Legitimacy and effectiveness of United Nations transitional administration: the case of East Timor

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Agoas, Sara Simoes de Oliveira
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Since the mid 1990’s, the United Nations has been entrusted with extensive powers in the administration of war-torn territories. These interventions entail the responsibility to transform collapsed States in well-functioning democratic societies. However, the international administration of territories embodies a contradiction in itself since it aims at creating a legitimate and sustainable State through a period of “benevolent despotism”. The United Nations mission in East Timor was the most comprehensive transitional administration undertaken by the UN so far. Nevertheless, Timor- Leste, the newest nation of the twenty-first century, remains a fragile State and one of the poorest countries in the world. The UN intervention failed to decentralise its own absolutist form of authority and managed to exclude local participation. If there is to be any future for transitional administrations that are both effective and genuine, then a much more participatory kind of intervention has to be devised. When deployed, the UN administration of a territory still has to legitimate itself through local participation and through the results that it will be able to achieve in the long term at the political, economic and social level.
Second semester University: National University of Ireland, Galway.
self-determination, East Timor, state building, United Nations