State-building has been seen as the path to both security and development in East Timor. State-building, however, has been approached as an exercise in the transfer of key liberal institutions, with relatively little attention paid by either relevant international agencies or the East Timorese government to situating these institutions within a social context. In particular, there has been little effort on the part of central institutions to engage with local, community and customary governance. Building a state in which people do not feel at home and where they do not speak the language of governance threatens to marginalise the majority of the population and is not a recipe for nationhood, democracy or security. Nation-building, by contrast, could suggest a renewed emphasis on the vital connection between central government and people, in which legitimacy is embedded and active citizenship is possible. Thus conceived, nation-building requires processes of communication and exchange that effectively include rural people, their values, practices and concerns, as a nation of citizens requires some shared language and institutions of political community.
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