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Dec 14, 2010 | Commentary

Timorese security sector NGO Fundasaun Mahein is the only civil society organization of its sort in Timor-Leste.  Founded by Nelson Belo, a survivor of the Santa Cruz Massacre and the co-founder of the Judicial System Monitoring Programme, the organization is beginning to make headway in carving out a truly local approach to SSR.  Fundasaun Mahein means Guardian Foundation in English, following in the tradition of “Who watches the watchmen?”  Or as the old Federalist paper said  ”Who shall guard against the guardians?” –or something like that.

Along with Belo, the core team of Marco Goncalves and Frei Guterrres (in addition to many Timorese consultant authors) are getting some bang for the buck. In addition to the over 15 reports they’ve published, a recent report on organised crime had them in the centre of the national news. There were a number of police raids.  Parliament discussed the report in plenary; and Committee B (National Security, Defence and Foreign Affairs) called the FM crew to present to the Committee.  Police “strategic information” people even came knocking for leads as well by all accounts.

Other subjects have included a budget analysis, defence reform, parliamentary oversight, iilegal arms and the like.  Most recently a report on the national police and some of its problems was published.  All the reports are found here.

Having been founded in April 2009 Fundasaun Mahein was run as a small volunteer body for a year before it received a start up grant in April 2010.  Since then the reports have flowed, press attention has followed, and as seen above, the Government and Parliament are calling on the team for consultations on security sector development issues both in public and in private.  When there are no foreigners in the room, for better or worse, it’s a serious conversation.

This blogger would make the assertion that FM’s Timorese analysts have produced 10 times as much written “SSR” analysis in a local language in the last year as the entire international community has since UNMIT’s arrival in 2006.  All this has been done for a minuscule fraction of the many millions of SSR dollars that have been hoovered up by well meaning but misguided international experts in Dili.  Value for money?  Well UNMIT was charged with writing a SSR review report in 2006 –it has yet to be seen. You can read the project document here.  Not an inconsiderable part of UNMIT’s over $200 million/annum (along with project funding) was supposed to generate said report.

Fundasaun Mahein’s entire annual operation costs less than one international SSR expert.  Fund Timorese to do SSR, as opposed to funding ourselves.

Let the readers decide.  Over to you Loron Triste.