Integration of Participatory Elements in the Governance of the UN Transitional Administration in East Timor

Term Paper (Advanced seminar), 2005

28 Pages, Grade: 1,7



Abbreviation list

1. Introduction

2.1. Mandate
2.2. Institutional Structure
2.3. Participatory Elements in UNTAET

3. Participatory Elements
3.1. Local Governance
3.2. ‘Timorization’

4. Transfer of Authority
4.1. The Process of Transfer
4.2. Elections

5. Conclusion


Abbreviation list

illustration not visible in this excerpt

1. Introduction

The role of the United Nations in the new century will be a different one compared to the traditional observing and discussion role from the past. UN peace-building missions in Kosovo, Eastern Slavonia, East Timor and Cambodia gave a first impression of the future role of the UN in post-conflict situations: To built up a democratic, peaceful nation after war or civil war’s destruction of the country. But how could that impressive task be managed? Which problems could emerge and which processes guarantee a successful mission? Of course there won’t be a ‘one size fits all’ model but the lessons learned of the experiences could help to manage future tasks.

In this context, the UN mission in East Timor is said to be very successful because within a few years a multidimensional project built up a working administration and a viable democratic state out of a completely destroyed infrastructure and scorched earth with thousands of dead or fled inhabitants. But what made this mission so successful? Was it the multidimensional mandate? The international experts involved? The preconditions of the conflict? The small size of the country? Or even the ownership of the East Timorese people in the peace-building process? The question of participation is a very important one, especially with the perspective of the people once being independent. During the UN peace-building-process the foundation of the future nation’s governing structure is laid and it is absolutely crucial to involve local actors in the process of state-building. The problem of the performance for the UN exit of the country after the mission is also a problem of lacking former participation. “No exit without a Strategy” Kofi Annan postulated (quoted in Chesterman et al 2004: 15) – the thinking about the Strategy leads to the problem of participation. But how could one prepare a nation for democracy and good governance from the standpoint of a UN transitional government? The governing structure “benevolent despotism” (Chesterman 2002b) through a multidimensional, centralized mandate is not a very good teaching example.

In this work, I would like to focus on one specific theme to analyse – the possibility for the people to participate and the degree of their involvement in the transitional government of the UN. Maybe this task was the key to the overwhelming success of the UN mission in East Timor? According to the literature about the transitional period and the participation elements, the process in East Timor was severely lacking systematic involvement of the East Timorese as well as the institution-building on a local level. But basically, the outcome and the process of the transitional administration of the United Nations are estimated as an overwhelming success.

The East Timor conflict. After Portugal released East Timor as colony, the Indonesian parliament annexed it as 27th Province in 1976. During the following decades of Indonesian occupation the level of violence was high, approximately 200,000 East Timorese died (of a pre-invasion population of 800,000). On May 5th 1999 an agreement between Indonesia and the UN was reached to allow the UN to conduct a ballot in East Timor about the question of being independent. On August 30th 1999, 78.5% of voters opted for independence. A wave of brutality and destruction by Indonesian militia groups took East Timor and destroyed almost the whole country while more than 200,000 people fled and thousand were killed. An Australian-led multinational UN peace-keeping force entered East Timor and the authority was transferred on the 26th October 1999 to the UN Transitional Administration in East Timor (UNTAET). The UNTAET was the sovereign interims administration of East Timor until the country’s fully independence on the 20th May 2002. The following figure shows a timetable of the UN mission in East Timor:

illustration not visible in this excerpt

Source: Smith 2004: 4

Structure of Work. This work is structured in three main parts: The first part will analyze the exact ‘Mandate’ and ‘Institutional Structure’ of the ‘UNTAET’, especially the dimension of the integration of participation into the structure of UNTAET. This will lead to the second part of the ‘Participatory Elements’. This chapter will be concerned with the ‘Local Governance’ and the step-by-step ‘Timorization’ of the administration. The third part with chapter ‘Transfer of Authority’ will complete the structural process of participation. The ‘Conclusion’ completes the findings and outlines the results of this work.


At the beginning of the decision to initiate UNTAET, the UN was faced with many difficulties. The most important problem was the lacking preparation of the UN at the one hand, and the necessity of a very quick reaction on the other hand. Luckily, the preconditions of the operation were very good, for example the support of the local population and the rapid resolution of the armed conflict which was not expected to take place so early. The post-conflict period was surprisingly less instable as it used to be in former UN peace-building missions (compare Paris 2004). When the UN staff arrived at East Timor, no other public administration or any kind of governance existed to guarantee basic public services. So UNTAET had plenty of rope to promote the transitional administration. Richard Caplan characterized six chief functions of an international administration to implement:

1. Establishing and maintaining public order and internal security, including the protection of human rights;
2. Providing humanitarian assistance;
3. Resettling refugees and internally displaced persons;
4. Performing basic civil administrative functions;
5. Developing local political institutions, including holding elections to these institutions, and building civil society;
6. Economic reconstruction (Caplan 2002: 30).

It was the first time for the UN to fulfil tasks of such a multidimensional way as it was in East Timor. UNTAET had to establish a working legal framework and control its observation, provide fiscal management and construct a central bank, arrange a quick education system with schools and trained teachers, provide public services and administration etc.

At the end, the work of the UN Transitional Administration in East Timor was a success. UNTAET achieved its main target: The preparation of East Timor for independence. Furthermore, “the UN had established a favourable security situation vis-à-vis Indonesia, had returned 180,000 refugees, had improved the economic situation through negotiations with Australia over the oil and gas fields of the Timor Gap, and had established a successor mission (UNMISET) to support East Timor in its initial period of independence” (‘East Timor and the Challenge of UN Transitional Administration‘ 2005). In short it was the first time when a transitional government incorporated that much executive, legislative and judicative power in one single hand (compare Caplan 2002).

2.1. Mandate

Considering the extensive cognizances of the UN Transitional Administration in East Timor, the mandate of the UN Security Council is very illuminating. Resolution 1272 made up the multidimensional tasks of the interim government as will be shown in the following section. The public legitimacy of the UNTAET based on the referendum of August 1999 when the East Timorese voted for independence after a transition under UN administration (compare de Mello 2001).

Resolution 1272. The Security Council Resolution Number 1272, released on 25th October 1999, mandated the UN Transitional Administration in East Timor. But the wording was vague and left only little guidance for the UNTAET. The following paragraph shows a short extract of the Resolution 1272:

“[...] The mandate of UNTAET shall consist of the following elements:

(a) To provide security and maintain law and order throughout the territory of East Timor;
(b) To establish an effective administration;
(c) To assist in the development of civil and social services;
(d) To ensure the coordination and delivery of humanitarian assistance, rehabilitation and development assistance;
(e) To support capacity-building for self-government;
(f) To assist in the establishment of conditions for sustainable development”


Excerpt out of 28 pages


Integration of Participatory Elements in the Governance of the UN Transitional Administration in East Timor
University of Constance  (Fachbereich Politik- und Verwaltungswissenschaft)
Conflict Resolution and Post-Conflict Reconstruction as Interorganizational Management
Catalog Number
ISBN (eBook)
File size
851 KB
Integration, Participatory, Elements, Governance, Transitional, Administration, East, Timor, Conflict, Resolution, Post-Conflict, Reconstruction, Interorganizational, Management
Quote paper
Katrin Kornmann (Author), 2005, Integration of Participatory Elements in the Governance of the UN Transitional Administration in East Timor, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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