For many observers, state-building in Timor-Leste has overlooked and undermined local norms and governance practices, resulting in a potentially destabilising distance between citizens and the state. The emerging state justice system has been singled out for imposing inaccessible and alien institutions onto a population that has historically fought to retain its identity. Nonetheless, viewing access to justice as central to development and peace, local and international organisations continue to work to aid the equitable and swift resolution of disputes. Drawing upon qualitative fieldwork that examined a recent legal aid and paralegal programme, this article argues that some of these efforts are addressing earlier criticisms through the creation of practical hybrids; practices that use both imported and existing social norms to fulfil their clients’ needs. However, the article concludes that such programmes should identify opportunities to introduce checks and balances that can further protect the vulnerable groups.
Kirk, T. Taking Local Agency Seriously: Practical Hybrids and Domestic Violence in Timor-Leste. International Journal on Minority and Group Rights (2015) 22 (3) 435-458. [DOI: 10.1163/15718115-02203007]