Challenges of reconciliation: lessons learned from Timor-Leste

International Workshop

Bishop’s University, 23 October 2019


The ‘Challenges of reconciliation: lessons learned from Timor-Leste’ International Workshop 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 East Timorese advocates of reconciliation. 

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. Connection through this event is essential to fostering dialogue, exchange and mutual learning with an aim to developing effective strategies for reconciliation.  

Related Events

22nd October 2019 – Dalan ba Dame, the Road to Peace in Timor-Leste, 7 pm, McGreer 100

23rd October 2019 – CNC/CAVR Photo Exhibition


Program of Events

9.30-10.00 AM: Coffee and Welcome
10.00-11.20 AM: Session 1

Moderator: Susanna Barnes

Perspectives on reconciliation in Timor-Leste since the publication of Chega! The Report of the East Timor Commission for Reception, Truth and Reconciliation.

How has the Chega! report been received by the State, civil society and the general population in Timor-Leste? To what extent have the recommendations contained in the report been acted on by relevant actors in Timor-Leste? What are the challenges to reconciliation on the ground? And what are the opportunities for implementing the recommendations in Timor-Leste?


  • Hugo Fernandes, Director of the Centro Nacional Chega, on the status of implementation of international recommendations. 
  • Padre Jovito de Araujo, Board Member, Centro Nacional Chega, on the challenges of reconciliation and the work of CNC.
  • Amy Rothschild, Ithaca College, on the construction of historical narratives and the challenges of memorialisation
  • Lia Kent, Australian National University, Justice as caring for the dead: beyond the transitional justice toolkit.
11.20-11.30: Break
11.30-12.30: Session 2

Round table on Reconciliation and the implementation of recommendations in Timor Leste. 

Responses to the papers will be provided in the form of a round table with other participants sharing their perspectives. Cintia Gillam will provide a reflection and commentary based on her current research on ecological and human well-being in Timor-Leste. Kate Green, Seed Change (previously USC Canada) will discuss experiences of the community of Fadablocko: From Famine to Resilience.

12.30-13.30 Lunch (box lunch provided for invited speakers in Cleghorn Room)
13.30-14.50: Session 3

Moderator: David Webster 

Gender dimensions of violence and reconciliation, accountability, reparations and the recommendations of Chega! The Report of the East Timor Commission for Reception, Truth and Reconciliation.

What are the implications of gendered violence for reconciliation? What, if any, efforts have been made to respond to the gendered dimension of violence and the needs of those most affected? What role can civil society play in raising awareness of these recommendations and putting pressure on national governments and/or international organisations to respond to specific recommendations?

  • Hannah Loney, The University of Melbourne, on the effects of Indonesian ‘New Order’ on issues of gender, femininity and sexuality. 
  • Kathryn Roberston, on gendering reconciliation (remote presentation)
  • Joviana Guterres, Asia Justice and Rights, on the case for reparations, what has been done to assist victims and survivors (remote presentation)
14.50-15.00 Break
15.00-16.00 Session 4

Round table on reconciliation, accountability and the role of the international community in post-conflict Timor-Leste

This session will be moderated by Bonny Ibhawoh who will also provide reflection and commentary based on his experience on truth and reconciliation in six African Nations. Chris Walker will provide a reflection and commentary on international engagement in Timor-Leste. 

16.00-16.10 Break
16.10-17.00 Final Plenary

During the final plenary session speakers and participants will identify key priorities/issues to be raised in a policy brief document to national governments and the international community to be co-authored by the event participants. 

18.00-21.00 Dinner for speakers – Siboire, 40 boulevard Jacques-Cartier Sud, Sherbrooke, 819-791-8440


List of Speakers

Amy Rothschild, a former legal counsel working with the Timorese truth commission CAVR, Amy Caroline Rothschild is an assistant professor at Ithaca College. She is author of, among other publications, an influential article in the International Journal of Transitional Justice (the leading journal of truth and reconciliation studies globally) about victims’ rights in Timor-Leste. Her work offers insight into how truth commissions can engage with the theme of past resistance to violence in ways that value rather than downplay the survivors of violence. 

Cintia Gillam is a graduate student studying international development in Timor-Leste. She is one of two graduate students in Canada with Timor-Leste topics, and her presence will assist in linking this workshop to current Timor-Leste student research in Canada. 

Chris Walker is a graduate student studying international development in Timor-Leste. He is one of two graduate students in Canada with Timor-Leste topics, and his presence will assist in linking this workshop to current Timor-Leste student research in Canada.

David Webster is a professor of History at Bishop’s University and editor of Flowers in the Wall: Truth and Reconciliation in Timor-Leste, Indonesia and Melanesia. 

Gaudêncio Soares Souza is the co-ordinatory for External Relations at Centro Nacional Chega!He obtained his University degree in the area of Political Sciences majoring in International Relations from the University of Dili (UNDIL). 

Hannah Loney is a Gilbert Postdoctoral Early Career Fellow in the School of Historical and Philosophical Studies at the University of Melbourne. Her research interests include women’s history, twentieth-century Southeast Asian and Pacific history, transnational activism, histories of violence, oral history, and international human rights. Hannah’s book, In Women’s Words: Violence and Everyday Life during the Indonesian Occupation of East Timor, 1975–1999, was published in 2018 by Sussex Academic Press.  

Hugo Maria Fernandes, Executive Director of Centro Nacional Chega! Hugo worked at the CAVR from 2002 to 2005 as a head of Truth-Seeking Division and Co-Managing Editor for Chega! Report. From 2005–2008, he worked as a Coordinator for Research Team and Co-Editor for the CTF Final Report, Per Memoriam Ad Spem. From 2008–2017, Hugo Fernandes worked at The Asia Foundation, Timor-Leste as Director of Public Policy and Institutional Strengthening Program and Team Leader for Support for Good Public Policy.

