east timor

Our work in East Timor

Published: 17 June 2009 Updated: 5 September 2014

Sweden's efforts in East Timor have focused on education and democratic governance. An important part of the Swedish support is used to build up the country's electoral system, which was put to the test in 2012’s presidential and parliamentary elections, considered to be free and fair by election monitors. In accordance with the decision of the Swedish government, Sida is phasing out its bilateral cooperation until December 2013.

The aim of Sweden’s development cooperation with East Timor is to reduce poverty, increase opportunities for peace and security and to contribute to greater respect for human rights. Our areas of co-operation are based on East Timor’s own priorities and are built on our analyses of the country’s situation, made in accordance with other players.

One important focus of Sweden’s support is to contribute to sustainable capacity development and to strengthened institutions. The rights of children, youths and women are to be given particular attention.

In late 2010, the Swedish government decided to phase out its bilateral cooperation with East Timor. The reason is the government’s strategy to focus development cooperation on fewer countries. The decision means that no further payments are to be made after 2013.

Sweden does not have an embassy in East Timor and the political development is followed from our embassy in Indonesia. Nor has Sida any staff on site. We are therefore concentrating on fewer contributions, which are channelled through the UN organisations UNICEF and UNDP.

A strengthened judicial sector

In East Timor, access to the judicial system is limited, particularly for people who live in rural areas and for women and children. Many people are not aware of their basic rights and have little or no experience of democratic processes. The judicial system has still got serious shortcomings, mainly due to the lack of educated East Timorese.

To reach the most vulnerable groups, we are working to improve the capacity and structure at the local and regional level. We are doing this partly by supporting the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).The UNDP-run Justice System Program (JSP) is working to create a democratic judicial system in East Timor. Judges, prosecutors and lawyers have been trained and a basic data system has been created for all of the judicial systems’ authorities in the capital Dili.

Sweden also supports Provedoria, East Timor’s institution for justice and human rights. It is an ombudsman function to which the East Timorese can complain about unfair treatment, human rights abuses and corruption. The ombudsman is independent and conducts its own investigations. Provedoria has installed boxes where people can leave their complaints in all the country's 13 districts and it has offices in four cities outside Dili.

Sweden has also provided support to build up East Timor's electoral system. The 2007 elections were the first national elections to be held after independence. A well-functioning electoral system is a fundamental prerequisite in a democratic system. The Swedish aid helps building and supporting the country’s own electoral authorities and electoral system, and thus contributes to free, fair and transparent elections. The entire voting system was put to the test during the presidential and parliamentary elections in 2012, which were conducted in a peaceful and qualified way.


The education system in East Timor has been subjected to many ordeals. During the Portuguese colonial era, the school system was highly neglected and as late as 1950 only five per cent of the population knew how to read and write.

During the 1999 conflict, 80 per cent of all school buildings were destroyed and many teachers fled. The educational system was however a priority during the reconstruction and it was soon back to the same standard.

The level of education in East Timor is still low. Around half of the adults have not gone to school and illiteracy is widespread among elderly people and women. Between 10 and 30 per cent of all children never start primary school, and many do not complete all six classes.

To enable more children to get education and to improve teaching, Sweden supports the work of the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) in East Timor. UNICEF operates several projects that work to improve the quality of and increase access to primary education, including teacher training, curriculum development and school supplies.

Read more about developments in East Timor.

Page owner: The Communication Department

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