ISSN #1088-8136

Vol. 9, No. 1
Spring 2003


Spring 2003 Homec

Accomplishments and Challenges After One Year of Independence

(In)Justice and the Struggle for Accountability

Legislation, Language and Lobbying

The Iraq War as Seen from East Timor

Justice for East Timor: We Can't Stop Now!

We're All Organizers

About East Timor and ETAN

back issues

ETAN Home Page


We’re All Organizers!

by Diane Farsetta

At the end of May, I will be leaving my position as ETAN’s field organizer, although I will continue to do East Timor and Indonesia solidarity work.

In some ways the transition feels cyclical, since I started volunteering with ETAN in the mid 1990s. Over the past two and a half years, I’ve been fortunate to meet and work with many of you who squeeze ETAN activism into schedules already loaded with school, work and other activist commitments.

We all know that calling attention to issues relating to East Timor has become more difficult post-independence. We’ve struggled to articulate the importance of continued solidarity with a tiny, far-away country for justice for crimes against humanity, for accountability for U.S. complicity with the illegal and genocidal occupation, for restrictions on U.S.-Indonesia military ties, for a humane end to the refugee crisis, and for economic justice and genuine self-determination for the world’s newest country. But we agree with East Timor’s civil society groups (and many of its government officials!) that U.S.-based solidarity is still needed.

Due to our limited resources, ETAN is not hiring a replacement field organizer. This decrease in staffing means two things: ETAN will have to be more selective when choosing its campaign priorities, and ETAN’s grassroots have a greater opportunity (and obligation!) to participate in and shape our work at the national level. This does not mean that we are asking or expecting you to take on big, demanding responsibilities; a small, sustained effort goes a long way. There are many successful local and other national volunteer-based organizations. ETAN itself did not have any paid staff during its first six years. This shows that, together, we can continue to make a difference!

Over the next month, I will be speaking with grassroots members, trying to help you build local organizing strategies for the future. Here are some suggestions:

  • Think about how awareness of and action in solidarity with East Timor could be institutionalized locally. If you have university or school contacts, ask that units on East Timor be added to relevant classes; information and speakers on East Timor be included in international or Asian events; the possibility of sistering with East Timorese schools be explored. If you have ties to religious or charity groups, ask them to support East Timor solidarity work and/or organizations in East Timor. Discuss focusing on one major annual event (maybe in coalition with other solidarity organizations) with your local group.
  • Consider how your expertise and interests may help further ETAN’s work at the national level. We currently have working groups for our justice and military ties campaigns, personnel support and fundraising efforts. In addition, there are many small tasks volunteers can take on: making calls, doing research and computer work, helping write thank you cards. If you can make a small, ongoing commitment, please let us know!
  • Take the initiative to communicate with other ETANers and ETAN staff. If you have email access, this is easy! There is a low-volume listserv for international and organizational news; contact us to subscribe. ETAN staff are always happy to have you call. (See the contact information on page two.) But please do realize that staff are dealing with increasing workloads; be understanding but persistent.

I would like to end by acknowledging your contributions and our accomplishments. It’s rare for people in the U.S. to support international solidarity and even more rare for that work to continue after times of crisis pass. But solidarity requires a joint commitment to build relationships and challenge injustices—just what we are doing.
People involved with ETAN are exploring and benefiting from a unique opportunity by working with a newly independent country. We can and are supporting the establishment of responsible, equitable systems and people-to-people relationships right from the beginning.

A luta continua! The struggle continues!