"This project is interesting because it basically says, you (the community) make a decision of putting together a group that can represent you to make decisions on how you will spend resources, and when you have done that we will provide those resources and you can get on with it," said Wolfensohn at a press conference yesterday. "It's not us deciding, it's the communities deciding."
The grant agreement signed for the Community Empowerment and Local Governance Project (CEP) totaled US$7 million for activities through August/September 2000. Additional funds of US$1.5 million have already been given by the Government of Japan through the World Bank Post-Conflict Fund and US$1 million from the Asian Development Bank. The total planned budget of the project is US$21.5 million over 2.5 years. The CEP is the first project to be financed by the World Bank-administered Trust Fund for East Timor.
"The main purpose of the this first project is to provide local communities with a predominant say in the setting up of priorities and the choice of projects that they believe are in the interest of the local communities," said De Mello at the grant signing.
Wolfensohn and other World Bank delegation members met with village communities in Manatuto to discuss the CEP. Wolfensohn was strongly affected by the level of destruction in Manatuto and gave assurances to concerned community members that funds would be ready for disbursement immediately after the grant agreement signing.
Following the signing of the agreement, initial grants of US$15,000 will be given to communities upon completing the democratic selection of village and sub-district councils in March. Each village council will be composed of one man and one woman from each hamlet; each sub-district council will be composed of one man and one woman from each village council.
"What East Timorese people want more than anything is to rebuild their lives and to rebuild their confidence for their future," said Gusmao at the signing of the agreement. "And to allow UNTAET and ourselves to start all the preconditions to a democratic society in which independence will mean the participation of our communities."
After the grant agreement signing Wolfensohn met privately with De Mello and with the CNRT to discuss the CEP and other World Bank operations in East Timor.
"I think that this initial program is a really excellent example of cooperation between us but more importantly an indication of how we can work with the East Timorese people," said Wolfensohn.
Other components of the CEP include cultural heritage preservation and a civil society development fund that supports rural non-governmental organizations in their work for poverty reduction, environmental protection, community health, and public information.
"We are also anxious in this project to preserve cultural heritage because for a society to rebuild itself, a recognition of its culture is absolutely essential to the moral strength of the people. Also in this project we will have a small amount to help civil society to develop," said Wolfensohn.
The Asian Development Bank (ADB) is working closely with World Bank on community development projects under the Trust Fund for East Timor. The CEP is the first project to be signed under the Trust Fund. The World Bank and the ADB have also been working in partnership with Community Aid Abroad (OXFAM Australia) on project preparation.
In addition to community development projects, the World Bank is working closely with UNTAET, the East Timorese people and contributing donors on job creation projects, small and medium enterprise, education, health, infrastructure, economic capacity building, and urban planning.
For more information on the World Bank in East Timor go to: http://www.worldbank.org/eap
In Dili: Lucy S. Oh 0407-712-153
In Washington: Loty Salazar (202) 458-2559