20 years after East Timor independence, UN reflects on collaboration with the country

Twenty years ago Timor-Leste became independent from Indonesia through a consultation organized by the United Nations. “A thriving democracy where human rights, fundamental freedoms, and democratic alternation are respected,” said UN Secretary-General António Guterres in a message to mark the date.

Guterres made his speech through a video shown at the ceremony that took place in the country’s capital, Dili, on August 30.

“I have always been a fervent defender of the Timorese people and their indeclinable right to self-determination. I vividly remember the joy I felt 20 years ago when I learned about the results of the referendum, as well as the harrowing weeks that followed, until finally, it was possible to convince the international community of the need to act, ”he said.

The UN chief ended the message by saying that East Timorese can count on United Nations support and personal support in “efforts towards an increasingly inclusive, prosperous and promising future.”


Following the referendum on 30 August, the Indonesian government accepted the result in October, repealing the laws that annexed East Timor.

The United Nations then passed a resolution establishing the United Nations Transitional Administration in East Timor, Untaet, which led to the country’s independence in May 2002.

From November 1999 to May 2002, Brazilian Sergio Vieira de Mello served as UN transitional administrator in Timor-Leste. Thus allowing the current government of the country to be established.

Elections East Timor, 9/Oct/2009 Photo: UN/Martine Perret.

Over the years, the United Nations had five different missions in the country, the last of which ended in 2012. During that time the UN was part of the organization of four different national elections.


For UN Resident Coordinator in East Timor, Roy Trivedy, UN collaboration with the country should now focus on the 2030 Agenda and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

“The SDGs play a very important role within the government policies of East Timor. The UN needs to help the government achieve the SDGs that really have meaning in the life of the country and in the lives of its citizens. ”

Trivedy also highlights, and collaboration with the government and challenges of the country, which has a large young population.

“East Timor is a small country, but we have a population where 70% are under 25, very young. We always have to invest in education, we have to create jobs for young people, we have a lot of people who don’t have jobs in the informal economy. ”

Although the United Nations no longer has a mission in East Timor, the organization continues to be present in the country through its agencies.

Also read: How CPLP is helping East Timor to invest in education