Inequality and poverty and not religion and extremism are the biggest drivers of conflict in fragile countries, East Timor's independence hero warns.
Former prime minister and president Xanana Gusmao believes there are lessons for world leaders to learn from his nation's road to stability that can be applied to current conflicts.
The international community's blanket approach to fragile nations was failing because it didn't respond to the unique reality of individual situations, he said.
The former guerilla fighter, 68, said the accepted narrative that much of the conflict in fragile states was driven by religion and extremism was too simplistic. Conflict and fragility were being driven by poor and marginalised people who had lost hope in a better future.
"It is the daily humiliations and indignities they endure that breed resentment and fuel disillusionment," Mr Gusmao said in a speech to the Australian National University in Canberra on Monday night.
Mr Gusmao, who led East Timor to its independence since 2002, has taken up a new post as planning and strategic investment minister.
East Timor will not meet a single one of the UN's Millennium Development Goals which expire in 2015. He believes the main reason the goals have failed the poorest nations of the world is because they did not acknowledge the link between poverty, fragility and conflict.
East Timor had struggled to break out of a cycle of conflict and violence and each outbreak had destroyed development progress. It quickly learnt that developing resilience and securing peace was integral to nation building.
Stability came with a price tag, such as pensions for veterans, widows, the disabled and the elderly and grants to villages to repair bridges, schools, medical clinics and local roads, Mr Gusmao said.
"I have been blamed for buying peace but I am happy to be criticised for supporting families to get a home, get rice, an education for their children and medical care."