The Foreign Service Journal, November 2006

lence was at about 40 percent, and even higher among the young. Oil and gas exports are seen as the country’s most promising sector, but it will take years for them to generate the jobs and revenues the country desperate- ly needs. Most of those employ- ed are engaged in agriculture, where wages and productivity are low. An August 2006 U.N. report urged greater focus on boosting rural areas, where three-fourths of the labor force reside. “This requires considerable investment in roads, power and water infrastructure, agriculture exten- sion and information programs, and the fostering of rural credit programs,” the report said. Speedy economic revitalization in post-conflict zones remains a problem for international bodies, U.N. Peacekeeping Chief Jean-Marie Guéhenno told a Council on Foreign Relations briefing in May. Once new authorities have been elected, he said, “there’s a window that opens, but if in the next 24 months people do not see progress and do not have jobs, [the mission] will be in trouble.” Some of the country’s leaders say they need to share in the blame for both the poor functioning of their institu- tions and their eagerness to take the reins from the United Nations. Then-Foreign Minister Jose Ramos- Horta told the Washington Post this past May that Timorese were overconfident in believing they could take over their own affairs in 2002, and the U.N. itself wanted to disengage as quickly as possible. “If we are not mature enough,” Ramos-Horta said, “let’s get the Australians to stay indefinitely.” Works in Progress As the United Nations pre- pares to re-engage in East Timor, it is nearing a critical phase in several other high-pro- file nationbuilding missions of much greater size and regional impact. Widely different circumstances brought the United Nations into Kosovo, Afghanistan and Liberia, but the organization has assumed a lead role in guiding those states toward a combination of security, political reform and economic sustainability: Kosovo: The Timorese experience should be espe- cially meaningful for U.N. officials involved in moving Kosovo to a “final status” that, as of this writing, is in- creasingly looking like independence. Still technically a province of Serbia, Kosovo has been a virtual U.N. pro- tectorate since Serbian forces pulled out in 1999. Although the number of NATO-led forces there is steadi- ly declining, Kosovo has had the advantage of larger than normal international peacekeeping and police forces pro- portionate to the local population of two million. But even that hasn’t prevented some flare-ups of ethnic vio- lence. In March 2004, thousands of rampaging ethnic Albanians killed nearly 20 Serbs and destroyed dozens of Serbian Orthodox churches and other properties. Martti Ahtisaari, the Finnish diplomat who has han- dled many tough missions for the U.N., is charged with brokering a deal between the two sides. Serb officials insist they will not accept an independent Kosovo, but it is believed they will relent if sufficient security provisions for ethnic Serbs in the province are in place. Of special concern is the province’s economy, which has faltered in part because of Kosovo’s unsettled status. Afghanistan. A virtual “ground zero” state, Afghan- istan is patrolled by about 8,000 NATO and 18,000 U.S.- led forces. It is coping with a resurgent Taliban, which has been staging the fiercest attacks, including suicide bombings, since its ouster nearly five years ago. The U.N. mission plays a central role in guiding reconstruc- tion, but the Afghan government’s control beyond Kabul is spotty. NATO-supported provincial reconstruction teams F O C U S 24 F O R E I G N S E R V I C E J O U R N A L / N O V E M B E R 2 0 0 6 Robert McMahon, deputy director of , the Web site of the Council on Foreign Relations, has covered foreign affairs since 1990 for The Associated Press and Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. Based in Washington, D.C., he helps shape editorial content for , and contributes analysis, interviews and background report- ing, with an emphasis on U.S. foreign policy. A former U.N. correspondent for RFE/RL, McMahon has written extensively on U.N. peacekeeping, human rights bodies and post-conflict reconstruction issues, for publications and broadcasts including the Fletcher Forum of World Affairs , the Weekly Standard , and Transi- tions Online. Experts say nationbuilding missions can only be judged a success after about 10 years from the time international forces withdraw.