Bonny Ibhawoh is principal investigator on the project Confronting Atrocity: Truth Commissions, National Reconciliation and the Politics of Memory, a study of national truth commissions established in six African countries in the context of post-conflict reconstruction (Liberia, Sierra Leone, Rwanda) and democratic transition (Nigeria, Ghana, Kenya). His expertise on truth and reconciliation in Africa provides a valuable comparative perspective, allowing him to act as a commentator on Timor-Leste informed about truth and reconciliation processes globally

Jovito do Rêgo de Jesus Araújo, was a Commissioner in the Timor-Leste’s Commission for Reception, Truth, and Reconciliation (CAVR) from 2001–2005 and is now a board member of the follow-up institution Centro Nacional Chega! Fr. Jovito obtained his master degree from Gregorian University in Rome, Italy and is now working at the Diocese of Dili as an Episcopal Vicar for Pastoral Care of the Diocese of Dili.

Joviana Guterres, is program manager at Asia Justice and Rights Timor-Leste (AJAR). In Timor-Leste, AJAR works to empower its local partner organisations, most notably its sister organisation Asosiasaun Chega! ba ita (ACbit) to support victims’ groups, women in particular, to raise public awareness about the importance of learning from the past and to advocate for the protection of human rights.

Kathryn Robertson is currently Learning Manager at Ministry of Children and Family Development of British Columbia and a consultant to the women, peace and security programme of KAIROS Canada. She was previously a coordinator with the Asia Foundation in Timor-Leste, and worked on campaigns against impunity for human rights violators in Timor-Leste.

Lia Kent is a Fellow in the School of Regulation and Global Governance at the Australian National University. With a geographic focus on Timor-Leste (and more recently, Aceh and Sri Lanka), her research is concerned with the dynamics of peace-building, transitional justice, gender justice and memorialisation in the aftermath of mass violence.  Lia is the author of The Dynamics of Transitional Justice: International Models and Local Realities in East Timor (Routledge 2012) and a a co-editor (with Sue Ingram and Andrew McWilliam) of A New Era? Timor-Leste after the UN (ANU Press 2015). She has also published her work in journals including The International Journal of Transitional Justice, Human Rights Quarterly, the International Feminist Journal of Politics, and Third World Thematics.

Susanna Barnes is a former advisor to the Truth-Seeking Department of the Timor-Leste Commission for Reception, Truth and Reconciliation and assistant professor in the Department of Archaeology and Anthropology at the University of Saskatchewan.


Previous workshop (Ottawa, 2015)

A one-day workshop on “Truth, Memory and Reconciliation in Southeast Asia” will be held at the University of Ottawa on Thursday, October 15. The workshop is designed as collaborative research sharing between academics, Canadian advocates of human rights in Southeast Asia, and people directly involved in the two Southeast Asian cases to be studied. The workshop aims to explore the Timorese-Papuan comparison through an encounter of participants in, and analysts of, these struggles.

Location: University of Ottawa, Advanced Research Complex, room ARC 233.

Draft schedule:

(All organizational affiliations are listed for identification purposes only)

October 15, 9 am – 430 pm

9:15 welcome remarks

Session 1: 9:30 -10:30. Perspectives on Timor-Leste I.

Pat Walsh (former senior advisor to the Timor-Leste truth commission, CAVR): “Truth and Reconciliation in Timor-Leste 10 Years after the truth commission report”

Jacqueline Aquino Siapno (independent scholar/Universidade da Paz, Timor-Leste): “On Politika Taka Malu, Censorship, and Silencing: Virtuosos of clandestinity and one’s relationship to truth and memory.” (Click to view draft in progress.)

Session 2: 10:45-12:00. Perspectives on Timor-Leste II.

Bella Galhos (Civil Society and Social Affairs Advisor, Office of the President, Timor-Leste), “Women and Reconciliation in Timor-Leste”

Laurentina Barreto Soares (Swinburne University of Technology, Australia): “Development in Timor-Leste after independence”

Jess Agustin (Canadian Catholic Organization for Development and Peace): “Reconciliation, church, and peacebuilding”

Panels on Timor-Leste chaired by Micheline (Mika) Levesque, Canadian Catholic Organization for Development and Peace

12:00-13:00 lunch break

Session 3: 13:00-14:45. Perspectives on (West) Papua and Melanesia

Betty Lina Gigisi (former gender officer, Solomon Islands truth commission), tba

“BinSyowi: ‘the woman who loves’ – Women as guardians and weavers of peace in Biak, Papua”

Todd Biderman (Pacific Peoples Partnership), tba

David Webster (Bishop’s University): “The Clash of historical narratives in the Papua Conflict”

Ed McWilliams (West Papua Advocacy Team): “Time for A New U.S. Approach toward Indonesia and West Papua”

Session 4, 15:00-16:00. Perspectives on Indonesia

Bernd Schaefer (Cold War International History Project): “The Touchy Historiography of Indonesia 1965: Intractable Blockades?”

Baskara Wardaya SJ (Sanata Dharma University, Indonesia): “Reconciliation without Politics? The Case of Sekber ’65 in Solo, Indonesia”

Afternoon sessions chaired by April Ingham, Pacific Peoples’ Partnership

Session 5, 16:00-16:30. General discussion on ways forward for truth & reconciliation in Southeast Asia

Attendance is free and open to the public.

The workshop is possible through the support of the Canadian Council of Southeast Asian Studies. Several participants will take place in CCSEAS 2015 on Oct. 15-16. Please visit the CCSEAS site for information and to register for CCSEAS 2015.