The UN Transitional Administration in East Timor (UNTAET) was the most ambitious UN peacekeeping operation of its time. The mission was unlike most others in that public administration, rather than security, was the most challenging element of the mandate. Not only was UNTAET charged with the tasks of Chapter VII peacekeeping, civilian policing, and humanitarian assistance, but also the governing of an entire country. Whereas historically the UN had attempted to reform or rebuild state structures with the assistance of previously warring political elites, in this case, the UN had to be the state and the government. The people who had filled the administrative positions in the repressive Indonesian regime for almost a quarter of a century left East Timor en masse just prior to the beginning of UNTAET, and thus the operation functioned with only the legacy, but not the people, of the previous regime.
Beginning in October 1999 and lasting almost three years, UNTAET was the sovereign authority in East Timor. The structure of UNTAET included three main pillars: (1) governance and public administration, (2) the UN peacekeeping force, and (3) humanitarian assistance and emergency rehabilitation. When considering the size of the local population (approximately 1 million in a country about the size of the small US state of Connecticut), this was a proportionately enormous operation, including 9,150 military, 1,640 police, 1,670 international civilian staff (including 486 UN Volunteers), and 1,905 local staff.
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