AFA supports fair land law processes in Timor-Leste

Dear fellow land rights advocates in Timor Leste,

Our organization, Asian Farmers’ Association or AFA, supports your call for the implementation of the Minimum Requirements to ensure meaningful public participation in developing your country’s Land Law.

AFA, a regional alliance of nine national farmers’ organizations in eight Asian countries, believes that security of land tenure is a basic requirement for peace and sustainable development of small scale men and women farmers and indigenous peoples.

We hope you will have an effective land law that respects the wishes and culture of the people, gives rights to those who will actually farm on the lands, and facilitates small scale farmers and IPs claim to these rights.

In solidarity,

Ma. Estrella Penunia
Secretary General
Asian Farmers’ Association

Request to Endorse Civil Society Minimum Requirements for the Timor-Leste transitional Land Law

Dear Friends,

Last Friday (June 12th), the Minister for Justice opened public consultation on the draft transitional Land Law for Timor-Leste. This law will affect the land rights of all Timorese people as it will decide a structure to determine who owns land, after many years of conflict and colonialism (After which the Civil Code will administer land). As such, it has tremendous capacity to reduce conflict, but there is also a possibility it will exacerbate conflict if it is not suited to Timor-Leste’s circumstances and needs. An effective, lengthy public consultation in which everyone’s voice is heard is needed to ensure a good law, and one which people will respect and follow. The draft law involves many tricky technical and ethical issues — such as establishing a land arbitration board (the Cadastre Commission), a further decree law for a Compensation Fund, revoking a 2003 law and raises questions on how customary land tenure relates to RDTL law. Public consultation closes August 31st.

The Timor-Leste Rede ba Rai (Timor-Leste Land Network) has identified a set of Minimum Requirements to ensure an Effective Public Participation in developing the draft Land Law, provided to the Minister on June 10th. We prepared these minimum requirements in the hope of making a constructive contribution to the land law, and strengthening the law’s effectiveness — ensuring it has the capacity to endure future changes. Although the proposed public consultation (not yet finalized) goes further than many other law consultations in Timor-Leste, it still falls short of a process that civil society can effectively engage and support a broad range of Timor-Leste people, particularly in rural areas, to understand the draft law and make a meaningful contribution.

As Timor-Leste Land Network members, we are writing to ask you or your organization to add your name to a list of organizations which endorse the civil society Minimum Requirements (below) as an effective measure for meaningful public participation in developing this law. We will attach this list to a letter respectfully asking the Minister for Justice to meet these minimum requirements in the public consultation. The list will be finalized June 18th. To add your name please email Shona Hawkes at shona@laohamutuk.org.

More information on Land Processes in Timor-Leste (including our June 10 Letter to the Minister) can be found at http://www.laohamutuk.org/Agri/land/09LandEn.htm. You can also contact Meabh Cryan on +670 730 7800.

Respectfully,

Inês Martins & Shona Hawkes
Agriculture Researchers
La’o Hamutuk (a Land Network Member)

Meabh Cryan
Land Issues Mentor
Timor-Leste Land Network

P.S. An English language copy of the transitional Land Law is not yet available, although we will post it to the La’o Hamutuk “Land Processes in Timor-Leste” webpage as soon as we receive it (hopefully sometime this week).

Minimum Requirements for Effective Public Participation on the Draft Transitional Land Law

10 June 2009

Public Information

· A public consultation period of at least 5 months. At least a month is needed to share information and promote public discussion on the draft law before public consultation meetings begin.

· A summary of key elements and concepts of the draft law which people with limited formal education can understand, to be released together with the draft law.

· A timetable of public consultations with dates and place names. This needs to be issued at the start of the process so that communities and civil society are aware of when consultations will occur in their area.

· Distribute the draft law, summary of key points and timetable of public consultations to all Suco councils, district administrators, other local governance organs and DNTPSC and Ita Nia Rai offices before the public consultations start. Post information about the consultation and timetable to all Sede Suco noticeboards.

· Make copies of the draft law, summary and timetable of public consultations available to other agencies, civil society organizations and members of the public. This will help to ensure fair distribution to all members of the community.

Public Meetings

· Ensure Ministry of Justice/Ita Nia Rai facilitated public consultation meetings are held, at a minimum, in all 13 districts with broad public participation.

· Devise a mechanism that reaches people at more local levels. For example, coordinate with civil society groups and district DNTPSC offices, and train Xefe Councils, in order to engage communities at the suco level, or at the very least in all sub-districts.

· Make it clear in all announcements that all community members are invited to attend public meetings and take measures to actively encourage broad participation. We encourage meeting organizers to help facilitate transport for community members.

· Facilitators for public consultations need to provide specific opportunities for women participants to speak (not only by keeping it ‘’generally open” for women to speak). Facilitators should also ensure that people of all ages have an opportunity to speak.

· Public meetings to consult with communities should last at least 2 – 3 days. The first day to provide information, and the following day/s for communities to give their input and ideas.

· Hold public consultations in Tetum, with the flexibility to incorporate ideas and input in community languages (such as through informal translations by community members).

· Monitor public attendance and participation in consultation meetings to track the inclusion of vulnerable groups such as women.

· We encourage incorporating a variety of perspectives in public consultation meetings. This could include inviting speakers from civil society, academia, and customary land authorities to present.

Accountability

· Produce a publicly available and timely report to record input and suggestions from the public consultations. Determine the parameters of this report and who is responsible for it before public consultation begins. This will strengthen accountability for how public suggestions are incorporated into the draft amendments.

· Provide a statement to outline how public input is incorporated into the draft law.

La’o Hamutuk – The Timor-Leste Institute for Development Monitoring and Analysis
1/1a Rua Mozambique, Farol, Dili
Mob: +670 730 2439
Office: +670 332 5013
Web: www.laohamutuk.org

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