Timor-Leste’s road to nationhood has been difficult but ultimately successful. The country was heavily affected by conflict before, during, and after it achieved full independence in 2002, but it has been largely peaceful since 2007 and was rated the second-most democratic country in Southeast Asia in 2020.1
The country maintained a fragile stability for the first four years of its independence, but a political crisis erupted in 2006, resulting in some loss of life, injury, displacement, and property destruction. Since then, the country has continued to progress gradually on security and safety, although it is still vulnerable to political conflict and electoral violence. The rivalry between the two largest political parties continues and has contributed to instability in the last three years. Despite the risk that instability will accentuate rifts and lead to violent conflict, however, changes of government and political alliances have not led to major unrest.
Disputes over land and other natural resources remain the most serious ongoing domestic security concern. Disputes have increased even after the enactment of the Land Law in 2017. Contested access to water is further cause of localized violence. Martial arts groups and other gangs, some of which have both political and criminal affiliations, are responsible for some violent incidents, and the Timorese still consider youth problems their second-most serious security concern. The law has effectively limited gang activity, and any related violence tends to be local. Crime has reportedly risen slightly, but most people still feel safe. Rates of gender-based violence are high, although the percentage of women who say they feel threatened by gender-based violence is declining.