"Working closely with the East Timorese is a high priority for us," said World Bank President James D. Wolfensohn. "They played a critical role in the World Bank-led Joint Assessment Mission, which concluded last November, and we look forward to strengthening our close relationship with them by establishing a presence there. Through our office in Dili, we will provide support for the East Timorese as they shape their development and reconstruction program."
Several projects are already being prepared, including a Community Empowerment project which will help to build local governance capacity. Another project will identify skilled East Timorese expatriates who wish to return to the country from abroad. Both projects are being fully implemented by the East Timorese.
"By being present in East Timor, the World Bank will be able to effectively coordinate with other donor agencies and countries and oversee and monitor projects on the ground," said Klaus Rohland, World Bank Country Director for Papua New Guinea and Pacific Islands. "Sarah has extensive work experience in post-conflict countries and international development; she was Deputy Mission leader in the Joint Assessment Mission, and is the perfect person to be representing the Bank in East Timor."
"It is critical that the international community acts quickly to ensure that the money pledged last year yields rapid results in rebuilding the country and in assisting the poor and vulnerable members of society," Cliffe said on her appointment. "East Timor needs jobs, reconstruction of basic services, and help to restart economic activities, and it needs them fast," she said. "We must, however, proceed in a coordinated fashion, and uphold standards of accountability and transparency for all development and reconstruction projects."
On December 17, 1999 the international community pledged over US$520 million for East Timor. In addition to short term humanitarian assistance, a substantial amount was allocated to help rebuild East Timor during the next three years.
"The key to successfully rebuilding East Timor is active leadership by the East Timorese, to ensure that projects are sustainable and have national ownership," said Cliffe. "We have worked hard to ensure that all reconstruction interventions are planned jointly with East Timorese representatives, and we will try to ensure that the longer term initiatives being planned proceed at a pace which is absorbable by the East Timorese people and by the institutions that are being newly established."
The new office will be located in the city of Dili and will begin operations on February 1, 2000. Cliffe will be tasked with working with East Timorese representatives, the United Nations Transitional Administration in East Timor (UNTAET), and other agencies on coordinating development assistance projects for the devastated country. She will be assisted by two sector specialists and two local professional staff members.