In May 2014, Counterpart International conducted a survey for the Ba Distrito project in Timor Leste to serve as a baseline for assessing citizens’ knowledge of, satisfaction with, and confidence in local government structures and services. These results inform the development and adaptation of interventions to ensure government responsiveness to citizen needs and expectations.

Implemented by Counterpart International between March and May 2014, the survey is based on interviews with 958 randomly selected informants in 22 sucos (villages) throughout the three districts of Baucau, Covalima and Oecusse.

This study highlights topics critical to citizens’ democratic orientation and participation in community development. The study investigates four themes:

  1. Citizen understanding of their role in the political processes
  2. Citizen knowledge and awareness of decentralization in Timor Leste (including Suco legislation)
  3. Citizen knowledge of the roles and responsibilities of sucos, and their expectation and satisfaction with the suco service provision.
  4. Citizen access to justice

A fifth, cross-cutting theme, citizen perception, understanding and agreement with concepts of gender equality and the participation of women, youth and minorities in decision making around development priorities, was integrated into the survey design process.

Key findings of this survey included that there was strong and almost equal support for the following views, likely reflecting social changes currently underway in Timor-Leste:

  • the view that traditional leaders should make development decisions, and
  • the view that elected suco officials should make decisions, and
  • that both genders should be involved equally.

While just under half of respondents had heard of the government of Timor Leste’s Decentralization and Pre-deconcentration plans, a great majority of respondents felt they have the ability to attend succo meetings to discuss development opportunities. However, males were more likely to feel that they had the opportunity to have their voices heard.

Although the majority of respondents perceived the courts favorably, across nine outcomes respondents ranked suco dispute resolution forums higher than the formal justice system.