Subject: Joint Statement of East Timorese and International NGOs To Dili Donors Conference

Joint Statement of East Timorese and International NGOs To Dili Donors Conference

Dili, 14-15 May 2002

Statement given by Joaquim Fonseca, 14 May 2002.

The Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) in East Timor are grateful for the opportunity to participate in this Donors' Conference as a critical moment to contribute to the process of nation building. The focal point of this Donors' Conference is the National Development Plan (NDP) for East Timor. We would like to take this opportunity to congratulate the National Development Planning Agency (NDPA), the Second Transitional Administration of East Timor and UNTAET for the completion of the Plan in such a short timeframe.

The planning process has taken place with the participation of the NGOs and Civil Society groups in general. This is an important and positive precedence for future processes in the shaping of East Timor as a new nation. However, while this process has established an important precedent through the participatory element of the Civil Society groups and sections of the community, this must be seen as only a first step towards a truly informed and inclusive process which involves all the sectors of the community required to develop and implement the plan. Having said this, we would like to make a few comments on the planning process and its final outcome.

Speaking here as representatives of NGOs, we are fully aware that the NGOs cannot represent all the views of the broader East Timorese population. Therefore, the participation of the NGOs and other Civil Society groups should not replace the wider involvement of the population. It is important to record that the NDP has been formulated on the basis of a questionnaire-guided consultation with 38.000 respondents, in a very short timeframe. These respondents did not receive the background information on the process and the scope of the plan which would allow them to make informed contributions. Much of the information that the respondents did receive were not in the languages they understand, which could make their answers biased. These are valuable lessons for improvement in the future planning processes.

East Timor, like any other developing nation needs a plan for its development. At this stage, we have a plan that was developed in a timeframe that fits with the scheduling of this conference. Such urgent need for the plan came at the expense of the inclusion of wider population and the informed debates on the plan. Therefore, we would urge the donors and the government of East Timor to be flexible in the implementation of the plan, taking into account the social indicators, and where possible, allow participation from and decision making by the communities for the further shaping the plan.

There are several areas where we would like to emphasize the need for future review. The introduction of a development policy that relies on market mechanisms must be treated with caution. We think that the emphasis on the role of the private sector in the poverty reduction is misplaced in the context of current development of East Timor. In East Timor, difficulties facing the communities have been dealt with through mutual communal support. Decades of colonization have also created a heavy reliance on government to provide the financing where the limit of communal support is reached.

The NDP highlighted education and health as priority areas for human development. A formal decision has been made for Portuguese to be the official language of East Timor. However, it is widely known that the great majority of the trained and experienced teachers in this country do not speak Portuguese. To fill this gap, there has been an importation and deployment of Portuguese teachers to teach in primary schools. The issue has not been addressed by the NDP. Questions must be asked about the utilization of local resources across the board before outside support is sought, effectiveness and efficiency of the use of donors' funding, and the sustainability of such deployment.

We understand that the NDP has been required to fit with the model of the Poverty Reduction Strategy Papers (PRSP) of the World Bank and IMF. We would like to remind the donors and the government of East Timor that as the country is being built from scratch with specific challenges brought by its history, its development should be tailored according to these challenges and not approached with a simple 'one size fits all' model. Given the circumstances under which the consultation was carried out and the timeframe for the full development of the NDP, future exploration of key policy issues affecting the implementation of the plan must occur.

This country arose from a dark history of injustice. For the NDP to be a comprehensive framework of development for East Timor, it has to include all the interrelated aspects of the community's well being, and one of these is clearly justice across all aspects of the society. The vision for East Timor 2020 arising from the consultations envisions East Timor to be a society where the rule of law and human rights are respected, but the NDP does not feature justice as a major challenge to be dealt with. This appears to be a contradiction in terms.

Clearly a plan is only as good as the structures required to carry it out. Local government will be vital to ensure people's participation in the development process. As the current structures at the district level are seriously underdeveloped, we would urge as a matter of immediate priority for the government to address this issue.

In conclusion, we would like to thank the donors' for the critical role they play in the financing of East Timor's early stages of development. However, we would like to emphasize that donors be flexible in the allocation of funding for human development oriented funding, and encourage the new government of East Timor to speak to its people and generate its development policies from there. Such process, is essential for East Timorese people to see in reality the notion of ukun rasik an literally "rule by yourself".

Thank you.

Representatives of NGOs to the Donors' Conference:

1. Rui Castro (Board of the NGO Forum) 
2. Cecilio Caminha Freitas (Executive Director of the NGO Forum) 
3. Jesuina Soares Cabral (La'o Hamutuk) 
4. Aleixo da Cruz (Bia Hula Foundation) 
5. Osmenio da C. Lemos (NGO Formosa) 
6. Mateus Gonçalves (Sah'e Institute for Liberation) 
7. Joaquim Fonseca (Yayasan HAK) 
8. Demetio Amara) de Carvalho (Haburas) 
9. Inma Vazques (Action Contre la Faim) 
10. Mario Araujo (OXFAM) 
11. Eric Schmidt (World Vision Timor Lorosae)


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