Empower Timor-Leste’s Justice sector by Promoting Fair Land Dispute Resolution through the Land and Property Commission
September 28, 2023
Dili, September 25, 2023 – Timor-Leste, a young democracy that has achieved great strides in peacebuilding, is grappling with pressing land disputes and barriers to access to justice. In response to these challenges, UNDP and the Land and Property Commission (LPC) of the Ministry of Justice co-organized a National Seminar in Dili. The seminar aimed to exchange knowledge, experience, and good practices to enhance the capacity of the Land and Property Commission (LPC) and promote peaceful land dispute resolution in Timor-Leste.
Land disputes in Timor-Leste are fueled by cycles of violence and displacement, lack of documentation and land ledger record destruction, and challenges in implementing laws enforcing land ownership. Despite constitutional guarantees of housing and property rights, land ownership remains unresolved. Citizens often resort to local customary mechanisms and alternative dispute-resolution methods. This seminar seeks to bring together perspectives from the justice institutions and civil society to discuss the challenges and the way forward. It also highlighted social inclusion, gender equality, and human rights principles to be complied with in resolving land disputes. The insights and lessons learned drawn at the seminar shall be reviewed and reflected in the Land and Property Commission’s practices in mediation and administrative decisions.
Key discussions from the participants highlighted during the seminar included: Effective land dispute resolution is imperative to improve people’s lives and advance the country’s development; Despite the challenges, the institutions shared the commitment to resolving the new and pending land disputes as effectively and fair as possible in a collaborative and complementary manner; Civil society will continue to defend the people’s rights and watchdog the government’s policies and implementation; UNDP expressed its commitment to continuing its support to the justice system and the people, including the land disputes resolution.
According to H.E. Minister of Justice, Dr. Amândio de Sá Benevides, “the dispute is very much related to the land title insecurity and legal insecurity” and this seminar “has the potential to provide a lot of insight from diverse expertise”. It is of the utmost importance that LPC proceeds with the coordination with the other stakeholders, especially the Courts and the Directorate of Land and Property, responsible for the land registry.
Dr. Pascoal da Costa, President of the Land and Property Commission, emphasizes the significance of the LPC, stating, "that the LPC ensures people’s access to justice”. Also, he believes that this seminar holds significant importance to strengthen the Commission and to advocate for its capacity to ensure people’s rights in the future.
Caitlin Wiesen UNDP Resident Representative ai expressed her confidence that “the insights gained, the partnerships forged, and the shared determination expressed today will be instrumental in advancing access to justice, promoting fair land dispute resolution, which is vital to accelerating a just sustainable future Timor-Leste where No One is Left Behind.”
The seminar's outcomes are expected to advocate for Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) 11 and 16, enhance the technical capacity of LPC, and provide information-sharing and networking opportunities. It is a collaborative effort aimed at strengthening the LPC's capacity and contributing to the peaceful resolution of land disputes while preventing violence in the country.
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Nelson Philomeno Rego De Jejus, Access to Justice Project Manager, UNDP, email@example.com