You are here

Peace building in Timor's violent capital

Concern Worldwide is strengthening its work in the areas of peace-building and conflict transformation in Timor Leste. Given Timor’s status as a post-conflict society with an edgy and, at times, volatile security situation, the work is both timely and relevent.

Last year’s widespread violence that left a tenth of the population homeless and nearly spiralled into a civil war is a fresh scar in the collective psyche of this young nation. It’s hard not to be. Evidence of the fallout is painfully visible in the capital of Dili where ragtag camps of internally displaced people crowd neighbourhoods, city parks, hospital grounds and the boundary of the international airport.

Low-intensity but often brutal violence is a constant feature of daily life in this impoverished capital. Beheadings are not uncommon, nor are incidents involving poisoned darts, machetes, knives and other instruments of urban warfare. Gang fights involving scores of young men, often members of martial arts groups, erupt in Dili’s streets with depressing regularity.

In an effort to support stability and the rule of law in this fledgling democracy, Concern is supporting local non-governmental organizations, individuals and institutions that are working on resolving conflict non-violently. In the autumn, Concern and some partner organizations hosted a training workshop for the leaders of martial arts groups in techniques of conflict analysis and resolution. Future sessions are scheduled.

Concern’s peace-building officer, Juliao da Costa Cristovao Caetano, also received some training himself in December that he plans to incorporate into the agency’s work. Caetano recently returned from Bangkok, Thailand, where he participated in a conflict transformation workshop for humanitarian aid agencies operating in violent places or complex political emergencies. The goal was to help participants better understand conflict; find constructive ways of engaging with unpredictable and rapidly changing circumstances; to understand the relationship between policy and practice in peace building.

“The training will help me to better integrate conflict analysis into Concern’s programs in Timor Leste. And it will be useful in my work engaging the martial arts groups and others interested in building and solidifying peace in this country, Caetano said.