Statement by the UK Delegation - East Timor Donor Meeting

News and Press Release
Originally published
From the Department for International Development 00/99


The events which followed the consultation on 30 August were a tragedy for the people of East Timor. Any emerging independent nation faces multiple challenges; the displacement of a large proportion of the population, and the destruction of much of its infrastructure, have added significantly to the problems East Timor will face in moving towards independence.

The international community's response to the crisis in Timor was swift - through support for the United Nations Force, through contributions to the consolidated humanitarian appeal, and through bilateral initiatives in support of NGOs and others working to help the East Timorese deal with the immediate aftermath of the crisis. As a friend of the East Timorese people, the UK was proud to be able to deploy a re-inforced company group of Ghurka soldiers, and to make available £5.5 million for immediate humanitarian assistance. That money has been used to help re-establish the UN and expand its presence across East Timor and to encourage the return home of all displaced populations, including particularly those in West Timor and other parts of Indonesia. It has also helped to provide urgent humanitarian assistance and to build confidence and provide incentives to enable East Timorese communities to start the process of repair and recovery.

The UK has directly supported, with substantial contributions, the International Organisation for Migration, World Food Programme, UNAMET/UNTAET, UNICEF, UNHCR, OCHA, ICRC, WHO and CARE. Through our presence on the ground we have been instrumental in the emergency restoration of a basic power supply and, have provided fuel and logistics support to facilitate the delivery of assistance, by local organisations, UN Agencies and NGOs, to the people of East Timor.

Much remains to be done. An ongoing priority for the international community must be to continue to press for those who were displaced to West Timor and elsewhere to be allowed to choose freely whether to return to their homes, and if they choose to return to be given help to do so quickly and to resettle.

But the primary purpose of this meeting is to look forward, rather than back, and to agree on priorities now for the people of East Timor and for the International Community. By its brave decision to pursue reconciliation rather than revenge for the crimes committed against East Timor, the Timorese leadership has shown that it is looking forward. The UK applauds that decision, which may prove to be far sighted, and which will set the mood for the new nation in the coming years.

The UK welcomed the World Bank led Joint Assessment Mission, and was pleased to be able to participate in the mission by providing expertise in the health sector. A defining factor of the JAM was that half of its members were East Timorese nationals, and that their views were taken into account in assessing the short and medium term needs of the country. The JAM demonstrated that the international community can work in a co-ordinated and well planned way, and that it can work in co-operation with the people of East Timor.

The JAM report which we are considering today gives us a clear indication of the problems East Timor faces, and of the action and finances needed to tackle those problems. The report presents the East Timorese people and the international community with a number of challenges. Restarting the economy; resuming agricultural production; putting in place an effective and affordable civil service; developing a fair, open and accessible legal and judicial system; rebuilding essential infrastructure; helping civil society to develop and find its voice; and developing health and education systems are all major tasks in themselves. Collectively, they represent the building of a nation.

But the JAM report also offers us opportunities. East Timor is a relatively small country. It is one where that, if the international community, local leaders and local people work together in a planned, co-ordinated way, there is a real chance of getting things right. This will require strong leadership - something the World Bank and UN, working alongside East Timorese leaders, have already shown they can provide. More importantly, it will require donors to continue to work in support of a collective effort rather than funding a host of "bilateral" projects, which East Timor may not be able to absorb effectively. East Timor's institutional capacity has been weakened by recent events; civil society is beginning to emerge but is not yet strong. The international community must act responsibly and ensure that in all that we do we work closely with the Timorese leadership; we listen to and take account of Timorese views; and that we avoid creating a culture of dependency by building capacity in East Timor so that Timorese can, as quickly as possible, assume control of their own development.

Today's meeting gives us an opportunity to agree a common framework under which to support reconstruction and development in East Timor. The UK welcomes the establishment by the World Bank and the UN of the Trust Funds to support priorities identified by the JAM and to support the transitional administrative arrangements in East Timor. We urge those responsible in the World Bank and the Asian Development Bank to try to resolve any outstanding problems and to ensure the establishment, in name and in practice, of a single, joint Trust Fund.

We are pleased to be able to announce that the UK plans to make available up to £13 million (approximately US $21 million) between now and 2002 for East Timor. We will channel the bulk of this support through the World Bank and UN Trust Funds. It will not be earmarked for particular sectors or particular activities. Indeed its division between the two Trust Funds will be determined over time, in the light of emerging needs. We welcome the arrangements proposed to give East Timorese people the leading role in determining priorities, and encourage an integrated, international effort.

There is a great responsibility on us all to provide assistance in a way that is simple, flexible, effective and sensitive, as well as adequate to meet East Timor's needs. Our own behaviour will be a crucial influence on the capacity and development of this emerging nation. The chairman called for a "breakthrough in the way international assistance works". The United Kingdom is keen to work for this goal and we urge other donors to do the same.

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