Today Australia became the first donor nation to sign an agreement with the World Bank to provide development assistance for East Timor. The signing of the $10 million agreement took place at AusAID in Canberra, between AusAID Director General, Mr Bruce Davis and World Bank Vice President Jean-Michel Severino. The World Bank and Asian Development Bank Trust Fund for East Timor is the major international funding mechanism for supporting East Timor's reconstruction and development.
Overall, Australia will provide East Timor with $75 million in development funding for this financial year. This includes $37 million in assistance for humanitarian programs and $25 million through international trust funds for reconstruction activities and in preparation for independence. Australians continue to make a valuable contribution to reconstruction and development in East Timor. They are to be admired for the invaluable work they perform in what is often a very challenging and, during the current monsoon period, a very wet environment.
The monsoon rains have brought with them an increase in health problems and caused a drop in the rate of refugees returning from West Timor. Maintaining law and order in East Timor is also a challenge. This appears mainly due to the high level of unemployment combined with a high expectation of job opportunities now there is a large international presence in East Timor. The problem should gradually ease as donor agencies increasingly shift their focus from humanitarian assistance to reconstruction and development and from program planning to project implementation.
Response to health concerns
The Australian Government is working with the World Health Organisation to establish a National Tuberculosis Control Program. This program will reduce mortality and morbidity resulting from TB. It will also allow East Timorese with TB to return home from West Timor and Australia secure in the knowledge that treatment will be available on their arrival. This project will lay the foundations for an ongoing and sustainable TB control program that will minimise the interruption of treatment and prevent the development of drug resistant strains of TB.
Australia will provide $1 million to establish an epidemic preparedness and response system in East Timor. The project will reduce the risk of loss of life from preventable illness by monitoring disease trends and warning of epidemics. East Timorese will be trained in the detection and treatment of disease outbreaks.
Promoting income generation and community activities
Community Activity Scheme
The recently established East Timor Community Assistance Scheme is channelling support through small development activities run by church groups and local NGOs. The scheme is flexible and can respond quickly to eligible proposals for grants of up to $10,000 for projects that will reduce poverty. Requests for $20,000 from organisations with a strong track record will also be considered.
Planning for future reconstruction and development
Joint Assessment Mission
In late 1999, the World Bank led a Joint Assessment Mission (JAM) to assess the situation in East Timor and propose a medium to long-term strategy for reconstruction and development. An international donors meeting was held in Tokyo in December 1999 to discuss the JAM and to agree on the establishment of trust funds for development projects for East Timor. Australia attended this meeting and pledged $25 million for reconstruction and development trust funds for East Timor this financial year.
Project design missions
The World Bank has requested Australian participation in a series of project design missions across a range of sectors. One recent example saw an Australian invited to participate in the appraisal of the Community Empowerment Project. This is a community level project aimed at enhancing the ability of East Timorese to manage reconstruction and rehabilitation of small-scale infrastructure. Over the next few months Australians will participate in missions in the priority sectors of education, health, agriculture and water and sanitation.
Promoting Australian assistance
Australian Personnel for UNTAET
AusAID is providing UNTAET with quality staff under a special arrangement with Australian Volunteers International (AVI). Under the AusAID funded arrangement, known as the Staffing Assistance Program for East Timor (SAPET), AVI uses its volunteers database to find staff with the expertise UNTAET needs to provide capacity building training and technical advice. SAPET is proving to be an effective way for highly skilled Australians to become directly involved in East Timor's reconstruction and development.
Offers of Goods and Services
AusAID continues to receive offers of assistance for East Timor from businesses, community groups and concerned individuals. AusAID is facilitating contact between people donating goods and services and organisations providing assistance in East Timor. These organisations are best placed to match offers with East Timor's needs and to assist with distribution. A number of Australian companies are donating goods and services by working directly with non-government organisations and UN agencies.
Opportunities for Australian Business
Significant opportunities for Australian businesses will emerge as development activities increase in East Timor. The Australian Trade Commission, Austrade, is providing information on tender opportunities with UN agencies and the World Bank, the organisations responsible for administering Australia's financial interests. In April 2000, Austrade will conduct a series of seminars in capital cities for Australian businesses wanting to learn more about the reconstruction process in East Timor and where business opportunities may arise. Further information is available at Austrade's web site: www.austrade.gov.au
Former AusAID Counsellor appointed to UNTAET
Ms Catherine Walker, former AusAID Counsellor in Rome, has been appointed to the aid coordinator position within the office of the Special Representative of the Secretary General within UNTAET.
Ms Walker will work closely with the head of UNTAET, Mr Sergio Vieria de Mello, on the complex task of coordinating humanitarian and development assistance to East Timor.