“Walking Together” Toward Independence? A Civil Society Perspective on the United Nations Administration in East Timor, 1999-2002

Issues surrounding legitimacy and the role of civil society are at the forefront of contemporary global governance debates. Examining the United Nations Transitional Administration in East Timor (UNTAET) and focusing on the specific issue areas of justice and gender, this article evaluates the effectiveness and accountability of the administration from the perspective of East Timorese civil society, whose voice is largely absent from previous analyses. Drawing on the archive of the prominent civil society group La’o Hamutuk, this study adds precision and nuance to an area of research characterized by broad-stroke assessments of the legitimacy of multinational interventions. It finds variations in the levels of overall legitimacy exhibited by particular issue areas and differences in terms of the configuration of accountability and effectiveness enjoyed by UNTAET. Although sounding a cautionary note about the degree of civil society influence in global governance, the study concludes that La’o Hamutuk nevertheless provided a more diffuse sense of discursive voice and accountability than would otherwise have been accorded the East Timorese during this crucial period in their history.

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