Assessing the Impact of Orthodox Security Sector Reform in Timor-Leste

Timor-Leste has experienced a combination of United Nations (UN), bilateral and Government of Timor-Leste (GoTL)-led Security Sector Development (SSD) efforts since its people voted for independence from Indonesia in 1999. The overcrowded SSD field with multiple agencies and contradictory influences was a further hindrance to coherent SSD. The failure of international actors to engage politically and engender state ownership of the SSD processes was a lost opportunity. As a result, many of the government’s own initiatives did not meet internationally-upheld democratic benchmarks. The compromises made continue to blight the security sector context today, however, they were, in the eyes of the government, political necessities for the survival and stability of the new state. Following the withdrawal of the last UN mission, UNMIT, in 2012, the SSD field has become less crowded. While there are fewer bilateral agencies involved, some inconsistencies and contradictions between approaches to SSD remain. The GoTL is however being more directive of international support and is demanding more collaboration, coordination and consistency from its partners. New, second generation approaches to SSD are emerging that are working more closely with government systems as well as non-state actors and informal justice systems to bring about a more gradual, but more embedded process of transition towards improved democratic accountability in Timor-Leste’s security sector.

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