IRI, in partnership with the East-West Center, sponsored a discussion with Dr. Atul Khare, head of the United Nations Integrated Mission in Timor-Leste and Special Representative of the UN Secretary General on February 13, 2009.  Khare discussed the current state of Timor-Leste and the progress the nation has made over the last six months.

Since gaining its independence from Indonesia in 2002, Timor-Leste has suffered from internal conflicts, a large number of internally displaced persons, economic woes and an unsuccessful assassination attempt on current President Ramos-Horta.  Despite these setbacks Khare noted that with the help of outside organizations like the United Nations, Timor-Leste has made significant progress reclaiming weapons, supporting human rights initiatives and resettling displaced people.

Khare also explained that while the young country is making progress, challenges remain in Timor-Leste that the international community can help address.  These challenges include a high unemployment rate and an untrained police force as well as young and evolving political parties struggling to learn the basic tenets of democracy while trying to govern their new country in a transparent and accountable manner.

Since 2000, IRI has played a key role in helping Timor-Leste develop as a young democracy. More recently in 2007 and 2008, IRI collaborated with the UN Development Program to hold two rounds of party strengthening trainings in every district, with national level leadership consultations taking place throughout the training period.  IRI’s long-term relationships with the parties have allowed it to become a trusted resource for political party assistance across the country.

IRI has also been actively involved in engaging women and youth in the democratic process. For example in 2008, IRI helped conduct a model parliament program for students in Dili.  Over two weeks, program participants attended committee and plenary hearings of the real parliament and then conducted their own committee and plenary sessions using real bills being debated before parliament.

Khare thanked IRI for all of its hard work towards advancing democracy on this small island nation and expressed his hope that the IRI -Timor-Leste partnership continues in the future.

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