The failure of the United Nations to construct a police force in Timor-Leste has far broader implications in police building globally.
The United Nations (UN) has now been involved in the (re)construction of Timor-Leste’s police force on two occasions. Although initially hailed as a success, in 2006 a serious security and governance crisis looked set to unravel the country’s postindependence achievements, resulting in renewed international involvement in the security sector. However, many of the problems involved in constructing the Polícia Nacional Timor-Leste (PNTL) the first time have been faithfully reproduced the second time. The mandate to reconstruct the PNTL in 2006 was an opportunity for the UN to salvage its reputation for a job done poorly the first time, yet the significant lack of capacity and relationship in both the UN and the Timor-Leste government has meant little improvement in the PNTL. Arguably, the failure of the UN to construct a police force in Timor-Leste has far broader implications in police building globally.