“Challenges of Reconciliation: Lessons learned from Timor-Leste” aims to create, share and disseminate knowledge about the challenges of reconciliation processes. The workshop is designed as a collaborative research sharing between academics, Canadian and Timorese advocates of reconciliation. Timor-Leste suffered genocide under Indonesian rule in 1975-99 and is grappling with the legacy of mass violence and the aftermath of its truth and reconciliation commission.

The overall aim is to connect participants, reflect on current reconciliation efforts in Timor- Leste, international engagement with the recommendations of the Final Report of the Commission for Reception, Truth and Reconciliation and lessons to be learnt from Timor-Leste, especially about the problem of implementing truth commission recommendations.

This research is supported by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada, Bishop’s University and the Centro Nacional Chega! The project is directed by Susanna Barnes (University of Saskatchewan) and David Webster (Bishop’s University).


“Memory, truth and reconciliation in Southeast Asia” is a project in collaborative analysis and policy recommendations comparing the experience of truth and reconciliation in Southeast Asian and the Melanesian Pacific. The Democratic Republic of Timor-Leste (East Timor) has completed a truth and reconciliation commission. There are also calls for similar truth commissions in Indonesia, especially for justice for the mass killings of 1965. A truth commission has formed in Indonesian-ruled Aceh. There are also calls for historical justice in West Papua, an Indonesian-ruled territory in which contested versions of the past contribute to current conflict. Finally, this project examines the legacy of the Solomon Islands truth and reconciliation commission.

The project began as workshop held in Ottawa in 2015 that gathered scholars; participants from Timor-Leste, Indonesia and Solomon Islands; and members of Canadian NGOs with a project or advocacy interest in the two territories.

Truth commissions are a valuable tool in conflict resolution, but they often lack follow-up mechanisms to implement their recommendations. Existing literature looks in detail at the operational phases of truth commissions, but pays less attention to the campaigns to establish truth commissions and efforts to have their recommendations put into effect. By leaving out these phases, it downplays the role of activists and civil society organizations in creating the context for truth commissions and pushing for follow-up action.

The project surveys the experiences of truth and reconciliation commissions in Southeast Asia and the Melanesian Pacific, with a focus on the pre- and post-truth commission phases. It examines the post-report phase of the Timor-Leste and Solomon Islands truth commissions and on ongoing efforts to establish truth and reconciliation processes in Indonesia, Aceh, and West Papua.

Project coordinator: David Webster, Bishop’s University. Research assistants (2015): Sarah Zwierzchowski, Cynthia Dawn Roy, Nicholas Chlumecky.

Banner photo: Maliana, Timor-Leste, May 2015, photo by David Webster.


This research is supported by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council. The web site was made possible by a grant from the Canada Foundation for Innovation and by the Quebec Ministère de l’Économie, de la Science et de l’Innovation.

The project also benefitted from the support of the Bishop’s University Senate Research Council, the Indigeneity and Race Research Axis of the Crossing Borders research cluster at Bishop’s, the Canadian Council for Southeast Asian Studies, the Pacific Peoples Partnership, and the Canadian Catholic Organization for Development and Peace, and the East Timor Action Network/West Papua Advocacy Team.

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