Compulsory Conciliation

On 11 April 2016, Timor-Leste initiated a compulsory conciliation process with Australia under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS). Through this process, a Conciliation Commission was established that met regularly with Timor-Leste and Australia with the aim of reaching an agreement on maritime boundaries.

What is Compulsory Conciliation?

Compulsory Conciliation is a procedure under UNCLOS (Annex V, Section 2) in which a panel of conciliators assists State parties to reach an amicable settlement of their dispute.

This procedure can be used in circumstances where no agreement has been reached between neighbouring States and one State has made a declaration excluding the jurisdiction of binding dispute settlement bodies on maritime boundaries.

The conciliation is conducted by a panel of five independent conciliators, known as the Conciliation Commission. The Commission seeks to understand the facts and legal position of each State.

Timor-Leste is the first country to initiate compulsory conciliation under UNCLOS.

Why did Timor-Leste pursue compulsory conciliation?

Compulsory Conciliation was the only avenue available to Timor-Leste to engage Australia in negotiations on permanent boundaries. This was because in March 2002, two months before Timor-Leste’s restoration of independence, Australia withdrew from the compulsory dispute settlement procedures related to maritime boundaries under UNCLOS. This meant an international court or tribunal could not determine the maritime boundaries between Timor-Leste and Australia. The only option available to establish maritime boundaries was therefore through negotiation. However, Australia continued to refuse to negotiate maritime boundaries on a bilateral basis.

Maritime boundaries are a matter of sovereignty for the people of Timor-Leste. The Government of Timor-Leste considered all options to achieve its rights under international law before initiating a compulsory conciliation process.

The conciliation proceedings provided the opportunity for Timor-Leste and Australia to make submissions to the Commission and to attend conciliation proceedings. It was through this conciliation process that Timor-Leste and Australia were able to agree on their permanent maritime boundaries.

What about Indonesia?

Indonesia was not a party to the conciliation process as it only concerned the setting of the boundary between Timor-Leste and Australia. The final outcome of the conciliation did not affect the maritime rights of Indonesia.

Timor-Leste and Indonesia have already agreed to bilaterally negotiate maritime boundaries according to international law and these discussions have begun.

To read more about Timor-Leste’s journey towards this achievement, click here

To read more about the process of negotiations with Indonesia, click here

To read our fact sheets, click here

To read about the summary of the Compulsory Conciliation Hearing at The Hague, click here

To learn more about Conciliation between The Democratic Republic of Timor-Leste and The Commonwealth of Australia, click here



This website is hosted by the Maritime Boundary Office of the Council for the Final Delimitation of Maritime Boundaries to allow readers to learn more about Timor-Leste’s pursuit of permanent maritime boundaries. The Council for the Final Delimitation of Maritime Boundaries and the Maritime Boundary Office do not accept any legal liability for any reliance placed on any information contained in this website (including external links). The information provided is a summary only and should not be relied upon as legal advice. The information and views expressed in this website and in any linked information do not constitute diplomatic representations and do not limit or otherwise affect the rights of the Council for the Final Delimitation of Maritime Boundaries, the Maritime Boundary Office or the Government of Timor-Leste. The views expressed in any linked information do not necessarily reflect the views of the Council for the Final Delimitation of Maritime Boundaries, the Maritime Boundary Office or the Government of Timor-Leste.

GFM is the acronym for “Gabinete das Fronteiras Marítimas”, which is the Portuguese translation of Maritime Boundary Office.