|Catholic Institute for International Relations
PETITION TO THE UNITED NATIONS SPECIAL COMMITTEE ON
JULY 5-7 2000
CIIR is grateful to the committee for the opportunity to address its
members on the question of Timor Loro Sa'e, we hope for the very last
A long road has been travelled since this committee discussed East
Timor a year ago. The East Timorese people have demonstrated,
overwhelmingly, their wish for self-determination, and the United Nations
is now overseeing the transition to full statehood. CIIR congratulates the
East Timorese people for the courage and tenacity they have shown over the
past 24 years in their struggle to achieve this outcome. We also
congratulate the parties to the dispute for their willingness to negotiate
an end to the protracted impasse. Although the violent and destructive
reaction of some within the Indonesian military establishment and their
sympathisers has set East Timor's transition backwards, it is heartening
that the international community is at present strongly accompanying the
East Timorese. But this is still just the beginning of what will almost
certainly be a difficult journey.
East Timorese and International NGOs like ourselves which are
operational in East Timor, recently lobbied at the review of the East
Timor consolidated appeal in Lisbon. The need was argued for a more
coherent development strategy which will ensure a smooth transition from
relief to development, incorporating the priorities of the East Timorese
themselves. We reiterate once again, the importance of full and extensive
East Timorese participation at all levels in this strategy, and the need
for effective communications channels so that the East Timorese people are
well informed and as a result understand UNTAET strategies.
We would like to take this opportunity to highlight the aspirations and
desires of half of East Timor's population which has found it doubly hard
to be heard. Not only have East Timorese women been until recently
silenced by colonisation, oppression and fear from outside their own
communities, but they have also been hampered within them by gender
discrimination which has promoted mostly male voices and male views.
Women have contributed convincingly to efforts to repair the torn
fabric of East Timorese society since the destructive events of last
September. It was women who took the lead in community organising when the
violence after the ballot was at its highest, and they were among the
first to begin systematically recording and documenting violations of
The first East Timorese Women's Congress took place from 14-17th June
this year. It brought together up to 500 women from all over East Timor.
It included the major women's organisations and networks, and individuals
not in organisations. During the course of these three days of intensive
discussions and planning, women, came up with a comprehensive platform of
action to promote greater gender equality in an independent East Timor.
East Timorese women have been inspired by the 1995 Beijing Platform for
Action for Gender equality and a delegation recently attended the Special
session of the UN General Assembly in New York called to review progress
on its implementation.
The East Timorese Women's Congress final statement affirms the
principles of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the Convention on
the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women, and the Convention on the
Rights of the Child, and called upon a free East Timor to sign all of
these conventions. It urges the United Nations Transition Administration
in East Timor (UNTAET) as well as CNRT to honour commitments made by both
to the advancement of gender equality.
Specifically, East Timorese women are asking for adequate resources to
be made available by UNTAET and the post transition government to make the
advancement and empowerment of women a reality. This means that the budget
lines recently under discussion for the new UNTAET structure, contain real
provision for serious affirmative action programmes.
As has already been affirmed by East Timorese NGOs, there is a strong
call on the part of East Timorese women for an international tribunal for
those who committed war crimes in East Timor. Women's organisations feel
strongly that adequate safeguards for witness protection should be built
into new legislation for women giving evidence to rape and other sexual
crimes. In addition women are keen to have a Truth and Reconciliation
Commission set up.
East Timorese women are worried about the culture of violence which
exists in their country, and this relates also to the lack of protection
of women within families, where there is also violence against women.
Issues around law and order should be addressed. In order to begin
counter-acting this culture of violence, women must be accorded their full
rights. Female illiteracy must be tackled, capacity building in all fields
addressed, and the full empowerment of women made a top priority. Women's
empowerment and capacity building are vital to their full participation in
and contribution to reconstruction, development, peace-making and nation
building. Their economic and legal rights must be addressed urgently.
Vulnerable groups such as widows, orphans, the disabled, survivors of
violence, the elderly and sex workers must be supported and assisted by
both government and community.
We end this presentation with a direct quotation from the East Timorese
women's platform of action:
"We the women of Timor Loro Sae envision a democratic society;
independent, critical; egalitarian; where we have representative
institutions/parliament where women's voices are represented; with a
constitution which protects women's rights; where we endeavour in the
process of strengthening positive norms in our culture and work towards
changing norms which are negative towards women; where men are also
involved in the building of a just society.
"We appeal to the UNTAET, and also to the National Council of Timorese
Resistance and other East Timorese political bodies during the transition
of the next few months, to mainstream gender, listen to East Timorese
women, assist their access to financial and other resources, and to
respond flexibly to their needs."
Mr Chairman, CIIR thanks you for your attention.
|Charles Scheiner National Coordinator
East Timor Action Network/US
P.O. Box 1182
White Plains, New York 10602 USA
For information on East Timor write email@example.com
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