Educating Young People in Timor-Leste

Youth for Human Rights provides human rights education to the world’s first sovereign nation born in the 21st century.

After hundreds of years of Portuguese colonial rule and 24 years of Indonesian occupation, and its aftermath that left hundreds of thousands of people homeless or dead and destroyed most of the country’s homes and schools, the new nation of Timor-Leste emerged in 2002 as the world’s first sovereign nation born in the 21st century.

With continued conflict, the fledgling nation was under a succession of UN peacekeeping missions from the start, and in 2006 the UN Security Council authorized a 3,000-strong peacekeeping force: the UN Integrated Mission in Timor-Leste.

Youth for Human Rights arrived in Timor-Leste in 2009 when the organization introduced the materials to the country’s President. The UN mission in the capital city of Dili embraced the program—What are Human Rights? booklet, The Story of Human Rights documentary film, Public Service Announcements, and the comprehensive curriculum.

The materials were translated into Tetum, the language of 85% of the population, and the movement took off with the support of the UN mission. Students and adults in nongovernmental organizations and youth centers were trained in the Youth for Human Rights curriculum so they in turn could teach the program, guided by a slogan of their own creation: “Human Rights now, discrimination no!”

At the heart of the program is the United Nations Universal Declaration with its 30 articles that promote peace, understanding and respect among all peoples. To infuse the new country with these principles, Youth for Human Rights teams led by young Timorese leaders distributed tens of thousands of booklets and conducted seminars for thousands of students. Utilizing the materials on DVD in Portuguese, English and Tetum, they trained more leaders in community centers, schools and social clubs throughout the country.

Pedro Marques, 20, personifies the best of the new generation of Timor. Once a member of a violent gang, he embraced Youth for Human Rights in high school and now delivers inspiring programs throughout the nation, championing human rights as the answer to the future of Timor.

As the liberating and unifying principles of the Universal Declaration spread, they are a factor in bringing long-desired peace and stability to the nation of Timor-Leste. As one villager said to the children surrounding him as he read the list of rights to them, “The booklets contain the freedoms for which your elders fought.”


  • 1. Some 27 million people are currently trafficked internationally.

  • 2. The average cost of a slave is $90.

  • 3. Human trafficking is the largest human rights violation in the history of mankind.

  • 4. Human trafficking is the world’s second largest criminal enterprise, after drug smuggling and arms dealing.

  • 5. An estimated 80% of trafficking is sexual exploitation, and 20% is labor exploitation.


Join the international human rights movement by becoming a member of United for Human Rights. UHR assists individuals, educators, organizations and governmental bodies in all parts of the world to raise awareness of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.