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SUMMARY OF ETAN STRATEGY CONFERENCE 2001

January 27-28, Tempe, Arizona

Our meeting, held Jan 27-28 in Tempe, AZ, included 36 activists from 13 states, representing 13 ETAN chapters. The aim of the meeting was to evaluate and redefine ETAN's goals and strategies now that East Timor is moving towards full independence. We did not meet as a decision-making body, but conference recommendations will be further developed and submitted to our steering committee for formal decisions.

DRAFT ETAN MISSION STATEMENT (small group discussion and conference proposal) ETAN needs a new mission statement to guide our work now that ETAN's original mission statement calling for self-determination for East Timor has been accomplished. Proposal from the mission statement committee, synthesizing seven small group statements:

"The East Timor Action Network/U.S. (ETAN) is a grassroots human rights organization working in solidarity with the people of East Timor. ETAN supports human dignity for all East Timorese by advocating for women's rights, democracy, sustainable development, sound environmental practices, and comprehensive social, legal, and economic justice. To this end, we work to influence the policies of the United States government and international institutions as they relate to East Timor. The history of U.S. support for Indonesia's illegal invasion and occupation of East Timor underlies ETAN's efforts to achieve accountability for those responsible at home and abroad for crimes against humanity committed from 1975 through 1999. ETAN is also motivated by the need for continued vigilance to ensure genuine self-determination for the people of East Timor." 

(see final version as adopted)

ETAN CAMPAIGNS AND PRIORITIES (small group discussion and tabulation of group priorities; number of groups identifying each topic as a high priority indicated, seven groups total) What approaches and strategies do we adopt to realize the goals outlined in our new mission statement?

  1. JUSTICE (international tribunal, East Timorese and Indonesian judicial processes, U.S. truth commission, reparations, ensuring crimes against women addressed) - 7 groups 
  2. REFUGEES (raising political profile of issue, U.S.-TNI ties, militias, UNHCR) - 7 groups 
  3. INFLUENCE INTERNATIONAL BODIES IN EAST TIMOR (support La'o Hamutuk, East Timorese NGOs, work with La'o Hamutuk on UN, World Bank, international NGO issues) - 4 groups 
  4. WOMEN'S ISSUES (work with East Timorese NGOs on, push for crimes against women included in tribunal, work with East Timorese men addressing women's issues) - 3 groups 
  5. U.S. POLICY (legislation, military ties, economic and foreign policy) - 3 groups 
  6. PEOPLE TO PEOPLE PROJECTS (medical aid, sistering, scholarships, volunteer placement) - 2 groups

Committees formed to develop campaign proposals on 3 top priorities for steering committee votes: Justice - Natércia G.-A., Joe N., John M. Refugees - Karen O., Will S., Agatha S. International organizations in East Timor - Megan W., Diane F., Erik P., Karen O. Lower priority issues may also be addressed by ETAN, though resources (including staff time) will be allocated according to priority. Chapters currently working on or planning to start people to people projects are encouraged to do so as long as higher priority ETAN work is not neglected.

INTERNATIONAL TRIBUNAL AND JUSTICE ISSUES (informational session and discussion) There are several different but not mutually exclusive paths to justice: international tribunal; Indonesian justice system; UNTAET/ East Timorese justice system; Truth, Reception & Reconciliation Commission in East Timor; Civil lawsuits against TNI in U.S.; U.S. accountability commission to officially acknowledge U.S. complicity.

Many East Timorese are too afraid to testify in Indonesian courts, so trials in Jakarta will not serve justice. ETAN could push for extensive U.N. study of its shortcomings in East Timor, as was done for Rwanda (1994). ETAN should push for an international tribunal to cover crimes from 1975 on, not just 1999.

REFUGEE CRISIS (informational session and discussion) Approximately 100,000 East Timorese refugees remain in West Timor; many want to return to East Timor.

Proposal: ETAN hold a spring speaking tour to highlight the refugee crisis, with a speaker with recent experience living or working in West Timor camps. Possible speakers include people from Jesuit Relief Services, West Timor NGOs, ex-UNHCR workers. The speaker would visit key cities, Congressional and other government offices, U.N., media editorial boards. This tour proposal is currently being developed - contact Diane (diane@etan.org) if you would like to help!

The refugee campaign can be used to highlight the need for an international tribunal; it also sets West Timor apart from other refugee situations in the world. Should ETAN refer to refugees as "hostages"? Powerful but not completely accurate - be careful. Should ETAN call for UNHCR to return to West Timor? Some warn could inflame violence, but local organizations support an international presence. It's important that any refugee registration be done under international supervision and without intimidation from TNI/ militias.

CURRENT SITUATION IN EAST TIMOR (report from Charles Scheiner and Jill Sternberg on their trip) Major issues the East Timorese face include: Justice and reconciliation; Problems with UN administration and World Bank projects in East Timor; Civic education and elections; Refugees.

Observations: Many UNTAET international personnel unaware of East Timorese history, current reality. They observed several incidents of racism by UN. Tension exists between UN wanting to end its mission quickly and including East Timorese input and participation to facilitate a successful transition to independence. Little public information is available on important issues, like Truth, Reconciliation & Reception commission and the electoral/ constitutional process. The East Timorese justice system is severely under-resourced - there were many problems with the first Serious Crimes Unit trial in Dili. The huge disparity between international ($100K/year) and Timorese ($3/day) salaries exemplifies injustice.

NATIONAL-LEVEL WORK (informational session and discussion) The new U.S. administration wants to "engage" TNI. The current ban on IMET training and weapons sales for Indonesia is in annual appropriations bill, which expires in October. The rest of military cut-off is Clinton policy and could be changed easily by Bush. The questions of U.S. military ties and international tribunal are connected - in legislation, the U.S. can't resume some ties until those responsible for crimes against humanity are brought to justice. ETAN needs to focus on Congressional work to pressure administration to maintain military cut-off, support an international tribunal, etc.

