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Assessing the Legitimacy of Timor-Leste's Security Sector

State-building in Timor-Leste has made progress on many fronts. The country is now stable, but there are security sector issues that must be examined. This project will conduct applied research to assess the legitimacy of the military and police in the eyes of different groups of Timorese and make policy recommendations for reforms. After independence from Indonesia in 2002, the country received years of international support to build new institutions, including those in the security sector. Today tensions remain, along with institutional challenges within the military and police. To add to the problem, their mandates are blurred. The legitimacy of these institutions is bound up with the role of the former resistance fighters within them, and their place within Timorese society. This project will build knowledge about post-conflict institutional legitimacy. The researchers will go beyond existing efforts in Timor-Leste to monitor security sector performance. They will examine what factors influence military and police legitimacy, with particular attention to veterans' policies, including a cash benefits scheme for those who fought for the resistance. The research team will review the literature to develop an analytical framework. They will then use quantitative and qualitative methods to investigate the factors that affect views of the military and police across different segments of Timorese society. This will generate a diagnostic study of security institutions' legitimacy. Based on their findings, the researchers will make recommendations for military and police institutional reforms, and changes to veterans' policies. The researchers will present their findings in English and Tetun at policy briefing round tables for decision-makers. They will share their results with the communities that contribute to the research, as well as the G7+ and donors who contributed to Timor-Leste's state-building. The G7+ is an association of fragile and conflict-affected states. Timor-Leste is a member. Belun, a Timorese civil society organization, will implement the project with its longstanding partner, Columbia University's Arnold A. Saltzman Institute of War and Peace Studies. This partnership will support the development of stronger research skills among Belun's staff, and build the organization's capacity to undertake more complex analytical projects in the future. It will also build research leadership skills in Timor-Leste. While the country features extensively in academic and policy literature on state-building, the Timorese have conducted very little of this research. The project will help rectify the imbalance, while its participatory methodology will ensure that suggestions for reforms reflect society's expectations of the military and police in the years ahead.

Project ID
Project Status
End Date
30 months
IDRC Officer
Navsharan Singh
Total Funding
CA$ 601,100.00
Governance and Justice
Governance and Justice
Institution Country
Project Leader
Luis da Costa Ximenes

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