In one of its most complex operations, the United Nations in Cambodia oversaw a transition that led to the restoration of civil rule after years of civil war and foreign intervention.

After the intervention in Cambodia by Viet Nam in December 1978, the General Assembly in 1979 called for the withdrawal of all foreign forces, non-interference by other States in the country's internal affairs and self-determination for the Cambodian people. It also appealed to all States and national and international organizations to render humanitarian relief to the civilian population.

In 1981, the Assembly requested the United Nations Secretary-General to exercise his good offices to contribute to a comprehensive political settlement. It also appealed for continued relief assistance to Cambodians still in need, especially those along the Thai-Cambodian border and in holding centres in Thailand.

Over the years, the Secretary-General developed his good offices among the Governments and parties involved. After a visit to the region in 1985, he listed a series of objectives on which there was convergence, thus detailing for the first time the main elements of a comprehensive political settlement. These included: withdrawal of all foreign forces from Cambodia; non-return to the universally condemned policies of the recent past; promotion of national reconciliation; exercise by the Cambodian people of the right to determine their own destiny; respect for the country's independence, territorial integrity and non-aligned status; and international guarantees for supervising the implementation of the agreements reached. He then sought to identify how this settlement could be achieved.

In 1988, the Secretary-General reported to the General Assembly that he had formulated a number of specific ideas for a settlement framework, and that he had asked his Special Representative to visit the region and present those ideas to the four Cambodian parties and States concerned.

The Secretary-General's proposals gave momentum to the negotiations. Also in 1988, the first face-to-face talks among the four Cambodian parties took place in Jakarta. In April 1989, Viet Nam announced the withdrawal of its troops from Cambodia. In July-August 1989, the parties and 17 countries attended the Paris Conference on Cambodia also attended by the Secretary-General. In September, Viet Nam announced that the troop withdrawal had been completed.

At the same time, the United Nations ran a programme of humanitarian assistance to the Cambodian people, in Cupertino since 1980, funded by voluntary contributions from Member States, and consisting of three major components -- the operations within Cambodia, at the border and within Thailand. Assistance was provided by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), and by the United Nations Border Relief Operations (UNBRO), set up in 1982. Other bodies, such as the United Nations Children's Fund, the World Food Programme and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, also contributed.

In January 1990, the five permanent members of the Security Council -- China, France, the Soviet Union, the United Kingdom and the United States -- started a series of high-level meetings on Cambodia. They called for a major United Nations role in bringing peace to the country, including peacekeeping forces, supervision of free elections and an administrative structure in the period leading up to the elections.

In August, the five permanent members announced agreement on the main elements of a political settlement to end the conflict in Cambodia. The plan called for the control and/or supervision by the United Nations of the country's administrative structures, followed by United Nations -- supervised elections. The plan was accepted by all Cambodian parties and by Viet Nam, and was endorsed in September by the Security Council

In November, the "Five" agreed on a draft text on Cambodia which covered a proposed mandate for a United Nations Transitional Authority in Cambodia; withdrawal, ceasefire and related measures; elections; repatriation of refugees; and principles for a new constitution.

On 1 May 1991, a ceasefire went into effect in Cambodia, following an appeal by the Secretary-General and the Foreign Ministers of France and Indonesia. The Secretary-General sent a team to the area to review the situation.

In June, the Cambodian parties discussed the November 1990 draft agreements and other pending issues at a meeting in Jakarta convened by the French and Indonesian Foreign Ministers. Later on, they decided to implement an unlimited ceasefire and to stop receiving military assistance.

In October, the Security Council established an advance mission, the United Nations Advance Mission in Cambodia (UNAMIC), to assist the Cambodian parties in maintaining the ceasefire.

On 23 October, the parties signed in Paris the Agreements on the Comprehensive Political Settlement of the Cambodia Conflict -- a peace treaty to end the conflict and prepare the country for elections. The Agreements assigned to the United Nations an unprecedented role. The United Nations was to set up an operation, the United Nations Transitional Authority in Cambodia (UNTAC), which would: supervise the ceasefire, the end of foreign military assistance and the withdrawal of foreign forces; regroup, canton and disarm all armed forces of the Cambodian parties, and ensure a 70 per cent level of demobilization; control and supervise the activities of the administrative structures, including the police; ensure and respect of human rights; and organize and conduct free and fair elections.

In February 1992, the Security Council authorized the establishment of UNTAC. The Council stressed that it was vital that elections be held by May 1993, and called on all parties to comply scrupulously with the Paris Agreements. UNTAC was to comprise between 15,000 and 20,000 United Nations personnel, including human rights, civil administrative and military components, as well as a police component of some 3,600 police monitors.

The deployment of UNTAC began officially on 15 March 1992, with the arrival in the capital city of Phnom Penh of the Head of UNTAC, the Secretary-General's Special Representative for Cambodia. The first contingent of UNTAC's military component had also arrived, and by early May, some 4,000 United Nations personnel, including some 3,600 troops, were in place.

UNTAC assumed control of key sectors of the country's administrative structures -- foreign affairs, defence, security, finance and communications -- in order to build a stable environment conducive to national elections. At the same, UNHCR oversaw the successful repatriation and resettlement of some 360,000 refugees and displaced persons. At its peak, UNTAC numbered over 21,000 military and civilian personnel from more than 100 countries.

A major step towards normalization occurred with the elections of May 1993. Twenty parties took part in the elections. UNTAC oversaw the electoral campaign and registration of voters, as well as the elections. Over 4.2 million people -- nearly 90 per cent of the registered voters -- cast their ballots to elect a Constituent Assembly. The head of UNTAC declared the elections free and fair. In September, the Constitution was proclaimed and an new government, led by two prime ministers, was inaugurated.

After the withdrawal of UNTAC, several United Nations agencies have remained in the country to support reconstruction and development. In 1993, in conformity with the Paris Agreements, the Secretary-General appointed a Special Representative for Human Rights to assist the Government in promoting and protecting human rights. Working closely with the Special Representative, a Cambodia Office of the United Nations High Commissioner on Human Rights sought to strengthen civil society and build institutions and legal structures for human rights and democracy. In 1994, the Secretary-General appointed a Representative for Cambodia to serve as a liaison with the Government, monitor the political situation and report on developments relating to peace and security.


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