Self-determination in East Timor: The United Nations, the Ballot, and International Intervention
As the head of the United Nations Mission in East Timor (UNAMET), Ian Martin was intimately involved with the UN's efforts to conduct the ballot in which the East Timorese declared their overwhelming wish to be an independent state free from Indonesian control. Here he details the actions of the UNAMET in East Timor and discusses whether the action was successful. Although the interventions in Kosovo and East Timor have been lumped together as the two international human rights interventions of 1999, Martin finds that the two examples couldn't have been more different. Where he argues that Kosovo ultimately resulted in the violation of national sovereignty and the unilateral actions of non-UN actors, he finds the East Timor action much more successful in that it had much broader support in the international arena and upheld international law. c. Book News Inc.
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Book review by Mauricio Forero:
Good governance is indeed democracy and this is expected from the process of elections like the one described herein. This book is a testimony of the efforts of the United Nations in East Timor. The author focused to describe the work of the UN assistance mission for East Timor UNAMET, its central goal of carrying out a popular consultation with the international intervention that was necessary to control the continued and vicious climate of violence.
The self-determination of East Timor did great credit to the United Nations as an institution, affirmed Ian Martin. However, this author made critical observations to the work of the organization in deploying personnel to the field. In this regard, he recommends the application of the Brahimi report that demands coordination among the different departments in the Secretariat. In the case of East Timor, tensions between DPA and DPKO did not encourage a joint planning process in the latter phases of the administration. Furthermore, the support to UNAMET in the aftermath of the ballot came too late. Martin who was head of UNAMET did not hesitate to denounce in his book the lack of coherence and the lack of planning of the organization in considering eventual outcomes.
Although, UNAMET made a relevant contribution in evacuating its local staff, sheltering some internal displaced persons for a short period of time and retained a small presence in Dili until INTERFET troops arrived. The risk of a greater massive slaughter was enormous; therefore, Martin urged that the Security Council should be prepared to authorize a rapid intervention to protect civilians and UN personnel.
The author also compares the rapid deployment of INTERFET with the delayed deployment in the case of Kosovo. This situation may have compelled the Security Council to act more expeditiously in East Timor. In the diplomatic aspect, the coordinated support of the essential member states was crucial to the success of the UN operation. The core group integrated by Australia, Japan, New Zealand, the United Kingdom, and the United States acted both individually and jointly to support the work of the organization and to press Indonesia on its responsibility to guarantee security.
In sum, this is a good book to understand the work of a UN mission on the field. And I as a practitioner with firsthand experience in missions in Central America, Colombia and Haiti would endorse the authorís views. Ian Martin is a senior official involved with the work of the organization for many years. Although he relinquished to offer a perspective about the future of East Timor as an independent country, the United Nations and the international community continued its presence in East Timor after UNAMET with INTERFET and the component of the United Nations Transitional Administration in East Timor (UNTAET).