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Ending the 2006 Internal Displacement Crisis in Timor-Leste

Between Humanitarian Aid and Transitional Justice

image of Ending the 2006 Internal Displacement Crisis in Timor-Leste
The 2006 crisis in Timor-Leste saw close to 15 per cent of the population displaced from their homes, threatening to sink the country into protracted instability and violence. Remarkably, less than five years later, the country looks to be back on track, with the internal displacement file from 2006 largely resolved. This study examines the National Recovery Strategy adopted by the Government of Timor-Leste to address the crisis, including the move towards a cash grant programme, and analyses the strengths and weaknesses of national and local measures taken to provide solutions to the displaced. In doing so, the author connects the case of Timor-Leste to the wider debate on displacement, durable solutions and transitional justice, and offers important conclusions for practitioners from each of these perspectives.

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The 2006 crisis in Timor-Leste: A brief backgrounder

Right up until the start of the crisis in April 2006, Timor-Leste was widely lauded as a United Nations nation-building success story. Many commentators believed that, this time, the international community had gotten things largely right, not in the least by providing both the funds and the peacekeeping troops necessary for the United Nations Transitional Administration in East Timor (UNTAET) to fulfil its ambitious mandate of readying Timor-Leste for full independence. Soon, so it was thought, the ongoing political mission of the United Nations would give way to a much smaller United Nations office that would largely focus on developing a “sustainable development assistance framework” for the new country. United Nations peacekeepers had left the country in 2005, so when violence broke out in the capital city of Dili on 28 April 2006, security was entirely in the hands of the Timorese police and army, both of which would be at the heart of a political crisis that would threaten to rip the young nation apart. To situate the 2006 crisis, it is necessary to briefly go back in time and point out some key moments in Timor-Leste’s history.

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