The United Nations General
Assembly placed East Timor on the international agenda in 1960, when
it added the territory to its list of Non-Self-Governing Territories.
At that time, East Timor was administered by Portugal. Fourteen years
later, in 1974, Portugal sought to establish a provisional government
and a popular assembly that would determine the status of East Timor.
Civil war broke out between those who favoured independence and those
who advocated integration with Indonesia. Unable to control the situation,
Portugal withdrew. Indonesia intervened militarily and integrated
East Timor as its 27th province in 1976. The United Nations never
recognized this integration, and both the Security Council and the
General Assembly called for Indonesia's withdrawal.
1982, at the request of the General Assembly, successive Secretaries-General
held regular talks with Indonesia and Portugal aimed at resolving
the status of the territory. In June 1998, Indonesia proposed a limited
autonomy for East Timor within Indonesia. In light of this proposal,
the talks made rapid progress and resulted in a set of agreements
between Indonesia and Portugal, signed in New York on 5 May 1999.
The two Governments entrusted the Secretary-General with organizing
and conducting a "popular consultation" in order to ascertain whether
the East Timorese people accepted or rejected a special autonomy for
East Timor within the unitary Republic of Indonesia.
and the Popular Consultation
To carry out
the consultation, the Security Council, by resolution
1246 (1999), authorized the establishment of the United
Nations Mission in East Timor (UNAMET) on 11 June 1999. The 5
May agreements stipulated that, after the vote, UNAMET would oversee
a transition period pending implementation of the decision of the
East Timorese people. On 30 August 1999, some 98 per cent of registered
East Timorese voters went to the polls deciding by a margin of 21.5
per cent to 78.5 per cent to reject the proposed autonomy and begin
a process of transition towards independence.
announcement of the result, pro-integration militias, at times with
the support of elements of the Indonesian security forces, launched
a campaign of violence, looting and arson throughout the entire territory.
The Secretary-General and the Security Council undertook strenuous
diplomatic efforts to halt the violence, pressing Indonesia to meet
its responsibility to maintain security and order in the territory.
On 12 September 1999, the Government of Indonesia agreed to accept
the offer of assistance from the international community. The Security
Council then authorized (S/RES/1264)
the multinational force (INTERFET) under a unified command structure
headed by a Member State (Australia) to restore peace and security
in East Timor, to protect and support UNAMET in carrying out its tasks
and, within force capabilities, to facilitate humanitarian assistance
outbreak of violence, the Indonesian Armed Forces and police began
a drawdown from the territory, eventually leaving completely. Indonesian
administrative officials also left. On 28 September, Indonesia and
Portugal, at a meeting with the United Nations, reiterated their agreement
for the transfer of authority in East Timor to the United Nations.
They also agreed that ad hoc measures were required to fill the gap
created by the early departure of the Indonesian civil authorities.
and Transition to Independence
On 19 October
1999, the Indonesian People's Consultative Assembly formally recognized
the result of the consultation. Shortly thereafter, on 25 October,
the United Nations Security Council, by resolution
1272 (1999), established the United
Nations Transitional Administration in East Timor (UNTAET) as
an integrated, multidimensional peacekeeping operation fully responsible
for the administration of East Timor during its transition to independence.
Resolution 1272 mandated UNTAET to provide security and maintain law
and order throughout the territory of East Timor; to establish an
effective administration; to assist in the development of civil and
social services; to ensure the coordination and delivery of humanitarian
assistance, rehabilitation of humanitarian assistance, rehabilitation
and development assistance; to support capacity-building for self-government;
and to assist in the establishment of conditions for sustainable development.
In February 2000,
marking the complete deployment of UNTAET, command of military operations
was transferred from INTERFET to the United Nations Peacekeeping Force.
UNTAET also began a process of reorganizing itself to resemble more
closely the future government of East Timor and to increase the direct
participation of the East Timorese.
On 30 August
2001, two years after the Popular Consultation, more than 91 per cent
of East Timor's eligible voters went to the polls again; this time
to elect an 88-member Constituent Assembly tasked with writing and
adopting a new Constitution and establishing the framework for future
elections and a transition to full independence. Shortly thereafter,
24 members of the new all-East Timorese Council of Ministers of the
Second Transitional Government were sworn into office. The new Council
replaced the Transitional Cabinet created in 2000. The Constituent
Assembly and a new East Timorese Government were to govern East Timor
during the remaining transitional period before its independence as
a democratic and sovereign State.
