Belun and CICR


Location: Timor-Leste
Organizations Involved:
Belun Center for International Conflict Resolution
Author: David Yamron, Search for Common Ground & Sofia Miranda, Independent Consultant

This case study centers on the NGO Belun, headquartered in Dili, Timor-Leste. The unique story of its inception in the early 2000s; its organizational development over the course of a USAID grant; its transition from international to local leadership; and its ability to survive and even thrive up to the present day make it an excellent case for analysis.

Indeed, Belun’s survival through aid shocks, political crises, and the shifting winds of international development financing is testament both to the foundations laid by the staff of Columbia University’s Center for International Conflict Resolution (CICR), and the decisions and character of its Timorese staff, both pre- and post-transition.

Crucial to understanding Belun’s story is understanding the context surrounding it. While this is true for all the SAS cases, it is particularly true in Timor-Leste, a small and isolated country with a tumultuous past. Research for this case study was conducted by two SAS researchers in accordance with the SAS research methodology.


This case study is an example of a local organization – Belun – being gradually established over the course of a five- year USAID project. In this case, the project was implemented by an international academic institution, CICR of Columbia University. This process of “Timorization” entailed systematic capacity development alongside a phasing out of international support and leadership.

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