The search for common ground: Police, protection and coordination in Timor-Leste

Research reports and studies
December 2013
Eva Svoboda and Eleanor Davey

Despite only recently celebrating its tenth anniversary as an independent nation, Timor-Leste has had an extensive experience of international engagement, with two military interventions and five UN missions over the course of less than 13 years.

This study examines the evolution of policing in UN missions in Timor-Leste between 1999 and 2012, highlighting their impact on the development of the National Police of Timor-Leste (PNTL) and the PNTL’s relationship with the Timorese military, the Timor-Leste Defence Force (F-FDTL). The report focuses particularly on the violence that flared up in the country in April–June 2006, and examines the coordination mechanisms and actors involved in the response.

Key findings:

  • Improvements are needed if international and national police in transitional settings are to provide an effective and reliable service for people affected by violence and crime.
  • Fragmentation, lack of clarity and language issues undermined the performance of UN police as well as the development of the PNTL throughout the 13 years of international missions.
  • The failure to take into account the legacy of the liberation struggle, and the prestige veterans of that struggle hold within Timorese society, hampered efforts to promote the independence and integrity of the PTNL.