EWER Trimester Report 1 (Feb-May 2009)

July 15, 2009

EWER Trimester Report 1 (Feb-May 2009)


Executive Summary

During its first four months of monitoring, BELUNai??i??s Early Warning and Early Response (EWER) system has collected data on incidents of violence and on a range of social, economic, political and external indicators that provide an index of local tensions and peace capacities. This data is gathered by a network of male and female civil society volunteers recruited from thirteen target sub-districts. Information received is then verified through other networks and sources where possible, and analysed to determine concerns in the monitored areas and nationally. Over time reporting will contribute to the systematic identification of trends in conflict dynamics in reference to particular themes and will enable targeted responses to challenges that may contribute to violence if left unaddressed.

The results presented in this report are made available to the Government, development partners and the communities themselves in order to inform programming and guide action. BELUN will utilise its own peace-strengthening experience to assist communities to address the tensions identified by monitors toward preventing the escalation of conflict. BELUN and the Center for International Conflict Resolution (CICR) will engage with Government actors where a policy response is warranted.

Over the reporting period 1 February to 31 May 2009, a total of 187 incidents were reported to the EWER system. Community responses to violence were frequently reported, with 252 parties identified as intervening in these instances ai??i?? that is, in a full third of cases, more than one community representative would attend and attempt a resolution. On very few occasions (21 reports in total) was there a clear connection to a previous incident. Most commonly, reported conflicts comprised verbal threats and intimidation (79 incidents) rather than fights between individuals (54 incidents). Private homes were the most common site of these incidents (112) and family members were most often parties to the unrest (72 incidents), followed by farmers (46) and neighbours (32). This suggests that conflict across the country is typically a personal matter.

The violence correlates strongly to gender, with women involved in less than half of the reported incidents. Most violence was through unarmed assault (115 incidents), with machetes used in twenty- six cases and stones thrown on nineteen occasions. No incidents involving guns were reported. Reports of 43 injuries and one alleged murder were received, with property destroyed in eleven incidents and reports of people fleeing their community following fifty-two incidents. PNTL were the most regular responders to conflict, attending 66 of the incidents, followed by local leaders (55 incidents). It is troubling, though, that there was no reported response in at least 38 incidents, which allows tensions to develop further and raises the potential for future violence.

Across the country, situation report monitoring revealed a troubling presence of domestic and sexual abuse. A high degree of tension over natural resources, land use and animal control was also reported. Economic pressures are hitting these areas hard, with prices for local goods dropping, and commerce slowing. Consequently, many young people are reported to be leaving their communities in search of work. Martial arts group activity was reported as a source of tension in many sub-districts, and the presence of armed forces and police was often no less a concern. Despite high levels of reliance, traditional justice is failing to resolve many disputes. This may lead to higher rates of recourse to formal justice. Given the handover of policing responsibilities in Lautem and progressively across other districts, there is clearly much to be done in developing positive relations with the security sector, and also in supporting appropriate dispute resolution options.

Within the short span of monitoring to date, there appears to be a spike in community tensions across the entire country over March and April that subsides by the end of May. The rise in conflict potential is visible across economic, political and social issues. Its scope and pervasiveness suggest tensions may be seasonal, especially as no political event can easily be linked to a country-wide shift in tensions during the reporting period.

At a national level, the first monitoring period highlights key areas of focus for conflict prevention efforts, such as addressing gender-inequalities that enable domestic violence, land titling and resource- sharing, community-police relations and options for effective dispute resolution. The report also highlights individuals who respond to incidents of violence at the community level. These local actors may be engaged as partners to address these issues and are among the local resources that should be strengthened to promote future stability within communities and nationwide.