Youth and Community Security in Timor-Leste

Youth and Community Security in Timor-Leste post thumbnail image

Youth and Community Security in Timor-Leste post thumbnail image
The category “Youth” encompasses all those who have not yet reached adulthood. A specific age is difficult to pinpoint, as there is not yet a consensus among various government and international agencies. According to the 2010 population census, youth make up the largest portion of Timor-Leste population. This percentage will likely grow, particularly as the initial results of Timor-Leste’s 2015 census recorded 245,121 youths aged 15-24, making them 21% of the population.

Youth are frequently judged to be the creators of conflict because the problems that they face are complex. This report identifies the specific risks that threaten to bring youths to violent activity. Many surveys and reports clearly demonstrate the relationship between a weak macro-economy, increasing youth unemployment, and collective violence on the streets. Timor-Leste’s citizens are widely convinced of this direct relationship.

Improvements to the education system are the most important pathway to success, because it provides a mechanism for youth to develop skills that lead to employment. However, this does not address the problem for those who have already graduated, who face weak demand for their services, and a shortage of job openings. More and more youth expect to be able to find work, and when these opportunities do not materialize, there is a sense of frustration, injustice, and dissatisfaction towards a political system that does not seem to be bringing change.

The centralization of work and educational opportunities in Dili has brought about rapid migration to the capital, resulting in significant problems related to unplanned urbanization. The rapid migratory patterns amplify frustrations by ramping up competition for an already scarce supply of employment opportunities. Competition for jobs with decent wages and occasional benefits are even stiffer. Combine these factors with highly limited physical mobility, and the links to increasing violent activity are clear.

Unemployment, poverty, and lack of education are also linked with alcohol abuse. Amongst young men, half use alcohol on a regular basis, whereas the majority of people would consume alcohol during ceremonial activities only. Alcohol abuse is coming to be recognized as an established trend for people aged 15-24, as the link between alcohol consumption and unemployment becomes more visible.

The link between youth violence and culture is inextricable. For youths, the attitude that they will take in their approach to violence will be largely formed by their community and their family members’ values, which can be traced back for generations. Communities, schools, and households can all be significantly positive or negative forces in the development of how youth use violence in their lives. For example, a society that accepts the use of violence as a way to resolve conflict can will “normalize,” such behaviors for children, increasing the likelihood that they will repeat such behaviors later, and teach them to the next generation.

Another challenge is the issue of impunity. Impunity occurs in when an individual or group does not receive punishment or some form of consequence for an illegal action. In Timor-Leste, impunity is an increasing problem, because of the existing informal relationships that influence official state behavior, but now also due to the influence of private patrons. As long as impunity continues, the situation will continue in which those with power, such as politicians and members of the security sector, will act with a different set of consequences than those for common people.

There have been some efforts from the government to prepare a board that will address the issue of youth violence in Timor-Leste. They seek to address the problem by providing mechanisms to communities to identify the source of conflicts, and to work creatively with them to resolve conflicts with local leaders. The implementation of community policing in Timor-Leste is based on the definition of the national strategic plan, including important elements such as village police officers (OPS), and through community involvement in local security activities, such as the Village Security Volunteer (SVS) program, and the Council of Community Policing (KPK).

However, measurable improvements from these initiatives will be minimal, because they do not address the deficiencies at the root of the problem. Unemployment, poor educational structures, immobility, and the resulting frustration make it difficult for youth to avoid violent conflicts. In order to truly resolve these challenges, and to bring about real development, the government must pursue a genuine understanding of the challenges facing Timorese youth, and to pursue a comprehensive solution.


1. That the Ministry of Education and State Secretary for Vocational Training and Employment Policy be enabled to treat education like other government “mega projects,” with a high-quality curriculum oriented towards market needs.

2. That the State Secretary of Youth and Sport, and the State Secretary for Vocational Training and Employment Policy endeavor discover and promote youths’ potential through education, professional training, and mentoring for self-employment.

3. That the State Secretary of Youth and Sport, the Ministry of Education, the National Council of Youth, Security, and Civil Society encourage all youths, both male and female, to assume their responsibility as citizens and resist violent activity.

For more details on this issue please consult the following:


Nélson Belo
Executive Director
Phone: (+670) 78316075 no 77561184

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