Paul Wolfowitz: Timorese must steer recovery

East Timor faces a difficult path. Not only have many houses once again been burned and thousands of people forced to flee their homes, but confidence in the institutions of the state, including the police and the armed forces, has been badly shaken.

Australia, Malaysia, New Zealand and Portugal moved quickly to send forces to help restore peace in East Timor. But the speed and strength of recovery depends almost entirely on the people and the leaders of this first new country of the 21st century.

The people of East Timor, having shown so much courage and suffered so much in the past, should not face new suffering due to internal conflicts.

East Timor has requested the UN to establish a commission of inquiry into the violence.

This is an important first step. The Timorese needs to draw a clear line to signal that resolving conflicts by violent means is not acceptable in their new democracy.

Healing the wounds of this crisis will be a substantial challenge.

An inclusive approach to recovery is needed, one that builds bridges among the presidency, the Government and key institutions such as the church.

Now is time to put aside partisan political interests - a time for East Timor's leaders at the national and community level to work together to heal society's divisions and chart a way forward in the interests of the country.

Reflection among East Timor's leadership and society on what has led to this crisis is important.

The international community must also evaluate its efforts and make the changes needed to our assistance programmes. We cannot go back to business as usual.

A new understanding between East Timor and the international community is needed to address the causes of the conflict and support long-term peace-building.

East Timor can recover. It surprised the world in the past six years by the way it recovered from its traumatic history. The accomplishments of recent years must not be lost.

Some Timorese public institutions - such as the health and social protection agencies - are playing a critical role in catering to the humanitarian needs of the population, a role which would have been unimaginable in 1999 when the state had collapsed.

And for the long-term, a well-governed petroleum fund is in place that ensures revenues flowing to the country from Timor Sea gas reserves are transparently managed for generations to come.

East Timor's citizens at all levels have learned new skills and capacities in the past six years which will stand them in good stead to face the challenges ahead.

All actors in East Timor need to take responsibility in following through on this chance for peaceful recovery.

The World Bank, with the rest of the international donor community, stands ready to assist in any way that we can. This chance for a united approach to peace and recovery may not come again.

* Paul Wolfowitz is President of the World Bank Group.

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