech/association, and even with a few countries backsliding on democratic norms, the world, led in part by the UN remains unanimous on these core values and principles.”
“In Timor-Leste, the UN remains proud of the trust the government and its people have placed in it since 2002 and continues to place in it as a partner in supporting its development journey, including in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The goal is to transition the country to middle-income status, ensuring that all children have access to quality education with excellent learning outcomes, providing opportunities for young people both within and outside the country, and creating an environment where all individuals and families can thrive. This includes upholding governance and the rule of law in accordance with universal human rights and gender equality principles,” she said.
Balogun highlighted that over the past two decades, Timor-Leste has undergone significant transformation since the restoration of independence: “Health outcomes have greatly improved, with reduced child mortality rates (from 83 in 2002 to 43.1 per 1,000 in 2021) and decreased maternal mortality (from 660 to 195 per 100,000 live births by 2022). The healthcare workforce has grown from just a handful to nearly 1,000 doctors in just a decade and a half.”
“The education sector has flourished, with primary school enrollment reaching nearly 90%, and economic advancements have led to a decrease in unemployment rates from 10.4% to 5.1% in 2022. Timor-Leste also made progress in human rights, gender equality, and democracy, including in increasing women’s representation in the national parliament, one of the highest in the world. The country’s reputation extends globally, reflected in its journey towards ASEAN accession and its strong relationships with the Committee of Portuguese Speaking Countries. Challenges remain, but as we have all seen, Timor-Leste is committed to fulfilling the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) as it continues its journey towards a brighter future for its people.”
She praised the extraordinary work of UN Agencies, Funds, and Programs and to share some of the ways they continue to contribute to Timor-Leste’s achievement of the SDGs under the government’s guidance and leadership: “Through their collective support over the last 2 decades, the government of Timor-Leste has been able to eradicate diseases like Polio and Maternal Neonatal Tetanus, introduce critical vaccines such as PCV and HPV, building the health infrastructure, and was at the forefront of ensuring that Timor-Leste was minimally impacted by COVID-19.”
UN AFPs have brought innovation, including pioneering community-driven preschools, breastfeeding, and health awareness campaigns to reduce child nutrition and mortality while critical interventions on school feeding have enabled the reduction of malnutrition and contributed to the high enrollment rates of children in school while supporting a more robust social protection system that enables not just protection, but employment. With UN support, the government has established critical governance systems, including border management, decentralization, the establishment of the single window to facilitate trade and Timor-Leste’s accession to WTO and ASEAN, and community resilience building while strengthening parliamentary oversight and citizens’ engagement in governance. The EU-UN Spotlight Initiative for ending violence against women and girls, under my leadership, and with the strategic direction of UN Women, implemented by UNFPA, UNDP, ILO, and UNICEF, has made significant strides, in in-laws, prioritization of resources, and an integrated approach to addressing a multidimensional challenge of persistent gender-based violence through an integrated model.
The UN in Timor-Leste remains committed to supporting the development goals and aspirations of Timor-Leste, bringing in its firepower made up of an incredible wealth of knowledge, convening power, and spaces for difficult conversations and dialogues, including conversations around the ‘hows’. On financing for development, bringing in private sector investments for social impact, connecting the country with global conversations on the restructuring of the international financial architecture, peacebuilding, and climate change. The UN will remain the partner of choice, in supporting Timor-Leste to tap into global standards and best practices, including through South–South Cooperation, from which Timor-Leste can adapt and more importantly, achieve the scale of results and impact.
“I am deeply honored once again to stand before all of you and express our sincere appreciation, not only to the government and people of Timor-Leste but also to all the esteemed ambassadors of UN member states, including Multilateral partners, the EU, World Bank, and ADB who remain as committed and passionate as we are, to supporting Timor-Leste achieve the development vision for its people. We are grateful that you have placed your trust and resources in UN agencies in the spirit of multilateralism to continue partnering with Timor-Leste in not only achieving the 2011-2030 Strategic Development Plan (SDP) but in rescuing the Sustainable Development Goals,” Said Balogun.
Journalist: José Belarmino De Sá
Editor: Filomeno Martins