When violence erupted immediately after the vote for independence in September 1999, more than two-thirds of East Timor’s 800,000 people fled or were forcibly displaced from their homes. Nearly four-fifths of the infrastructure and public buildings were destroyed, along with much of agriculture.
Organizations of the UN system complemented peacekeeping operations with emergency humanitarian assistance by providing food and medicines, rehabilitating basic infrastructure, protecting displaced persons and repatriating refugees who fled to West Timor. The UN assisted in the drafting of the constitution, which adheres to all international human rights principles.

UN system assistance in this phase created a safe environment and provided the basic conditions for further rehabilitation and development. Key UN system organizations supported a nation-wide process, involving as many as 38,000 ordinary citizens in formulating a vision for the country’s future and national ownership of a five-year development plan.

Following Timor-Leste’s independence in May 2002, the UN’s executive and legislative powers transferred to the sovereign State. The new peacekeeping mission, UNMISET, continued to have responsibility for external security and law enforcement, as well as capacity building in governance, justice and development. Since May 2004, and pursuant to Security Council resolution 1543, the mission has primarily provided support for the public administration and justice system and for justice in the area of serious crimes. It supports the development of law enforcement and continues to provide support for security and stability. UNMISET’s Civilian Support Group embodies the philosophy of the “Brahimi Report,” which advocates a role for peacekeeping missions beyond providing troops and police support and which stresses the need for harmonization of assistance from the UN system.28 The organizations of the UN system are focusing on the country’s social and economic development—from building the capacity of civil servants to strengthening the institutions of governance and from expanding education and health services to reducing poverty and developing communities. With the end of UNMISET on 20 May 2005, the UN system has laid the foundation to help ensure that peace is durable and that development is sustainable.