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.