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18.9.2021 : 8:35 : +0200


Urban Violence in an Urban Village: A Case Study of Dili


Geneva Declaration Working Paper

edited by Robert Muggah

Over the past six decades Dili has seen sudden outbursts of collective armed violence on numerous occasions, characterized by elevated homicide rates (including revenge killings), severe and widespread trauma, the degradation of infrastructure, forced and opportunistic migration, land grabs and disputes, and a widespread sense of social injustice and impunity

This Geneva Declaration Working Paper reviews the causes and symptoms of urban violence in Dili, Timor-Leste, with a special focus on historical developments that have shaped current violence dynamics and risk factors. Based on a randomized household survey, focus group interviews, and an extensive literature review, it argues that the city’s history—as well as its complex political, economic, and social ties with the surrounding rural areas—are crucial to understanding the factors that shape urban violence in Dili.

Among the study’s specific findings:

  • Each outbreak of collective urban violence has contributed to the progressive militarization of Timorese society.
  • Urban violence in Dili can quickly and unexpectedly shift from interpersonal to collective.
  • Government interventions to deter urban violence tend to be short term, relying on coercive and security-led interventions, rather than preventative.
  • ‘Urban’ violence in Dili is often fundamentally connected to grievances in rural areas, and vice versa.
  • Dili should be understood as an ‘urban village’—a set of interconnected and clustered villages acting as extensions of rural communities in an urbanized setting.

 ‘Urban Violence in an Urban Village’ is a publication of the Geneva Declaration on Armed Violence and Development project.  The study was supported by the Australian Government's Overseas Aid Programme (AUSAID) and actionaid.

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