2022, Report Promoting Sustainable Tourism Futures in Timor-Leste by Creating Synergies between Food, Place, and People |

Situated approximately an hour’s flying time north of Darwin, Australia, the Democratic Republic of Timor-Leste, is one of the world’s youngest nations. Timor-Leste is geographically a small country comprising approximately 15,000 square kilometres of the eastern half of Timor Island, a small number of offshore islands and an exclave situated on the northern coast of West Timor. Timor-Leste is home to just over a million people and has one of the youngest populations in the Asia-Pacific region (median age 17.4 years; Government of Timor-Leste, 2019). After centuries of colonial administration and decades of hostile occupation, Timor-Leste became a sovereign, independent nation in 2002. However, despite its rich natural resources and significant economic, health and education gains since 2002, Timor-Leste remains classified by the United Nations as a ‘least developed country’ and continues to face the myriad of challenges associated with this.

In 2014, nearly 42 percent of the citizens of Timor-Leste were living in poverty (World Bank, 2020). In 2018, Timor-Leste ranked 131 out of 189 countries and territories on the Human Development Index, which assesses long-term progress on life expectancy, education and per capita income. There are also numerous urgent gender concerns, including pervasive gender-based violence, high maternal mortality, and significant gender gaps in labour market and local governance participation (United Nations Development Program, 2019). When employment fell to 89.6 percent in 2010 (from 91.5% in 2004), women and rural areas were most affected, with the employment rate for women falling 5.3 percent compared to 0.2 percent for men (Ministry of Finance, 2010). Gender inequality is a significant obstacle to socio-economic development and needs to be addressed as an imperative for Timor-Leste’s sustainable development.

Organisations: The Asia Foundation Authors: