Community Interactive Peace Building in Fractured Communities of Timor Leste

July 1, 2008

Through repeated violence in Timor Leste since April 2006, the communities have been displaced, traumatized and rendered homeless. The internecine nature of the conflict has fractured the social fabric creating mistrust amongst each other. Austcare intends to work with three villages in Dili creating opportunities for community interactive peace building specifically targeting youth and women. Together with community groups, Austcare will build “Neighbourhood Corners” which are spaces for community interaction.

A large number of displaced people (some 30,000 in Dili alone) continue to live in make shift camps. The two principal factors preventing their return to their original residences are security (fear of prejudice and repeat of violence) and the lack of homes (having been burned in the violence). With abject poverty and lack of trust prevalent in the majority of the society, Austcare will work with the whole of community creating opportunities for prejudice reduction and interaction across both the displaced and non-displaced members of the community. An approach that allows the whole of community to develop opportunities together for poverty reduction and prejudice reduction, an environment will be created conducive for growing trust and confidence.

By building a strong community structure and through inclusive decision making, Austcare will work towards community empowerment. This project will work within existing Austcare Neighbourhood Corners efforts, providing a targeted response to equip the community with enhanced peace-building skills through peace education, conflict resolution training and increased community liaison. In Austcare’s experience from working with fractured communities, the period of intervention needed is between 3-4 years.

Two project officers specialising on community development will be assigned to work in the three villages for the duration of the project. They will primarily work with the youth and women to build community structures through which the communities can facilitate peace building steps. With youth, opportunities will be provided to interactively entertain and engage in positive skill development such as training in leadership, project management, IT and life skills.

Considering the lack of literacy amongst the aged population and older women practical information for community welfare (such as nutrition, child health, maternal health, water and sanitation, general hygiene etc.), gender empowerment and conflict management will be provided. For the unemployed, particularly targeting the youth, opportunities to create jobs with minimum skills based on locally available resources and circumstances will be explored.

The three villages chosen for the project have significant populations of displaced persons, both currently displaced, and recently returned. In addition the general population of Timor-Leste has suffered considerable fracturing of community cohesion, which this project aims to ameliorate. The total minimum number of direct beneficiaries from the three villages will be 75 youth and 120 women. Indirect beneficiaries will be 1,200 youth and 1,500 women.

In the first year, the project would achieve

  1. Establishment of community based youth and women’s groups in the three sucos.
  2. Obtain acceptance from community elders and local government elected leaders.
  3. Identify community interactive peace building measures.
  4. Initiate dialogue with displaced and non-displaced community representatives.
  5. Identification of proposed activities and training needed through a “participatory vulnerability assessment”.
  6. Commence provision of training to youth and community education to the larger community.
  7. Establishment of formal structures for community engagement and regular dialogue.
  8. Identify livelihood opportunities and seek potential assistance for job creation.
  9. Develop mechanisms for sustaining momentum of initiatives.

Austcare will be primarily responsible for the project.


Peace games activities were held in Becora and Delta and Aimutin villages. These activities served to decrease tension among participants and helped prepare them to participate in a dialogue activity.

Women’s groups were established in each of the three aldeias (sub-villages) and meetings were held to discuss their issues and identify training needs. A three-day training workshop on organizational management and small business was developed and implemented with five community groups in Becora in January 2009. A total of 21 participants (15 females and 6 males) received training. 43 people also attended a two-day training workshop on conflict management which enhanced participants’ understanding of conflict, its causes and impact.

In order to increase employment opportunities, 16 youth (8 males and 8 females) from the three villages were trained in English and computer programs. Training methodologies used included: group work, discussions, storytelling, simulations/scenarios, role plays and providing local examples.

Case study

“The project has had a big impact on my life, because before [the project] in our aldeia there were no activities and places for youth but since the project has been implemented in our aldeia we have field courts so the youth are able to spend their time in sport activity.”

“I participated in training activities, over the time period of the project (12 months), 3 days per week, depending on the implementation plan. Through attending those training I gained a lot of experiences and benefits for my life. One of the positive impacts that I get from this project is that right now I’m actively involved in the CBO (community based organisation) in our aldeia and also I have increased my capacity and knowledge in computer area.”  (Anuel Gomes Lemos, 25 year old single male)