East Timor in the world today: Adaljiza Magno outlines the experience of one of the world's newest states and explains its approach to international affairs.

Timor-Leste emerged as the youngest nation of the third millennium amidst a wave of sympathy and solidarity. It is always gratifying for us to know that the commitment for Timor-Leste is still on-going. So, once again, in the name of the Timorese people, I convey our great appreciation of New Zealand's genuine sympathy and solidarity.

In this article I will address three main aspects. First, I will briefly introduce Timor-Leste and its efforts to regain its dignity as a people and nation. Apart from looking at the challenges it confronted as a new-born country, I will outline my country's experiences during the initial stages of its reconstruction process and its efforts to fully reintegrate itself in the society of nations. The second part of my remarks will cover the global situation, including the situation in the Asia-Pacific region, of which Timor-Leste is part. Finally, I will provide my views on how Timor-Leste, as small country, will constantly adjust to the dynamism of the new reality in the world.

Despite being just the eastern half of a tiny island, Timor-Leste is a multi-ethnic and multi-cultural country with various languages and dialects, with different customs and traditions. Timorese faces are Malay, Indian, European, Chinese, Melanesian and every possible combination thereof. This reality has conditioned us to accept differences and live in a tolerant, harmonious way. So the Timorese are accustomed to living with the diversity of all aspects of their life, including the food and lifestyle of different ethnic groups. Its pluralistic cultural values are one of TimorLeste's unique features, reflecting diversity, mutual respect, cordial inter-connection, fraternity, solidarity and interdependence. These are the characteristics that will serve as a foundation for the establishment of our relationship with other people and nations around the world.

In 2019 Timor-Leste celebrated the 20th anniversary of the popular consultation, sponsored by the United Nations. It was a golden opportunity for the East Timorese people to exercise their rights to self-determination and independence --rights that were neglected by many for more than two decades. It was a crucial moment, when the people of Timor Leste reached the gate of freedom to regain their dignity as a people and nation. It was through that popular ballot, one of the essential aspects of democracy, that Timor-Leste emerged as the newest sovereign state of the new millennium.

Teenaged country

Timor-Leste is just a teenaged country. Eighteen years have now gone by since that historic day, 20 May 2002, when the United Nations Transitional Administration of East Timor transferred power to the first democratically elected government of the Democratic Republic of Timor-Leste. This step transferred not only responsibilities but also a series of unsolved problems in political, social and economic domains. These problems are common characteristics of newly independent countries after a dragged-out conflict, and Timor-Leste is no exception.

Although great strides have been made in establishing democratic institutions and in laying the foundation of a state, based on the rule of law, our path ahead is still fraught with many challenges. After fighting against foreign domination for almost 500 years, Timor-Leste, eventually, regained its right to self-determination and independence. The most difficult and horrendous struggle was that against Indonesian occupation, lasting 24 years. Approximately one-third of the population was killed and, even worse, the Indonesian military obliterated practically all the existing infrastructure of the country before it left in 1999. Consequently, with practically all its infrastructure destroyed, Timor-Leste was confronted with many of the challenging problems of under-development in beginning the process of reconstruction.

We are a people re-building a nation with little or virtually no experience in government and administration, rebuilding a country with no previous systems to fall back on. We literally had to build our country from scratch and, therefore, we adopted a different approach to that used in previous reconstruction efforts in countries such as Germany, Japan or Korea after the destruction imposed by war. Although delighted that the two decade-long experience of foreign domination and painful military occupation was brought to an end, we were left with the far-reaching...

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