The Asia Foundation

The Asia Foundation
Addressing the Critical Issues Facing Asia - 60 Years
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A newly democratic, natural resource-rich nation, Timor-Leste’s development dreams are at risk of being interrupted by corruption, largess, and inefficiency in its young institutions. It is these very institutions, abiding by and upholding the rule of law, that are needed to turn the heavily oil-dependent country’s petro-dollars into long-term, broad-based economic growth for the benefit of all, rather than a few powerful elites in the short term. Strengthening the capabilities of these institutions, and citizens’ understanding of them, is a key focus of our staff in Dili, as well as on conflict management and women’s empowerment. Read country overview.


Concrete achievements and breakthroughs to protect victims

We have just concluded a successful decade-long legal aid program that significantly strengthens the local justice sector and fosters improved access to justice for Timorese, especially women. Still, domestic violence persists in this fragile democracy, requiring fresh, original thinking. To that end, our goal is to ensure access to justice for women and to link legal aid partners with gender-based violence networks. We supported the provision of legal assistance for 536 legal and paralegal cases, and connected an additional 576 cases with paralegal programs of our local partners; most of these cases were women. The Foundation provided eight legal aid lawyers with scholarships to undertake related training, established the very first women's legal aid organization in Timor-Leste, and published groundbreaking research on women's legal needs. Our findings revealed a multitude of interlocking issues women experience when attempting to access assistance in Timor-Leste, including: a preference for resolving issues locally, even against the victims' wishes; uneven responsiveness of the police; lengthy court processes; and the lack of social support structures if a woman chooses to leave a violent relationship. The findings provided crucial insights for policymakers and others working in the areas of service provision, policy formation, and legislative frameworks.


Program and Partner Highlights

The Asia Foundation's Books for Asia program began operating in Timor-Leste in 2004, and has since donated more than 100,000 books to schools, libraries, nongovernmental organizations and public-sector agencies throughout the country. Learn more about our Books for Asia program in Timor-Leste and watch an interview with Program Officer Dores Vilanova.

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