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New Zealand has a warm relationship with Timor-Leste (East Timor) that has focused, since the beginning of the country’s independence process in 1999, on military and police support and on aid. Our military role involves close cooperation with Australia. As the security situation improves, the need for direct security support is reducing, and capacity building, training and development assistance are becoming more central to the relationship. There are frequent high-level visits between Timor-Leste and New Zealand.
Since the 1999 referendum that led to independence from Indonesia, Defence and Police personnel have been deployed to Timor-Leste in significant numbers. We currently contribute infantry to the Australian-led International Stabilisation Force (ISF), and police officers and one military officer to the United Nations Mission in Timor-Leste (UNMIT). There is also a bilateral defence Mutual Assistance Programme (MAP).
New Zealand’s decision to lift its diplomatic ties with Timor-Leste to ambassadorial level in October 2005 was a confirmation of the strength of the relationship, as was the opening by Hon Wayne Mapp, Minister of Defence, of a new embassy building in Dili in May 2009.
As a contributor to the UN Mission in Timor-Leste (UNMIT), New Zealand plays a prominent role in Security Council open debates on Timor-Leste and in deliberations regarding mandate extension. The current UNMIT mandate expires in February 2011.
New Zealand is a member of the Timor-Leste Core Group, which works work closely in support of Timor-Leste at the United Nations.
Bilateral trade is small in volume and value. Exports from New Zealand are mainly building materials. The principal import is coffee.
The people of Timor-Leste are among the poorest in Asia. Around 42 percent live on less than US 55 cents a day. Timor-Leste is listed 120th out of 169 countries in the UNDP 2010 Human Development Index. Life expectancy at birth is 62 years while adult literacy is around 50 percent.
At 6.5 livebirths per woman, Timor-Leste has one of the highest fertility rates in the world. Around 40% of Timor-Leste’s population is under the age of 15, and two-thirds is under 25. Almost three-quarters of the population is engaged in subsistence agriculture. Unemployment is over 40 percent among urban male youth.
These challenging statistics are the rationale for New Zealand’s significant official aid programme in Timor-Leste. Since 1999, New Zealand has provided NZ $64 million, mainly for basic education, community development, governance/institutional capacity building and humanitarian assistance. The New Zealand Aid Programme makes a major contribution to funding the New Zealand Police deployments to UNMIT, and New Zealand Development Scholarships allow 10 new Timorese studentseach year to study at New Zealand universities.
New Zealand ODA expenditure in Timor-Leste in 2010/11 is projected to total around $9 million.
A new New Zealand medium-term aid strategy for Timor-Leste is nearing completion. Sustainable economic development will be a key area of focus.
For further information on development assistance, see, New Zealand Aid Programme.
In early 1999, Indonesia proposed holding a referendum in East Timor that, in effect, would offer the choice between special autonomy or secession. A UN Mission in East Timor (UNAMET) was set up to conduct the ballot. More than 78 percent of voters rejected the autonomy offer. Pro-integration forces responded violently, killingbetween 1000 and 2000 people and destroying houses and infrastructure. More than 200,000 Timorese fled or were forcibly removed to West Timor.
With Indonesian agreement, an Australian-led International Force in East Timor (INTERFET) was deployed inSeptember 1999 to halt the violence and provide humanitarian relief. At INTERFET’s peak, New Zealand contributed 830 troops, about 10 percent of total troop numbers.
New Zealanders - military, police, customs and prison officers and others - were also a significant part of the Transitional Administration in East Timor (UNTAET) that was put in place in early 2000 to take over from INTERFET and administer East Timor in the lead-up to independence. The international community reduced its involvement in Timor-Leste following independence in 2002, though a small UN presence remained.
In April 2006, following mass demonstrations by disgruntled ex-military personnel, the country once again experienced a serious breakdown in internal security. More than 100,000 people were forced from their homes in the unrest that followed. Australia, New Zealand, Malaysia and Portugal responded to Timor-Leste’s request for assistance by deploying police and military troops as the International Stabilisation Force (ISF).
