East Timor’s President Gusmão Meets with Over 200 NGO’s to Define Their Role in the World’s Newest Country

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Zachary Metz of Consensus facilitates discussion between East Timor President and 200 Local NGOs.

East Timor’s President Xanana Gusmão engaged New York-based Consensus to facilitate discussions among himself and more than 200 non-governmental organizations (NGOs). As the president of the UN’s newest member state, Gusmão is working with local, as well as, international NGOs to create stability and prosperity in East Timor.

The two-day event, which took place in the nation’s capital, was designed and implemented by several conflict-resolution organizations, including Dili-based BELUN and Columbia University’s Center for International Conflict Resolution, with Consensus taking the lead role. It was funded by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), while the East Timor NGO Forum assisted in its organization.

According to President Gusmão, the program met its objectives and helped the disparate parties find commonality, manage expectations, and define critical next steps. “I’m both surprised and delighted at the success of this historic initiative,” remarked the President.

“This was a unique and exciting engagement,” reported Metz, who heads up Consensus’ International Peace-Building practice. “While challenging, I feel that we made significant contributions in helping East Timor secure its future. We addressed some of their most vital issues – from education to security, from vision to action – with the buy-in of some of the most important stakeholders in the country.”

East Timor won its independence from Indonesia in 1999, and grappled with Indonesian-backed anti-independence militia during the first months of its sovereignty. During that time, nearly all public buildings, homes, irrigation systems, water supply systems, and schools, as well as the country’s electrical grid, was destroyed by the militias. Australian-led peacekeeping troops of the International Force for East Timor (INTERFET) were deployed to the country and brought the violence to an end. In October 1999, the UN Security Council established the United Nations Transitional Administration in East Timor (UNTAET) to administer the country. Nearly three years later, former resistance fighter, Xanana Gusmão won the first presidential election in 2002, and East Timor was finally recognized internationally as an independent state.

In the years since, the world’s newest country has made enormous strides in terms of the creation of a vibrant culture of dialogue and political discourse, in addition to the pursuit of human rights and development. However, East Timor remains the poorest nation in Asia. The country is struggling to address a legacy of hundreds of years of systemic, exploitive underdevelopment, and the issues that face the political and community leaders are substantial.

As such, Consensus employed a unique, highly-participative approach to large-group problem solving. Originally developed for corporate decision making and problem solving and used by the likes of Boeing, US West, and Rockport, the framework is the cutting edge in international peace efforts and has been used by Metz in other high stakes engagements, such as resolving differences between Burmese political leaders and establishing common ground among Iraqi community leaders in the wake of the toppled Hussein government.

(Note to the editor: Consensus is available to provide supplemental information upon request)

Photos available upon request

About Consensus

Consensus is a consultancy that specializes in negotiation, conflict resolution, and peace-building. Comprised of negotiation and communication experts, the firm negotiates on behalf of clients, and facilitates conflict resolution strategies; they also provide customized negotiation and conflict-resolution training to professionals throughout a variety of industries and around the world. Its clients include Chevron, Goldman Sachs, and Pfizer, as well as the US Office on Government Ethics, Covenant House, and the New York Police Department. A privately held company, Consensus is headquartered in New York City.

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Website: http://www.consensusgroup.com

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