Waging Peace: Timor-Leste (formerly East Timor)
After four centuries of Portuguese rule, 24 years of Indonesian occupation, and two years of United Nations administration, East Timor gained independence and a new name on May 20, 2002. The Carter Center was closely involved with the birth of Timor-Leste, the first new nation of the 21st century.
During the U.N.-administered transition period, Timor-Leste made progress toward consolidating democracy. With the support of the international community, the nation has experienced successful elections, drafted and ratified a constitution, and begun to create important institutions needed to establish a strong, sustainable democracy, including a formal legal system and active civil society.
The 1999 Public Consultation
The Carter Center began its involvement in Timor-Leste in June 1999, when President Carter, leading an international observer mission for Indonesia's parliamentary elections, met in Jakarta with detained East Timorese leader Xanana Gusmao. Gusmao expressed his concerns for the safety of the East Timorese people during the consultation period and his belief that international observation would be essential to the safe conduct of the ballot. Given the island's long history of oppression and the presence of pro-integration militia, there was concern that militia would create an atmosphere of intimidation prior to the vote. The Carter Center mission, therefore, focused on monitoring the political and security environment prior to, during, and after balloting.
After receiving an invitation from Indonesian President B.J. Habibie, The Carter Center was accredited as the first international observer group and opened an office in Timor-Leste's capital, Dili, to monitor the Aug. 30 public consultation. Read full text >
From December 2001 through March 2002, the Center implemented a project to promote good governance, accountability of public institutions through the dissemination of public information to citizens, and the work of local organizations at the grassroots level.
The Center also conducted several one-day training workshops addressing rule of law and citizens' rights when dealing with the police.
As a component of its overall program to support the growth of democracy in Timor-Leste, The Carter Center administered several small grants to local nongovernmental organizations to contribute to building a stronger civil society.