In August 2006 the UN Security Council decided on the establishment of the UN Integrated Mission in Timor-Leste (UNMIT) to assist with the recovery process. The mission was focused - then and now - on policing, deploying more than 1000 officers from some 40 countries. UNMIT is now in the process of handing back control of policing to the Timor-Leste National Police, the PNTL. The handover is due to be completed in 2011, but UNMIT is expected to stay in Timor-Leste in a support and mentoring role until after the 2012 elections.
In recent years New Zealand has provided 25 police officers to UNMIT but, in acknowledgment of the improving security situation, that number has been dropped down to 10 during 2010. Since 2008 New Zealand Police deployed to Timor-Leste have been working mainly on community policing training for the PNTL.
The ISF is also still in operation but has been downsized considerably over the past year from around 800 to about 450. The force now involves only Australia and New Zealand. New Zealand currently contributes one platoon plus supporting elements, totalling around 75 personnel.
The New Zealand Defence Force also maintains five technical advisers in Timor-Leste to provide training assistance to the Timor-Leste Armed Forces, the F-FDTL, and has a liaison officer attached to UNMIT.
Official name: Democratic Republic of Timor-Leste
Land area:14,874 km2
Population:1.1 million (2009)
Religion:Predominantly Roman Catholic (97%)
Language:Official languages: Tetum and Portuguese.Tetum is spoken by 80 percent of the population and Portuguese by 5 percent of the population, mostly in Dili.Bahasa Indonesia is widely spoken and, along with English, has been designated as a working language. There are several local dialects.
National day:20 May 2002 (independence from Indonesia)
Political system:The Constitution provides for a Presidential system where the scope of the President’s powers is limited. The legislative branch of government, which is headed by the Prime Minister, holds the bulk of political power. National government: an alliance of the Parliamentary Majority (AMP) coalition comprising Congress of Reconstruction of Timor-Leste (CNRT), Democratic Party (PD), Social Democratic Party (PSD), Social Democratic Association of Timor-Leste (ASDT) and the National Democratic Unity for Timorese Resistance (UNDERTIM).Legislature: Unicameral national parliament of 88 members, comprising 75 seats elected from national party lists and one member elected from each of the country’s 13 districts.Last election: May 2007 (Presidential), June 2007 (Parliamentary).
Next election due:2012 (Parliamentary), 2012 (Presidential)
Head of State:President: Dr José Ramos-Horta
President of Parliament:Fernando Lasama de Araujo (Democratic Party)
Head of Government:Prime Minister: Kay Rala Xanana Gusmao (portfolio incorporates Defence and Police)
Key Ministers:Deputy Prime Minister: Jose Luis Guterres; Foreign Affairs: Zacarias Albano da Costa
Main political parties:FRETILIN (current main opposition), CNRT, PD, PSD and ASDT are the main parties.
GDP:US $616 million (2009, DFAT) ($2812 million purchasing power parity, PPP)
GDP per capita:US $499 (2009, DFAT) ($2522 PPP)
Real GDP growth:11.6% (2009, DFAT)
Main exports:Oil, coffee
Inflation:0.1% (2009, DFAT)
Currency: $ US
NZ Exports (FOB): NZ $260,000
Main exports:Machine tools, cranes, wine, iron and steel building products, telephone equipment. Note: given the very small totals of exports and imports, single transactions can dramatically affect the data.
NZ imports (CIF):NZ $403,000
Main imports:Coffee makes up almost all of the total.
New Zealand is represented in Timor-Leste by:
New Zealand Embassy, Dili [external link]
Timor-Leste is represented in New Zealand by:
Embassy of Timor-Leste
ACT 2603 Canberra
Ph: 0061 2 6260 8800
Fax: 0061 2 6239 7682
The Safe Travel website provides a travel advisory for travellers to Timor-Leste [external link].