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Peacekeeping in East Timor: The Path to Independence

Michael G. Smith (with Moreen Dee), with forewords by Sergio Vieira de Mello and Kay Rala Xanana Gusmao
Peacekeeping in East Timor: The Path to Independence
ISBN: 978-1-58826-142-7
2002/213 pages/LC: 2002029168
An International Peace Academy Occasional Paper

"Provides a fascinating account ... of lessons learned for a successful UN intervention.... The author succinctly captures the gist of how an organization did, and should, address the host of practical issues associated with transferring power from the international community to a formerly dependent people."—ASIL Newsletter

"A valuable addition to the literature on East Timor. It is particularly welcome, given Smith's prominence in the East Timor operation as an important actor."—Anthony L. Smith, Contemporary Southeast Asia

"An important and serious study: balanced, critical, and extremely useful for the UN as it plans future missions elsewhere."—José Ramos-Horta, Nobel Peace Prize Laureate and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Cooperation, East Timor

"Both those who have followed the East Timor story, and those with an involvement or interest in UN peace operations elsewhere, will find much to learn, as I have, from General Mike's analysis."—Ian Martin, Special Representative of the Secretary General, UNAMET

"General Mike has highlighted the key issues which future peacekeeping forces will need to consider in their preparation and training for peacekeeping operations. His work is a most important contribution to our understanding of the special demands placed upon those entrusted with keeping the peace, and to their preparation for that role."—Lieutenant General Peter Cosgrove, AC, MC, Chief of the Australian Defence Force and Commander of the InterFET Multinational Force in East Timor


The UN intervention in East Timor amply illustrates the type of complex operation that the United Nations increasingly is being asked to undertake. Michael Smith analyzes the successes and failures of the UN Transitional Administration in East Timor (UNTAET), which was designed to work in partnership with the East Timorese in guiding the country to independence following the 1999 vote to secede from Indonesia.

Continuing the compelling narrative begun by Ian Martin in Self-Determination in East Timor, Smith gives a lucid first-hand account of a United Nations mission in the unfamiliar role of interim government—a mission dealing with critical requirements for good governance, sustainable development, and effective military and police forces. Evaluating the lessons learned from the experience, he highlights the urgent need for reforms within the UN. The absence of those reforms, he believes, will lead to more failed states, more refugees, more poverty, and more dead peacekeepers.


Major General Michael G. Smith (recently retired from the Australian army after 34 years of distinguished service) was deputy force commander of the UNTAET peacekeeping force from January 2000 through March 2001. He is currently chief executive officer of AUSTCARE. Moreen Dee is a diplomatic and military historian contracted to the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.


  • Foreword—Sergio Vieira de Mello.
  • Foreword by Kay Rala Xanana Gusmao.
  • Maps.
  • UN Intervention in East Timor.
  • East Timor's Journey to Freedom.
  • UNTAET and the Path to Independence.
  • Lessons for Successful UN Intervention.
  • Military Lessons.
  • The Future.