Akanit Horatanakun: Peace Building in Timor-Leste

Read about Akanit Horatanakun’s peace building efforts as a member of Belun’s Democracy and Media Empowerment Team (DAME)…

Timor-Leste: Peace Building from Community Perspectives

By: Akanit Horatanakun, MPA, School of International and Public Affairs, Economic and Political Development Concentration

The focus group discussion in Suai, Covalima.

The focus group discussion in Suai, Covalima.

Before granted one of the greatest internship opportunities I can have from the Sasakawa Young Leaders Fellowship Fund (SYLFF), Timor-Leste was the country in Southeast-Asia that I had the least knowledge about. During the past summer, I was tasked to practice with Belun, a national non-governmental organization based in Dili, Timor-Leste, which holds the most extensive community outreach program across the country. Belun’s missions are to empower communities, develop capacity through research and policy development, and prevent conflicts in Timor-Leste.

Under a great guidance from Columbia University’s Center for International Conflict Resolution, the internship was a part of the Applied Peacebuilding class that required students to take a fieldwork abroad in a conflict-protracted or post-conflict country. In June-August 2013, I joined Belun’s Democracy and Media Empowerment Team (DAME) to conduct its annual policy research on “The Roles of Martial Arts Groups in the Future Peacebuilding Process”. I assisted the DAME team in writing literature review and conducted field research in Covalima district, considered as one of the poorest districts of the country. Within September 2013, our team will come up with the policy briefing report, presenting to related stakeholders including representatives from Timorese government, related UN offices, and other civil society organizations.

On the way to Pasabe village, Oecussi.

On the way to Pasabe village, Oecussi.

In addition, Belun tasked me to assist in field monitoring with its Network Capacity Assessment Team (NCAT). I traveled with the NCAT to visit its community networks in Oecussi district, the isolated slide of land hiding itself in the West Timor part of Indonesia. Thereafter, I came up with the observation report with recommendations for improving program implementation. Later, the DAME team used my report to organize the team’s reflection meeting in which we genuinely discussed about the core problems of the team and its field implementation. Altogether, we produced the capacity reflection report that constructively criticized DAME capacity itself, Belun’s performance, and proposed recommendations for possible changes. Ultimately, the report led to the open discussions between Belun’s DAME and Management Team, consisting of all Belun’s high-level members. After I left the country in August, the Management Team planned to move on for cross-member discussions, and began the internal relationship building process.

I sincerely thank to the help of the Columbia’s Weatherhead Institute and Tokyo Foundation that gave me an invaluable opportunity to participate in this significant task. Without the support from SYLFF, I would not make it to Timor-leste since it was the only source that supported my internship. Indeed, my experience with Belun was the highlight of my academic years at Columbia. It strengthened my determination to move on for development works in a post-conflict country.

The DAME team and I.

The DAME team and I.

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