RS22136 -- East Timor: Potential Issues for Congress

May 4, 2005


With the help of a transitional United Nations administration, East Timor emerged in 2002 as an independent state after a long history of Portugese colonialism and more recently, Indonesian rule. This followed a U.N.-organized 1999 referendum in which the East Timorese overwhelmingly voted for independence and after which Indonesian-backed pro-integrationist militias went on a rampage. Under several different mandates, the United Nations has provided peacekeeping, humanitarian and reconstruction assistance, and capacity building to establish a functioning government. On April 28, 2005, the Security Council established a special one-year political mission to last until May 2006. Many challenges remain, including the need for economic development and sustained support by the international community. Congressional concerns focus on security and the role of the U.N., human rights, and East Timor's boundary disputes with Australia and Indonesia. Over time, East Timor could potentially gain significant wealth from energy resources beneath the Timor Sea.