The UN Stabilization Mission in Timor-Leste

*Mission Ends on 12/31/12

Mission Mandate

Ban Ki-moonIn August 2006, UN Security Council Resolution 1704 established the United Nations Integrated Mission in Timor-Leste (UNMIT). In February 2012, the UN Security Council adopted resolution 2037 to extend its mandate until December 31, 2012. The Mission's mandate includes:

• Supporting democratic governance;
• Facilitating political dialogue;
• Fostering socioeconomic cohesion;
• Strengthening the security sector;
• Promoting an effective judiciary system;
• Coordinating donor cooperation; and
• Providing operational support to the Timor-Leste National Police (PNTL). 


Portuguese UN peacekeepers bid farewell to members of the National Police of Timor-Leste. Portugal was among the countries contributing the largest numbers of police since the United Nations Integrated Mission in Timor-Leste (UNMIT) was set up following the 2006 crisis. Photo by UNMIT/Sandra Black. 

Timor-Leste voted for independence from Indonesia in 1999 and became a fully independent state in 2002. Since 2002 three UN missions (UNAMET, UNTAET, and UNMISET) successfully completed their mandates to support the government during its transition to an independent nation. 

From 2005-2006, the UN supported a new political mission, , UNOTIL, supported development of infrastructure.  Following this political mission, in August 2006, the UN Security Council passed Resolution 1704 to implement UNMIT. After a coup attempt in February 2008, the Timor-Leste government requested a UN police force to stabilize the country. 

This year, the people of Timor-Leste participated in successful elections.  On March 17, 2012, Timor-Leste conducted peaceful presidential elections of 12 candidates.  After a runoff election on April 16, 2012 former military chief, José Vasconcelos, more commonly known by his nom-de-guerre “Tau Matan Ruak” was elected.  He was sworn in as President on May 20, 2012,  the tenth anniversary of Timor-Leste’s independence.

On July 7, 2012, peaceful, free and fair parliamentary elections were held in Timor-Leste, with over 500 international observers and over 2,500 Timorese observers. No party won an absolute majority forcing a coalition government.   When the National Congress for Timorese Reconstruction (CNRT) party, the party with the most seats,  announced its intention to form a coalition government with both the Democratic Party and Frenti-Mudanca,  Fretilin supporters protested in the capital. One person died and four police officers were injured during the disturbances, but order was quickly restored by the national police. Representatives of the UN mission said the bout of unrest was not a setback.

Despite some skirmishes the UN peacekeeping mission will continue with its plan to withdraw all of its troops by the end of the year.  Already the UN has officially handed authority over the East Timorese National Police Force.  Most peacekeeping troops will leave throughout November and the final batch will depart in December. A small political mission is expected to replace UNMIT in 2013.