Proposal: To address problems with UNTAET and push for an international tribunal, ETAN could work to influence UN Security Council member offices in NY. An ongoing, sustained effort is needed (though NY lobby days could possibily be helpful). Contact Charlie (charlie@etan.org) if you want to help.

Problem: The UN is not democratic. As U.S. citizens, we can pressure U.S. ambassador to UN, U.S. State Department (but can't effectively lobby the UN directly). ETAN could coordinate worldwide UN lobbying efforts with IFET. ETAN could support East Timorese groups advocating for Timorese control of transition such as La'o Hamutuk, Sa'he Institute, Yayasan HAK, FOKUPERS, the NGO Forum and others.

EAST TIMOR TRANSITION TO INDEPENDENCE ACT 2001 (informational session and discussion) Bill ("Lantos/ Kennedy bill") will shortly be introduced in Congress. It defines the relationship between the U.S. & East Timorese governments for 3 years and is a top priority for the CNRT leadership. The bill includes aid ($30 million/year for 3 years), scholarships, weapons and military training for East Timor's defense force, a Peace Corps program in East Timor, economic & diplomatic relations, etc.

Input from East Timorese NGOs on bill: ETAN should be strictly anti-militarist and oppose military provisions of bill. There are better ways of ensuring peace in East Timor than building up the military.

Pros: The bill keeps the U.S. involved with East Timor. It includes reconstruction aid and scholarships and locks in 3 years of funding. Foreign investment may help East Timor's economy. East Timor has real security concerns (military and militias in Indonesia) and should receive military help. ETAN would have more influence to improve legislation if we support bill. East Timor can enact its own laws to protect its workers and the environment and to support economic justice in East Timor.

Cons: The bill provides U.S. military training and weapons to East Timor. USAID, Peace Corps programs can be harmful (anti-democratic). ETAN shouldn't accept there is no alternative to current U.S.-dominated economic/ military system. ETAN support for bill may alienate our grassroots.

Non-binding straw poll on ETAN position on Lantos/ Kennedy bill: Full endorsement with campaigning - 0 votes Endorsement - 0 votes Endorsement with reservations - 4 votes Selective support of parts of bill without endorsement - 5 votes Abstain - 4 votes Selective opposition to bill without endorsement (i.e., bill mostly detrimental) - 13 votes Full opposition to bill - 2 votes

More information on the legislation will be distributed and discussion will continue post-conference.

ETAN'S INDONESIA WORK How involved will ETAN continue to be on Indonesia issues? There was no consensus on this general question. On the specific question of U.S. training for Indonesian police, all agreed to oppose police training but there wasn't consensus on how actively ETAN should work to oppose it.

How will ETAN work with the new Indonesian Human Rights Network (IHRN)? We will obviously work together on international tribunal, East Timorese refugees in West Timor. We will be able to discuss this in greater detail after the IHRN conference (Feb 23-25). It was suggested that ETAN take the lead from IHRN on issues such as police training, providing support but not heading effort. Concern was voiced that we need differentiate between ETAN & IHRN for Congress and for our grassroots.

ETAN, along with IHRN, opposes all military relations between U.S. and Indonesia. ETAN & IHRN released a joint statement dissenting from Horta's support for resumption of non-lethal U.S.-Indonesia military cooperation. There was unanimous support for continued opposition to U.S.-TNI ties.

ETAN GRASSROOTS STRATEGIES Legislative: ETAN will target key districts for increased grassroots action. We need to work with Congress. ALL grassroots members should contact their members of Congress, especially new ones!

Media/ protests: We need to be visual to get attention. New documentaries would help with public education. ETAN could demand documents from U.S. on complicity with Indonesian occupation - FOIA (Freedom of Information Act) requests are free if requested by Congressional office. Important dates - UN refugee issue day, conferences on immigrant and refugee rights; Liquiça massacre April 5 & 6; May 5 agreement anniversary; Jan 31 anniversary of UN report on international tribunal.

ETAN STRUCTURE DISCUSSION Current ETAN structure: Steering committee (SC) is our ultimate decision-making body. The SC includes 2 people from each chapter (including at least one woman), staff & at-large members. The executive committee (EC) deals with day-to-day matters. EC members are elected by the SC, with staff as non-voting members. Problem: SC not very active, EC could be more effective.

Proposal: have fewer people on SC who can each commit more time. Members need to be more involved, feel invested, have context for proposals. ETAN needs to communicate by phone in addition to e-mail - everyone gets too much e-mail! Should indicate clearly in subject line which e-mails are decision items. Proposal: SC size reduced to 20 members plus staff and EC. Proposal: SC membership based on Congressional district, and/or include different peace & justice organiizations to build coalitions with other like-minded groups by involving them in decision-making.

ETAN chapter structure: Activists not in chapters somewhat alienated. It's a good goal to organize new chapters, but ETAN should rely more on contact list than chapter representatives. Pros of chapters include organizational, educational, sense of commitment, interactions, group efforts; also have greater credibility as chapter of national organization. Kristin Sundell (kristin@etan.org) is working to develop this discussion further.

ETAN FINANCIAL REPORT Grant sources and individual donations are decreasing. ETAN's expenses were higher than its income last year. ETAN has 501(c)(4) status - tax-exempt but NOT tax-deductible, although we have several ways to receive tax-deductible contributions. ETAN is currently in the process of hiring a fundraiser to write grants and develop new funding sources. Chapters need to raise money for ETAN in addition to projects in East Timor! To contribute to ETAN click here.

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