Constituent Assembly signed into force the Territory's first Constitution
on 22 March 2002 and following presidential elections on 14 April,
Mr. Xanana Gusmão was appointed president-elect of East Timor (Mr.
Gusmão received 82.69 per cent of the vote and Mr. Fansciso Xavier
do Amaral 17.31 per cent). With both these preconditions for a hand-over
of power met the Constituent Assembly was to transform itself into
the country's parliament on 20 May 2002.
East Timor swore in its first government and held an inaugural session
of Parliament on the morning of 20 May just hours after more than
120,000 people celebrated the birth of the nation at a massive ceremony
on the outskirts of Dili. The government, composed primarily of the
same cabinet members that comprised the pre-independence Council of
Ministers, was officially inaugurated by President Xanana Gusmão.
The ceremony was attended by some 300 dignitaries including United
Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan, who handed over authority from
the United Nations to the Speaker of East Timor's National Parliament.
East Timor's Parliament then held its first session at which President
Gusmão presented Secretary-General Annan with a request from East
Timor to join the United Nations.
and Post-independence Period
UNMISET and Post-independence Period
UN involvement in Timor-Leste continued after its independence in May 2002 to ensure the security and stability of the nascent State. A new mission, known as the United Nations Mission of Support in East Timor (UNMISET), was set up by resolution 1410 (2002) unanimously adopted by the Security Council on 17 May 2002. The Mission was established with the following mandate: to provide assistance to core administrative structures critical to the viability and political stability of East Timor; to provide interim law enforcement and public Security and to assist in developing the East Timor Police Service (ETPS); and contribute to the maintenance of the new country's external and internal security.
The Council decided that the Mission, to be headed by a Special Representative of the Secretary-General, would initially comprise 1,250 civilian police and an initial military troop strength of 5,000, including 120 military observers. The civilian component would include focal points for gender and HIV/AIDS, a Civilian Support Group of up to 100 personnel filling core functions, a Serious Crimes Unit and a Human Rights Unit.
The Council decided that downsizing of UNMISET should proceed as quickly as possible, after careful assessment of the situation on the ground, and that the Mission would, over a period of two years, fully devolve all operational responsibilities to the East Timorese authorities as soon as feasible, without jeopardizing stability.
By the same resolutions, the Council paid tribute to the dedication and professionalism of UNTAET and to the leadership of the Special Representative of the Secretary-General, Sergio Vieira De Mello, in assisting the people of East Timor in the transition towards independence.
Over the course of next two years, UNMISET had gradually handed over its executive authority for external and internal security to the Government of Timor-Leste. During this period, UNMISET concentrated on continued capacity development of the police services, exercising its responsibilities for the maintenance of law and order and external security, and contributing to the development of skills and knowledge of Timorese counterparts in critical state institutions and performance of operational line functions in those areas where a lack of Timorese expertise could have had serious adverse impacts on peace and stability in the country.
In the consolidation phase of UNMISET’s mandate, which lasted nine months, the mission focused on supporting the Government in building the institutional capacity and ensuring the smooth transition from peacekeeping to a sustainable development assistance framework.
The mandate of UNMISET was completed in May 2005 and a successor UN political mission—the United Nations Office in Timor-Leste (UNOTIL)—was established on 20 May 2005.
The new Office was to continue to support the development of critical State institutions by providing up to 45 civilian advisers; support further development of the police through the provision of up to 40 police advisers, and bolster the development of the Border Patrol Unit (BPU) by providing up to 35 additional advisers. It was also to provide training in observance of democratic governance and human rights by providing up to 10 rights officers; and review progress on those fronts.
UNOTIL was scheduled to end its mandate in May 2006, and the Security Council had already received the Secretary-General’s recommendations for the post-UNOTIL period. However, a series of events culminating in a political, humanitarian and security crisis of major dimensions led the Council to prolong UNOTIL’s mandate and ultimately in August 2006 to establish a new mission—the United Nations Integrated Mission in Timor-Leste (UNMIT).