USAID Field Report East Timor 15 Jan 2000
Bureau for Humanitarian Response
Office of Transition Initiatives
East Timor has successfully separated, at a high human cost, from Indonesia and the international aid effort is in full swing. So far, there are some positive gestures for reconciliation. The head of the National Commission for Timor Resistance (CNRT), Xanana Gusmao, traveled to Jakarta to meet with President Wahid and others in the Government of Indonesia (GOI). Indonesia has recently begun tough questioning of military officers responsible for the heavy-handed policies of the past as well as the destruction and deaths following the East Timor referendum. There are rising concerns about the huge disparities between the international community and East Timorese civil society, with resources trickling slowly to local institutions and organizations. That said, there is little conflict to speak of and all parties seem to be working with the best of intentions.
As of January 10, 2000, East Timor returnees totaled about 130,000. Up to 80 percent of the population is unemployed. Most who are employed are working for the UN, other international organizations, or international entrepreneurs catering to foreigners (floating hotels, restaurants). Many local Timorese are unhappy with their wages, which they perceive as unfair in relation to the wages of their expatriate colleagues. A recent labor dispute involving local employees of the International Organization of Migration (IOM) and the World Food Program (WFP) was resolved last week, in part by raising local salaries. To address employment concerns, the UN mission in E. Timor (UNTAET) is gearing up for the implementation of Quick Impact Projects (QIPs), operated under the auspices of OCHA, UNHCR, AusAid, the World Bank and the UNTAET Trust Fund. The QIPs will "lay the foundations for long-term development and community empowerment... Agencies [including the CNRT] have agreed that QIPs should be labor-intensive, reflect community priorities and include the active participation of women" (UNTAET Report, Jan 7, 2000). The first QIP projects will begin in the district of Liquica.
Dengue fever and malaria are endemic in East Timor. Most of the participants in OTI's December 18 - 22 Media Training at Hotel Tourismo fell ill with dengue. Many others, including expatriates, are contracting both dengue fever and malaria.
A. Grants Activity Summary
Since late October 1999, OTI has approved 27 in-kind grants totaling $827,730 for activities in East Timor. Most of these grants provided in-kind equipment, transportation, communications, and supplies for local NGOs whose offices were destroyed during the crisis. In-kind provisions included office rehabilitation supplies, vehicles, communications, equipment, and supplies. Activities varied from human rights advocacy and women's issues, trauma counseling, healthcare, water and sanitation, emergency food and non-food distribution, refugee assistance, shelter rehabilitation, local cultural programs, agriculture assistance, small enterprise activities, environmental projects, vocational and technical education. Grants included assistance for information dissemination to East Timorese refugees in West Timor, and an analysis in Jakarta of East Timor media coverage.
Numerous proposals are currently under review - including a proposal from UNTAET and the CNRT to establish a Media Training Center, as well as several proposals to start-up a daily newspaper to be circulated throughout the country.
A very successful media training activity was held in late December and attended by 30 East Timorese media professionals. Nobel Peace Laureate and CNRT Vice-President Dr. Jose Ramos-Horta was the guest-of-honor at the training, which made international news (December 19 The Australian and December 22 AFP articles). On December 22, 1999, at the end of the 5-day workshop, participants drafted a declaration for the formation of the Timor Lorosae Journalists Association (TLJA).
B. Office Start-up
OTI's East Timor office is now open and fully functional. A staff residence house has also been rented, is undergoing rehabilitation, and will be ready for occupancy in February. OTI's SWIFT contractor, Development Alternatives, has a full time Program Manager in East Timor, Mr. Getu Reta, who has hired 5 local East Timorese staff (project development specialist, secretary, logistician, driver, and office assistant). A temporary administrative assistant has been hired from Jakarta until a suitable East Timorese candidate is found. OTI's Country Director Justin Sherman will officially begin work in February. Until the office is completely staffed and trained, OTI staff in Jakarta will oversee operations, including grant writing.
OTI is coordinating activities with UNTAET agencies (primarily OCHA), other donors (primarily CIDA-Canadian Aid and AUSaid), the East Timor NGO Forum, and other local and international NGOs. Other donors have expressed keen interest in continuing longer-term support for many of the local NGOs initially funded by OTI.
Next Steps/Immediate Priorities
OTI expects the East Timor office to be fully operational (housing rehabilitated, full and trained staff) by late February. Currently, outreach, grant implementation, activity monitoring, and coordination are being supported by OTI staff in Jakarta.
An Internews representative, Loren Ross, and OTI Program Manager from Jakarta, Patty Friedman will travel to Dili to finalize the Internews media assessment of East Timor. Internews has budgeted for a number of media activities in East Timor, including a media law assessment due to begin in late January and community radio projects to begin in February.
The OTI office is located in the Australian INTERFED compound, and staff are receiving visitors (mainly local NGOs). Currently, OTI staff are using a rental vehicle.
Most of OTI grantees have received the first deliveries of equipment/supplies (computers, stationary, basic office supplies). Additional supplies include building reconstruction materials (corrugated iron sheets, paint, electrical wire and plugs). Wood is available locally but extremely expensive.
The World Bank and IMF are in East Timor undertaking a follow-up needs assessment to create a Timorese bank, and discuss the possibility of other banks considering operations in East Timor.
Large amounts of construction materials are arriving at the port in Dili, and are being stocked in various warehouses in small towns across East Timor. Nevertheless, significant construction has not yet started (limited to small houses and rehabilitation efforts).