ISSN #1088-8136

Vol. 6, No. 1
Spring 2000

We Can't Stop Here

Gus Dur and the Military Monster

Atrocity Investigations in East Timor

East Timor in Transition: A View from the Ground

ETAN Steering Committee Explores New Territory

Chapter Updates

Exploring an Indonesia Action Network

Back Issues


ETAN Home Page


International Federation for East Timor Launches New Project
by Charles Scheiner

Last year, the International Federation for East Timor (IFET) organized an Observer Project during the referendum. 140 international activists, including 40 from ETAN, spent weeks in East Timor before, during and after the August 30 vote, supporting East Timorese self-determination and reporting threats to the consultation process. We planned to stay in East Timor to observe implementation of the vote, but military/militia violence forced us out soon after the results were announced. Indonesian troops have since withdrawn, and East Timor is now governed by a transitional United Nations administration (UNTAET). Although many East Timorese still cannot return home, and reconstruction is too slow, East Timor will be the first new independent nation of the 21st century.

Or will it? The "new occupation" has brought thousands of foreigners to East Timor to work with the UN, foreign agencies and businesses, the World Bank, and other organizations which sometimes have inadequate sensitivity to East Timorese concerns. In what threatens to be a reprise of cases where international crisis response brought a new set of problems, many of the big international NGOs ("BINGOs") often fail to consult or utilize East Timorese. The UN's own institutional limitations and priorities often work to exclude those of the East Timorese people.

  IFET-OP in August 1999. Photo by John M. Miller
  IFET-OP and UN vehicles at polling site August 30, 1999.
Photo by John M. Miller
ETAN and IFET activists have discussed this among ourselves and with East Timorese NGOs and the CNRT. All agree that an East Timor-based institution would be useful to analyze the massive reconstruction effort and to help East Timorese groups deal with the UN and BINGOs. Hence we are developing an IFET Monitoring Project. Over the coming months, several international activists will go to East Timor to work out details with our East Timorese partners. IFET-MP will have a small professional staff including both foreigners and East Timorese. It will watch and report on activities of foreign institutions in East Timor, and help them to better understand East Timorese needs and concerns. IFET-MP may recommend courses of action, advocate internationally, or help East Timorese resolve conflicts with the international presence.

If you would like to help with this project, please contact Charlie Scheiner at or ETAN's White Plains office. Unlike IFET-OP, we will not send dozens of people to East Timor, but IFET-MP will need international support. You can follow its progress on IFET's website.