Despite an improvement in the overall security situation throughout Timor-Leste, the country the United Nations helped shepherd to freedom in 2002 continues to face enormous challenges that will require long-term support, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon says in a new report issued today.Mr. Ban notes that Timor-Leste is building on the gains of last year’s peaceful election and working to restore normalcy following the crisis that engulfed the fledgling nation in 2006, when fighting, attributed to differences between the eastern and western regions, led to the deaths of at least 37 people and the displacement of about 155,000 others – or 15 per cent of the population.“However, the first year of the new Government and Parliament remains a delicate time for the country,” the Secretary-General writes in his latest report to the Security Council on the UN Integrated Mission in Timor-Leste (UNMIT), covering the period from 21 August 2007 to 7 January 2008. “The population has high expectations for tangible improvements in the quality of their daily lives, still marked by widespread poverty and unemployment,” he adds.The Security Council mission that visited the country last year highlighted several challenges that remain, including rebuilding the population’s confidence in State institutions, addressing the issue of internally displaced persons (IDPs), security sector reform, economic development, restoring stability, strengthening democratic structures and improving governance and the rule of law.Mr. Ban says that the national police service is one of the most critical institutions warranting sustained assistance, “given the continuing fragile environment in Timor-Leste and the level of confidence among the Timorese population in their security institutions.” He adds that daily public disturbances highlight the need for a continued UN police presence to carry out law enforcement duties until the national police is fully reconstituted, and that progress in the phased handover of policing responsibility will be one of the key elements in making any future adjustments to UNMIT’s police strength.Along with strengthening national police, Mr. Ban cites the “vital need” for sustained support to bolster the justice sector. While the UN and other key partners have contributed to strengthening judicial institutions and addressing gender and juvenile justice issues, the capacities of the national judicial and corrections institutions “are still insufficient to meet the country’s needs,” he points out.The Secretary-General recommends a 12-month extension of UNMIT’s mandate, stressing that its continuation “is crucial not only to ensure that the gains of the past year are not jeopardized, but also to support Timorese-owned solutions and self-reliance in addressing the many challenges ahead.”Bolstered following the 2006 crisis, UNMIT currently has a strength of 341 international staff, 806 national staff, 1,480 police officers and 33 military liaison and staff officers. 23 January 2008Despite an improvement in the overall security situation throughout Timor-Leste, the country the United Nations helped shepherd to freedom in 2002 continues to face enormous challenges that will require long-term support, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon says in a new report issued today.