Connecting communities in Timor-Leste

 COMMUNITIES IN TIMOR-LESTE
COMMUNITIES IN TIMOR-LESTE

After decades of foreign occupation, Timor-Leste gained independence in 2002. Yet just four years later, in 2006, the country experienced waves of violence that damaged or destroyed more than 8,000 houses and buildings and displaced more than 150,000 people - approximately 15 percent of the total population. The displaced persons took refuge in 65 camps, both within the capital city of Dili and elsewhere throughout the country.

UNDP, in partnership with the Ministry of Social Solidarity, responded to the crisis by developing trust-building conflict prevention programmes.

Highlights

  • In 2006, violent conflict in Timor-Leste damaged more than 8,000 houses and buildings and displaced roughly 15 percent of the population.
  • UNDP’s Crisis Prevention and Recovery unit in Timor-Leste supports the country’s National Recovery Strategy, which aims to restore peace and reintegrate persons displaced by the 2006 conflict.
  • The Ministry of Social Solidary, with support from UNDP, has facilitated community dialogues and trained 350 community leaders, half of them women, to mediate conflict.

The programmes were designed to address the root causes of conflict within communities by providing mediation services and holding community dialogue meetings.

These dialogues have promoted the use of cultural conflict management strategies to pave the way for the smooth and sustainable reintegration of internally displaced persons (IDPs). In doing so, they fostered reconciliation between IDPs and their former communities, helping both sides to air their concerns and seek agreement on the process of reintegration.

By September 2010, 770 individual mediations and 106 preparatory meetings (consensus-building focus groups of up to 30 people) had taken place, resulting in 55 community-level dialogues.

The dialogue team also facilitated 13 community activities, including athletic, musical, cultural, and artistic events, which involved more than 9,100 community members in 15 sucos (villages) from four districts. Additionally, the team conducted ten training sessions for community leaders to teach them how to better facilitate dialogue and oversee mediation efforts in their villages. The training sessions involved more than 350 participants, almost half of them women.

Furthermore, the teams have helped the Justice Ministry’s National Directorate for Land and Property to increase mediation and socialization during the processes of cadastral mapping and land registration.

After the IDP reintegration was complete, the government shifted its focus from immediate resettlement to long-term peace-building in order to address the structural causes of conflict.

As part of this new focus, the government launched the Department of Peacebuilding and Social Cohesion (DPSC) within the Ministry of Social Solidarity in December 2010. UNDP supported the establishment of the DPSC and hosted a strategic planning exercise to help define the department's mandate, structure and functions.

In October 2010, when the Timor-Leste government approved a project designed to enhance the capacity of the new DPSC, UNDP provided US$ 1.5 million in support.

“We are proud to launch the Department of Peacebuilding and Social Cohesion in order to institutionalize mechanisms to support conflict resolution based on our past experiences,” said Minister of Social Solidarity, Maria Domingas Fernandes Alves, at the Department’s launch in December 2010.

The DPSC commenced its activities by adjusting its dialogue and mediation guidelines to reflect the government’s recent change in focus from immediate reintegration to long-term social cohesion. The goals of this long-term focus include solving land and property disputes, monitoring conflict and peace-building initiatives in the community, and facilitating coordination with the Ombudsman (Provedor) and civil society.