By Sukehiro Hasegawa
In post-conflict Timor-Leste, primordial leadership proved to be the key to building sustainable peace. It facilitated national ownership and accountability, helping national leaders to successfully turn the security crises of 2006 and 2008 into opportunities for fostering respect for democratic governance. This change in mindset and the ensuing spirit of national unity were instrumental in achieving peace and stability – rather than the externally induced, exclusive efforts in building institutional frameworks for the rule of law and democratic governance.
Indeed, while the application of democratic principles is necessary in the long term, it alone is not sufficient for building sustainable peace in an immediate post-conflict period. Timor-Leste was successful only because of its leaders’ commitment to national interest, identity and unity; ability to harmonize the universal ideals and principles of governance with local community values and customs; passion and courage to empower others; willingness to pursue the future rather than the past; and capability to transform the mindset and mentality of people.
Sukehiro Hasegawa is former Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General for Timor-Leste (2004–2006) and professor of global politics in the faculty of law, Hosei University (2007–2013). He is currently a visiting professor of Hosei University and United Nations University.