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Joint Statement on Aid to East Timor

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ACT NOW FOR EAST TIMOR
The following is a joint statement from national and international NGOs for the Tokyo meeting on East Timor

East Timor: one chance to get it right

"I walked four hours to vote for independence, I walked four hours home. On my walk home I could see smoke and I knew that it was my house burning. But it was worth it to vote. I can rebuild my house. We had only one chance to vote". -- (Klaus Rohland quoting an East Timorese man he spoke with during the World Bank Joint Assessment Mission)

The East Timorese people had one chance to vote for independence and they paid a high price for it. After 25 years of neglect and compromise, the international community has its chance to help rebuild East Timor at the donors meeting in Tokyo on December 17th.

East Timorese and international NGOs consider the meeting of 17th of December vital to establish the mechanisms by which the international community must support the successful transition of East Timor to independence. Independence must include the reconstruction of physical and social infrastructures, and the reconciliation of its people. The safe return of refugees is also an precondition to the independence process.

East Timorese NGOs, with the assistance of their international partners, will play an important part in this process by delivering programs at local level, enhancing the skills of community groups and individuals, re-establishing Timorese institutions, and monitoring that macro level policies and commitments are effectively implemented at community level.

The NGOs are concerned that:

  • A dual economy marginalising East Timorese is beginning to emerge;
  • Current development proposals appear predominantly urban biased, when rural development and agriculture should be stressed;
  • A large disparity exists between estimated administrative expense budgets and development budgets.
The NGOs consider the following to be imperative:

1. East Timorese Participation

East Timorese from all sectors of society and from both sexes must determine the development of East Timor, not external donors and policy makers. Participation means that decision-making and resources are decentralized to urban and rural areas outside Dili, also to reflect regional differences in needs, resources and perspectives.

Mechanisms must be created for local participation in all decisions concerning the composition and nature of assistance, and development planning and implementation.

Priority should be given to creating effective means for the dissemination of information to communities, using educational institutions, community groups and public media.

2. From emergency to reconstruction

The reconstruction needs of East Timor are large. So are the urgent ones associated with the current emergency. On the basis of more than 30 assessments the UN has made an appeal for $199 million dollars to cover the cost of emergency and transitional programs for the nine months from October 15th until the end of June 2000. As of November 12th little more than one third of the appeal has been funded. Less than 20% of the needed funds for transport of returnees, medical screenings, registration to help families be reunited, and the provision of emergency assistance including food and water, non food emergency items, and shelter materials have been pledged. But support for humanitarian assistance does not mean exemption from support to long-term development.

The international community must provide the funds to avert a serious humanitarian crisis, and for reconstruction work, to avoid protracted dependency, especially in terms of food security.

3. A debt free East Timor

East Timor must not start its independent future as a nation in debt. Over the last 25 years the international community has consistently failed the East Timorese people. In Tokyo it has the opportunity to discharge its obligations and give support to this critical phase of reconstruction, and beyond.

Development assistance at this stage must be in the form of grants, not loans.

4. Building the future

The rebuilding of East Timor will be immense task. The international donor community must now guarantee that the priorities identified by the World Bank Joint Assessment Mission are translated into practice.

The quantity of aid must be sufficient. Development assistance must be appropriate and coordinated, and built on a coherent model and a strategic vision.

4.1. Human Rights and Reconciliation

Donors must contribute to the establishment of institutions and programs necessary for the realization of civil, political, cultural, social and economic rights, to which CNRT has made a formal commitment. Labour and land rights, and the local control of assets should be at the heart of economic recovery. The rights to a safe and voluntary repatriation of the East Timorese still displaced in West Timor and other parts of Indonesia must remain a priority.

Tangible support to human rights is an integral part of the process of justice, reconciliation and peace building. Education is one of the main routes to reconciliation, and to the full understanding of human rights by the East Timorese people.
Donors should prioritize human rights and justice, peace-building and reconciliation initiatives at government, civil society and especially at community level. Without this long-lasting peace and sustainable development are not possible.

4.2 Encouraging civil society

Civil society has an important actual and potential role in East Timor. Such potential cannot be realized without the necessary resources. In the short term a strong civil society will help ensure that UNTAET, CNRT and other public institutions are effective, transparent and accountable. In the longer term, it will provide a means for East Timorese to gain wider experience in plural politics. Support for local initiatives will also help cultural and spiritual rebuilding.

The international community must assist local NGOs and community structures to build their own capacity and, to build human resources in the country.

4.3 Women's perspectives and needs

Women have experienced much violence - including domestic violence - and human rights abuses. They also experience discrimination in health, education, land ownership and agricultural production, and participation in public life. Gender based inequalities and their root causes must be challenged through appropriate institutional means. Children's rights have been severely undermined.

Donors should give active support to women's organizations and women leaders, in all development sectors. Children's rights must be urgently considered.

4.4 The environment

Years of neglect and misguided development have severely damaged the rich and varied natural environment of East Timor. Sustainable economic recovery requires the conservation and protection of natural resources.

Donors must support programs containing enforceable mechanisms for the conservation and protection of natural resources, and include strategies for environmental and occupational health.

4.5 Social Impact of Aid

The World Bank Joint Mission's report warns that the presence of the UN and of other international agencies creates distortions in the allocation of capital and labour, and brings other adverse social impacts. Salary levels, rents, and local sourcing are important issues that must be resolved. Culture, local languages and other expressions of East Timorese identity, in all its diversity, must be respected.

Systems must be instituted to monitor and address the social impacts of development assistance.

4.6 Donor Coordination

As the Joint Assessment Mission recognized, donor coordination is essential for effective reconstruction, and to avoid gaps, duplication and inefficiencies in the use of external resources.

Donor coordination and the support of indigenous and other models for cooperation within and between legitimate social groups must be given due consideration and support.

5. Conclusions

The international community has the obligation to assist East Timor in its efforts to stem the current humanitarian crisis and to lay the foundations for a smooth transition to reconstruction. It also has the duty to meet timely and fully the costs of reconstruction and development. This Tokyo meeting is the international community's chance to make amend for the years of neglect and broken promises, and to invest in the stability and viability of a just new East Timorese state.

Tokyo, 16th December 1999