New Authoritarianism in International Peacebuilding: A Case Study of the UN Intervention in Timor Leste

Stream: Panel 17 - International Relations: ‘Fragile’ States, Peacekeeping, Peacebuilding, and Capacity Development 
Date: Monday, 26 September 2016
Time: 2.00 pm – 3.30 pm


In 2002 a new political system was born in Timor-Leste under the supervision of the UN. The birth of nation was midwifed by the UN Transitional Administration in East Timor which was given an ‘executive’ mandate to govern the territory and people of Timor-Leste by the UN Security Council. This new system had a ‘hybrid’ form of governance. ‘Western’ or ‘liberal’ ideas including democracy and civil society were brought into the system by the international community, while ‘indigenous’ or ‘authoritarian’ forms of governance were kept intact. However, this process faced an inherent dilemma, i.e., the UN executive authority was not at all ‘democratic’ because there was no room for the voices of the local inhabitants. Even after the official birth of the country, the UN remained involved as an advocate and a guarantor of liberal democracy, by identifying Timor-Leste as a fragile state, but often at the expense of undermining the local ownership and encroaching national sovereignty. In other words, the essence of the hypocrite dilemma is that the liberal democracy was trying to be propagated in a non-democratic manner by the external authority. At the same time, the local leadership shared certain autocratic characteristics and some of the Timorese political elites hold authoritarian traits. On the other hand, after 1999, civil society was stimulated by interaction with the international community. Many civil society organization’s members were activists during national liberation, and thus, ‘resistance’ mentality is also apparent in the mind of some civil society leaders in Timor-Leste.


Yuji Uesugi (Presenter), Waseda University
Professor at Waseda University, obtained his PhD in International Conflict Analysis from the University of Kent, and his MS in Conflict Analysis and Resolution from the Institute for Conflict Analysis and Resolution, George Mason University. His publications include: ‘All-Japan Approach to International Peace Operations’, Journal of International Peacekeeping, Volume 18, Issue 3-4, 2014: 214-235; Peacebuilding and Security Sector Governance in Asia, LIT, 2014; and ‘Building a Foundation for Regional Security Architecture in the Asia-Pacific: Human Resource Development for Peacebuilding’ in William Tow and ‎Rikki Kersten (eds.), Bilateral Perspectives on Regional Security: Australia, Japan and the Asia-Pacific Region, Palgrave, 2012, 200-213.