Securitisation in World Politics: The Conflict on the Self-Determination of East Timor at the United Nations

  • Thorsten Bonacker (Author)
  • Werner Distler (Author)


With the Indonesian invasion in late 1975, the self-determination conflict in East Timor gained international attention. Against all attempts on the part of Indonesia to silence international debate on its incorporation of East Timor, the Timorese resistance, with the support of selected states, continued to draw attention to its thwarted efforts at self-determination until the 1990s. Conflicts on self-determination are often analysed either as part of the larger picture of inter-national conflicts or as local territorial conflicts. Instead, we suggest a systems theoretical per-spective and understand conflict as a social system, which is based on repeated communication at various levels at the same time. Our analysis shows how the self-determination conflict in East Timor was successfully constructed as a matter of world politics by both the securitising and desecuritising speech acts of the conflict actors. These strategic speech acts from this early phase of the conflict in world politics, on the lack of self-determination of the Timorese people and the unlawful occupation, would prove to be important for the conflict system and renewed critical reaction to the Indonesian occupation in the early 1990s at the UN, ultimately leading to its resolution.


East Timor, Indonesia, self-determination, securitization, world politics