How This Affects American Interests 

East Timor
New Zealand Military Liaison Officer Philippa Gibbons pays a routine visit to Laulara village • Martine Perret, 26/3/2009, http://www.momentum.tl
  • Supports the Electoral Process.  Timor-Leste successfully conducted presidential and parliamentary elections in the first half of 2012, with over a 73% voter participation rate.  Both UNMIT and the U.S. aided in these elections and based on the successful outcome UNMIT will withdraw at the end of the year. In recent years, UNMIT and the UN Electoral Support Team together provided logistics, voter registration, and voter education, to ensure the smooth functioning of the electoral process. In the most recent elections, the U.S. committed “… four observer missions covering all 13 voting districts across the nation,” as Secretary of State Hillary Clinton remarked on her trip to Timor-Leste in September.   She also made a point to “…congratulate the leaders and people of Timor-Leste for three sets of free and fair elections this year…” The Timor-Leste National Police (PNTL) with the support of UN police helped maintain public order during the year’s elections.  Over the next two months UNMIT plans to further prepare PNTL for future elections. Additionally, Timorese news media and civil society are growing ever stronger, making important contributions to the democratic debate in the country.
  • Strengthens the Role of Women.  UNMIT and the Timorese Government encourage women’s political participation.  Training and outreach efforts, along with quotas, resulted in women winning 38% of seats in the legislature during July elections, the highest representation of women in parliament in the Asia-Pacific region. Women also currently hold a number of key cabinet positions., including Minister of Finance, Minister of Justice, and Minister of Social Solidarity, as well as Vice Minister for Health and Secretary of State for the Promotion of Equality.The Government also encourages women to join the police force; today women make up 18% of the force, one of the highest percentages in the Asian Pacific region.  The Timorese Government also focuses on Women’s health, launching a report on reproductive health, family planning, and sex education with support from the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA).
  • Promotes human rights and education. UNMIT works closely with the Government to establish human rights laws and implementation mechanisms.  The Government has agreed to ratify further international treaties as well as report on the implementation of the already-ratified treaties. In particular UNMIT and UNICEF advocate the rights of children,  working with the Ministry of Social Solidarity in Timor-Leste to promote services for children affected by trauma.  They also raise awareness about the rights of children and on protection services for children. Additionally, education has been a primary concern to stabilize the nation.  Primary school enrollment, a key element to future stability and growth, jumped from 63 per cent in 2006 to 90 per cent today. The country is on track to eradicate adult illiteracy by 2015.

    While gender-based violence remains a problem in Timor-Leste, the Government and Justice Systems addresses institutional shortcomings by developing and implementing laws. In June 2010, the Government passed a law against domestic violence.  In May 2012, the Government approved the National Action Plan on Gender-based violence, which prevents gender-based violence by delivering services to victims, and prosecuting perpetrators.  The UN has been instrumental in developing these plans, by facilitating meetings and offering consultations.  During Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s September visit to Timor-Leste, she applauded Timor-Leste’s action to prevent human rights abuses and recommitted the U.S. “…to work with the government to address outstanding concerns, including trafficking in persons, countering any kind of ongoing human rights abuse, and pursuing accountability for the victims of conflict.” 

  • Hillary Clinton Strengthens Timor-Leste’s police. UNMIT, along with the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation and the U.S. Department of Justice, play an important role in developing, strengthening and providing specialized training to Timorese police to help build a working relationship between police and the judiciary.

    Since March 2011, the national police have been responsible for policing throughout the country, with no major breakdown of law and order.  The UN remains involved with  the UN’s Human Rights Council working with PNTL to develop a more accountable institution, which has reduced misconduct and abuse in the country. As of January 2012, PNLT officers have attended 11,634 training sessions in the areas of legislation, discipline, administration, human rights, gender based violence, public order management, leadership, and arrest procedures. In the run up to the most recent presidential elections, UNMIT provided technical advice to PNLT to ensure peaceful elections and continue to provide operational advice for future elections.

    UNMIT continues to support patrols and conduct joint patrols with PNTL Border Patrol.  Additionally, UNMIT has worked to establish a relationship between Timor-Leste and Indonesia, for a cooperative border security effort.

  • Prepares nation for drawdown.  The Secretary-General’s Acting Special Representative, Finn Reske-Nielsen, holds regular meetings with Timorese Government leaders, women’s groups, and civil society groups to discuss the drawdown of UNMIT.  In preparation for the drawdown from Timor-Leste, the Mission has taken on a number of tasks in order to better prepare the nation and its people to act independently from peacekeeping support.  Some of these measures include strengthening response strategies for natural disasters, fortifying anti-corruption processes, preparing PNTL for maintaining security independently, and training national mission staff in employable skills.
  • Develops Institutions. UNMIT has engaged with local and federal Timorese Government to improve standards of living and develop institutions to stabilize these gains.   Today, all displaced people have peacefully returned to their homes and the average life expectancy is 62.1 years, an increase of over 2 years since 2005.  Additionally, poverty is decreasing as a result of public investments in infrastructure and services, fuelled by the income from Timor-Leste’s petroleum resources, which are managed through the Petroleum Fund.

*Updated November 2012.

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