Timor Leste: Will USAID Land Tenure Program ensure clearer Land Titles?

Timor Leste: Will USAID Land Tenure Program ensure clearer Land Titles?

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Land Ownership Law Timor Leste
USAID Timor Leste

Came across this USAID project looking for land tenure and policy experts. Areas of expertise required:

  • Governance/performance improvement of land administration
  • Legal aspects of land ownership
  • Curriculum design for land administration training
  • Land use planning including GIS
  • Land conflict including protected land issues
  • Knowledge of Timor’s rural and formal and informal urban land tenure systems
  • Understanding of informal and formal land administrative relationships at the national, regional and local level


Complicated Land History

Digging a bit deeper one comes to realize Timor-Leste has quite a colored land management history. According to USAID:

Formal and customary land rights are in a state of transition resulting from years of colonization, occupation, and unrest. The periods when Timor-Leste was the Portuguese colony, Timor, and the subsequent absorption into Indonesia were marked by the application of differing and often conflicting property régimes as well as appropriation and redistribution of land and displacement of people. This situation was further exacerbated by the removal and/or destruction of most public records, and the destruction of buildings, during the violent withdrawal of Indonesian forces in 1999.

The vast majority of people occupy properties in Timor-Leste where they have no formal title. However, their ownership of these properties is largely undisputed.

Due to the absence of a recognized land law, there is not yet a formal system to record private ownership by individuals. The Timor-Leste government developed the land bill with the assistance of USAID‘s SPRTL project, which has established processes for recording claims.

The Ministry of Justice since 2003 to develop a comprehensive land law and policy through the SPRTL(Strengthening Property Rights in Timor-Leste) project. Through the support of this project, significant strides have been made in the development of property rights in Timor-Leste, including the establishment of a claims collection process that will serve as the basis for property rights once a land policy and legal framework are put in place.

Read the full paper below for complete story.

This is a positive start to untangling, clarifying and rationalizing land ownership. Only when land ownership laws are clear and takes into consideration longer time frames will established foreign investors participate in investments requiring land ownership. Otherwise only a limited number who are very knowledgeable, well-connected or daring will willingly come in.

Download (PDF, 474KB)



Photo: USAID TImor-Leste


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