Subject: Urgent Action on Women's representation to the ET Constituent Assembly

see Update
see ETAN's letter to Secretary-General Annan





REDE, East Timor's Women's Network, is right now lobbying hard for a quota of at least 30% women to be made mandatory for elections to the Constituent Assembly, and for a proportional system whereby political parties are required to field 30% women candidates (with women being listed as every third candidate from the top of the list).

UNTAET, which will make the final decision on this after considering recommendations from the National Council, has received the proposal very negatively, arguing that quotas infringe the concept of free and fair elections. Yet there are several precedents of elections conducted using quotas to favour women's election in this way. They have been used in Bosnia, India, and South Africa to good effect over the past decade. There are also numerous UN resolutions, documents and statements which make it clear that women's full participation in political structures, political parties, and government is vitally important.

REDE feels that it is imperative that the constituent assembly, which will agree East Timor's constitution, is composed of at least 30% women, and preferably more, so that women's concerns are adequately reflected. REDE is making its views plain to both UNTAET and to East Timor's political parties.

East Timorese women have been politically marginalised for long enough. They have made it clear that they want to have a much stronger voice in the new East Timor. If quotas are denied them, they will lose an important means of ensuring that women's voices are taken seriously through a proper engagement with the discussion and adoption of the constitution.

CIIR calls upon individuals, NGOs, solidarity groups and East Timor networks everywhere to add your support to REDE's concerns and to lobby the United Nations in New York, your governments, and UNTAET to take into account the legitimate aspirations of East Timorese women.

Please write in support of REDE's demands to:

Kofi Annan, Secretary General, United Nations, UN Plaza, 10017, New York, USA Fax: 1 212 963 4879

Mrs. Mary Robinson, High Commissioner for Human Rights, United Nations, 8-14 Avenue de la Paix, 1211 Geneva 10, Switzerland, Fax: 41 22 917 9016

Your Ambassador to the UN 
Sir Kieran Prendergast, Department of Political Affairs, UN Plaza, 10017 New York, USA Fax: 212 963 2979 (Electoral Assistance Division). 
Sergio Vieira de Mello, UNTAET, Special Representative of the UN Secretary General, C/O UN Plaza

Catherine Scott, Asia Policy Officer, Catholic Institute for International Relations, Unit 3, Canonbury Yard, 190a new North Road, London N1 7BJ Tel: 020 7354 0883 Fax: 020 7359 0017 Web:

From: Catherine Scott, CIIR
Date: Sat, 24 Feb 2001 11:56:06 EST


East Timorese women have enlisted the support of Xanana Gusmao, Jose Ramos Horta and Sergio Viera de Melo for quotas for the election of a minimum of 30% women to the East Timorese Constituent Assembly - but the UN is still refusing to budge.

The UN Electoral Assistance Division in New York refuses to set what they regard as a precedent for UN supervised elections in the future by allowing women's quotas to be a feature of the forthcoming election in East Timor, and are threatening to pull out of supervising the elections if the quotas are pursued.

The women are now appealing to Kofi Annan to address the issue and initiate a change of policy. Groups who share their concern that the UN's own policies on women's advancement should be addressed in this way, are asked to continue to lobby for quotas to be allowed. Time is running out, as the legislation governing the elections is due to be finalised by the end of next week.

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