Most of the population in Timor-Leste lives in rural areas, 86% of which is poor. More than 50% of land is forested, and mineral resources, in particular hydrocarbons, are the primary source of income in Timor-Leste, while agriculture accounts for about 32% of the total GDP.
The Constitution of Timor-Leste recognizes equal rights between men and women, the right to private property for national citizens and the right to just compensation in case of expropriation by the government. It also recognizes customary rights, as long as they do not contradict the constitution or formal laws. Ministerial Regulation No.229/2008 sets the basis for land claims data collection and is considered the first step for the development of a comprehensive land law and policy.
The primary reasons for land disputes in Timor-Leste are represented by intra-family or inheritance disputes, expropriation of land by government, claims for land use and conflicting interest for the same parcel of land. Customary authorities generally deal with land disputes, although the lack of a formal procedures for resolving conflicts remain an open issue.