07 October 2013

Tara Bandu for Conflict Prevention - Belun & The Asia Foundation Research in Timor-Leste

ETLJB 07 September 2013 - There follows a precis of the research undertaken by Belun and The Asia Foundation in East Timor on tara bandu and conflict prevention. A link to the full pdf file report is at the end of this post.

This report considers various factors that can influence how effectively tara bandu can be used to prevent conflict in Timor-Leste. The research reviews some of Belun and TAF's experiences in supporting tara bandu ceremonies for conflict prevention, and identifies some processes by which to improve the legitimacy and effectiveness of externally-supported tara bandu efforts with communities. These include increasing the inclusion of marginalized groups, including those who have been involved in previous local conflicts, and avoiding contradictions with the formal law in the formation of traditional regulations, particularly regarding cases of domestic violence.

All 3 categories of tara bandu: (1) regulating people to people relations; 2) regulating people to animal relations; and, 3) regulating people’s relationship to the environment, were viewed positively by interviewees through this research, not only for their environmental or peace dividend but also as a way to enhance traditional culture and mutual respect within society.

Some challenges, however remain. In some instances local leaders and supporting organizations have not sufficiently engaged community members, particularly marginalized groups including youth and women, resulting in tara bandu lacking legitimacy in the eyes of communities. Tara bandu in urban areas face the challenge of connecting to the cultural identities of mixed ethno-linguistic communities living away from their original cultural land, but urban communities are finding other significant symbols through which to promote community cohesion.

The report provides a list of recommendations to key stakeholders, such as the suggestion establish a working group to discuss the possible mandate for a “Customary Practice Unit†within the Ministry of Justice to provide advice to communities developing tara bandu and ensure that traditional regulations do not contradict formal laws.

A 5-part Checklist for Effective Tara bandu encompassed in the report can be used by supporting organizations as a way to help ensure that tara bandu are effective, conflict-sensitive and locally-owned. The checklist emphasizes the importance of ensuring initiatives come from communities themselves rather than external actors, as well as considering the diverse local contexts and cultures within which tara bandu take place.

Belun and TAF recognize that further research on this topic is necessary and that this report can serve as a foundational basis for future studies. Source: Belun Tara Bandu: Its Role and Use in Community Conflict Prevention in Timor-Leste Belun  The Asia Foundation June 2013

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