Ending the 2006 Internal Displacement Crisis in Timor-Leste

Between Humanitarian Aid and Transitional Justice

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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.




The NRS was a remarkably efficient and effective way of ending a displacement crisis in, what so far at least appears to be, a durable manner. It allowed a humanitarian problem that had increasingly started to look like intractable and long-term – that is, the existence of camps all over the capital city of Dili – to disappear completely in a matter of months, rather than years or decades as many had predicted. The resolution of the IDP crisis also allowed the government and the country itself to start focusing on economic development and the much needed improvement of the daily lives of the Timorese population. While the government’s deliberate political choice to avoid the reparations terminology altogether cannot be ignored in terms of qualifying the NRS as a reparations programme, it remains the case that the Strategy was arguably “something in addition to” an instance of successful humanitarian or post-crisis policymaking. Clear acknowledgement on the part of the government of the failure of the state to protect IDPs; official recognition of IDPs as victims of human rights violations and hence their right to receive a remedy; and the explicit connection between the cash grants provided by the Timorese state and the losses suffered by the IDPs arguably place the NRS somewhere in between reparations and the adoption of durable solutions for internally displaced populations.


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