Posted by: rlearmonth | March 13, 2008

Moving ahead

After four months of searching, I now have a Timorese counterpart, and she and I are beginning to work out what the conflict resolution and dispute mediation part of the property rights and land tenure project should look like. Those that have read about this project know that this has been a major concern; I simply have not been willing to move ahead very far without having a counterpart. And, recruitment has not been easy.

Ursula, our new Task Manager for Conflict Resolution and Dispute Mediation has been, and still is, a student in peace studies at an Australian university. She has also been a senior advisor to the Minister of Labor and Community Reinsertion (really), responsible for implementing the ministry’s Simu Malu program, which means “mutual acceptance” in Tetum. The Simu Malu program was designed to care for internally displaced persons (IDPs) displaced by conflict and return them to their home villages. She also coordinated humanitarian assistance to the IDPs on behalf of the Ministry of Labor and Community Reinsertion and the Inter-Ministerial Committee for the Restoration of Normalcy. So she has been an important player on the government side in addressing some of the most difficult issues facing Timor-Leste following the civil discord and riots of 2006. I feel lucky to be able to work with her.

Over the next few months, we will be establishing a framework for dispute mediation, based upon traditional structures and practices. Growing out of this, we will develop public information materials stressing the importance of peaceful means of settling disputes, arguably not a prominent feature of traditional Timorese life and culture. We will also begin to develop a map of conflict areas, showing in as much detail as we can find where recent or longstanding animosities have prevented dispute resolution, either through traditional means or through government intervention. And finally, we will begin to develop training materials that we can use in the field to train community leaders on dispute mediation techniques.

So we move ahead. We will present a briefing to Parliament in a few weeks, and are eager to begin field operations once the state of emergency is lifted. Our tag line is, “Ita Nia Rai,” meaning, “It’s our country.”



  1. In case you’re not aware, the Peace and Democracy Foundation did extensive research and published a report on dispute mediation in relation to traditional practices in 2003. Their intention was for the government to adopt a mediation model in place of court proceedings for civil cases, reducing the load off the already-disfunctional judicial system. I don’t think the report’s online, but you can probably get it from the PDF office in Vila Verde.

  2. Thanks, Charles. I have the Tanja Hohe, Rod Nixon report “Reconciling Justice, ‘Traditional’ Law and State Judiciary in East Timor,” January 2003. I have not run across the report you mentioned. Thanks for the tip. I’ll run it down. Bob

  3. Beautiful sunset picture through the palms, Bob!

  4. I wondered why it was so difficult to find a Timorese counterpart from an Austrailian University with a Swedish name like Ursula??

    How are your language skills holding up?

  5. Hey Dan. You’re right, I probably shouldn’t have been so specific in the job description.
    I am going to take Tetum lessons soon. It will be a challenge – I’m only a 2+ in English.
    The sunset picture was taken from the deck of my cabin.

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