Timor-Leste: CEPAD and the local community launch fifth Peace House

23 avril, 2015

Last week, the Centre of Studies for Peace and Development (CEPAD), Interpeace’s partner in Timor-Leste, opened the doors to its fifth Peace House in the Manufahi municipality.

Over 400 guests attended the launch

Over 400 guests participated in the event, including Minister of Justice Ivo Valente, Vice President of the National Parliament Adérito Hugo da Costa, the President of the Global Organisation of Parliamentarians Against Corruption (GOPAC-TL) Francisco Miranda Branco, village chiefs, traditional leaders and members of the community. The presence of the President of GOPAC-TL was particularly significant as previous consultations by CEPAD have revealed that fighting corruption is central to building lasting peace in Timor-Leste.

The high-level attendance once again confirms the important role that Peace Houses play in communities. They are reducing the gap between communities and their leaders, and foster greater understanding between members of communities from different geographical areas and backgrounds.

Ad√©rito Hugo da Costa, Vice President of the National Parliament stressed the importance of this initiative: “Today, […] on behalf of the state, I thank the local community for providing their land for the construction of the Peace House. […] I [also] thank the non-governmental organization CEPAD for regarding peace as an important matter which contributes to our development. CEPAD deserves all the appreciation from the community and from the state, for its contribution.”

A space to resolve conflict at the heart of Manufahi district

Adding to the previously established Peace Houses in Aileu, Bobonaro, Baucau and Ermera, the Manufahi Peace House offers a permanent space for the community to meet and discuss local issues and come up with solutions that contribute to sustainable peace. Local representatives, acting as community mediators, are in charge of facilitating the different activities in the Peace Houses.

“The fact that the Peace House is located at the centre of the Manufahi municipality, it means that the entire community is able to engage in dialogue when there are disputes. People have the opportunity to sit together and look for solutions,” said Romeo Duarte, President of the Manufahi Peace House Steering Committee.

Peace Houses are based on a local tradition

Peace Houses, locally known as uma dame, are based on the traditional Timorese custom of ‘rolling out the mat’ (nahe-biti boot). This custom involves a meeting between community members to discuss and resolve disputes. Peace Houses are safe, neutral and community-owned venues that were constructed on land provided by the district and members of the communities participated in the construction. They act as a bridge between municipalities and Timor-Leste’s capital city, Dili, by fostering debates on issues of national importance.

Peace Houses are also designed to host a range of complementary activities that bring people together and encourage civil society participation, including youth group meetings, workshops and language classes.

The Manufahi Peace House is the result of a partnership between CEPAD, the local community, Interpeace, and was funded through the Prime Minister’s Office Civil Society Fund.