UNMIT                                          United Nations Integrated Mission In Timor-Leste


Timor-Leste Development Partners Meeting

03 April 2009, Dili – Food security, rural development, security, social services, human resources, access to justice and good governance are among the many vital issues discussed at the Timor-Leste Development Partners Meeting (TLDPM) in Dili today. Organised by the Government, the TLDPM aims to coordinate the activities of the Government with the activities of development partners to achieve the national priorities for 2009. In a nod to the improved security situation since the 2006 crisis, the theme of this conference is Good-bye Conflict, Welcome Development.

President José Ramos Horta delivered the keynote address to open this second development partners meeting since the 2006 crisis. Reflecting on how far Timor-Leste has come since the days of the crisis, citing improved security, the resolution of the petitioner claims and economic growth of 12 per cent in 2008, Ramos Horta highlighted an ongoing process of national dialogue as the basis for deepening stability and security. President Ramos Horta especially thanked United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon “for his steadfast support for and engagement with Timor-Leste” and the United Nations Mission in Timor-Leste for its role in helping the country emerge from the 2006 crisis.

Prime Minister Xanana Gusmão delivered the opening address, highlighting that 2009 marks ten years from the “courageous decision our people made on 30 August, when they voted for national independence and rejected any and all forms of foreign submission and occupation.” He said that Timor-Leste has learned from its mistakes and what he called “the cycles of instability” since the 1999 Popular Consultation. Looking toward the future, Prime Minister Gusmão stressed that the Governments priorities for 2009 are based on progress on two fronts: first, efforts to increase better security, social protection systems and social services, especially in health and good governance; and, second, to accelerate progress in the other national priorities for development, including developed human resources, justice, rural development, agriculture and food security.

For the statement of the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Timor-Leste, Dr. Atul Khare, click on language for English  |  Tetum

UN Statement on National Priority 1: Food Security

Food insecurity and malnutrition continue to be major concerns in Timor-Leste, with about half of all children under-five being under weight. Poor nutrition in the early years of childhood has an irreversible negative impact on a person’s physical and mental development and thus on his or her quality of life. It also results in poorer quality human resources for the country in the future.

Continued investments in food and nutrition security are therefore crucial for national and human development. This requires a strategy that involves all three elements of food security to yield optimal results: (i) availability through production and imports, (ii) accessibility in terms of purchasing power, and (iii) utilization, including nutrition interventions, especially for pregnant and lactating women, and young children. 

The Government has undertaken a number of activities in these three areas by stimulating agricultural production, subsidizing imported rice, and by supporting the most vulnerable groups through food, cash, micro-nutrients, and the dissemination of nutrition information.

The fact that Food Security is NP 1 for 2009 reflects the Government’s strong continued commitment to food security. The majority of people depend on the agricultural sector for their livelihoods, including livestock, fisheries, forestry and crops, which essentially remains at subsistence level. Investing in agriculture is therefore essential to attain national food security. But working through the mechanism of NP1 offers also a great opportunity to promote the production of a wider variety of crops; improve people’s access to food; reformulate and strengthen the National Food Security Policy and Strategy; strengthen coordination amongst all actors involved with any one aspect of food security; improve food security monitoring and information systems; and to strengthen the functioning of the National and District Food Security Committees. 

However, targets currently included under NP 1 concentrate on increased production of rice. Whereas needed in itself, this is not sufficient to accelerate the pace of attaining food security, and the above mentioned actions should receive equal attention to move toward reaching the Millennium Development Goals. 

The right to food is a human right, not a privilege and the UN system, in cooperation with our donor partners and NGOs, will continue to support the Government achieve food security in all its aspects, with special emphasis on the most vulnerable groups.

This Development Partners Meeting is held at a time when the global economic situation causes major challenges for governments around the world in ensuring access of their populations to essential goods and services. Also Timor-Leste is not immune to the impact of the financial crisis

However, investments in this essential sector from Timor-Leste’s own means and from external sources should not suffer from these difficult circumstances. Budgets may be under a temporary pressure, but we should not risk the future human capital of the country by reducing our collective efforts.

UN Statement on National Priority 2: Rural Development

Promoting rural development is to address the challenges and improve the living conditions of about 80% of the population of Timor-Leste. It requires the design and implementation of local development action plans with the participation of the communities, local governance institutions and civil society in all the districts and sucos.

Rural communities are currently confronted with a number of bottlenecks such as: i) low human and financial capital, ii) non-availability of support institutions, iii) lack of organised product and inputs markets, iv) inadequate availability of the infrastructural facilities - roads, irrigation, electricity, health care, etc, v) poor reach of extension services, vi) lack of repair and maintenance services, vii) absence of institutional credit and very limited micro finance services, and viii) distorted labour markets.

Although the revenues of the oil-sector are critical to the present and future Timor-Leste economic, it is unlikely that it will generate significant employment or private business opportunities. Hence, continued emphasis on non-petroleum economy, from which near all the population depend on, is essential to build sustainable communities.

Farming accounts for about 82% of the Timorese labour force, but the fact that 88% of them are among the poorest reflect that subsistence economy is no more able to sustain the rural population. Migration to urban areas is a significant valve to reduce the socio-economic pressure in rural areas, but creating extremely high conflict potentials in urban areas, especially in District centers.

The provision of rural infrastructure, including both the economic infrastructure like roads and rural finance, and social infrastructure like health and education, is of crucial importance to the achievement of the MDGs. It impacts directly on child mortality, drop out rates from schools, improved health and sanitary conditions and, of course, on the generation of massive employment. Investment in infrastructure enhances long-term agricultural productivity and promotes human development.

In the absence of any meaningful non-farm employment in rural areas - except public works – it is fundamental that investment in agriculture is increased significantly to raise agricultural productivity and incomes. The fragile natural resource base must be taken in consideration. The landholdings are small and soil fertility is low. The upland agriculture faces additional challenges, and the non-availability of adequate land for cultivation puts pressure on forests and forces people to cut down trees to meet their needs. A separate strategy is needed for upland areas where poverty and food insecurity is higher.

However, sustainable rural development cannot be achieved just through investments in infrastructure and agriculture.

A new rural development view has to consider the market conditions of rural production and the direct needs of the people involved. Due to the lack or distorted information, these local actors are poorly linked to market mechanisms, resulting in frustration and mostly in the inevitable return to subsistence production, main incentives for more rural-to-urban migration, especially among the young people.

A number of other factors need to be considered for rural development strategy to have a desirable overall impact. The provision of information and services on business opportunities must be enhanced and explored intensively. Often people in rural areas don’t even know about the opportunities they may have, and they need support to identify the right products for the main markets.

The overrepresentation of women among the income poor is also evident. Women marginalized status in ownership of land and property further contributes negatively to decision making and participation in productive activities. We must continue advocating for equal property rights. In addition, existing women associations or cooperatives or self-help groups, producing handicrafts and other products, should be trained to improve and diversify their products. In a country in which 80% of the manufactured products are imported, there are necessarily plenty of opportunities to be identified through the gradual substitution of those imported goods by others locally produced.

Within this overall complex context, the Government’s 2009 National Priority on Rural Development represents a concrete move to pave the way towards promoting rural employment, reducing poverty and improving delivery of social services in rural areas. It stresses the importance of a strong private sector to create a trickle down effect deriving from Government and development partners’ expenditure particularly in infrastructure, agriculture, and services.

The UN system is proud to be associated as a privileged partner with the various Government departments involved in this process. We would like to confirm our commitment to work together with the Government in the context of the Working Group on Rural Development under the 2009 National Priorities, as well as in other complementary measures designed and implemented under an overall integrated approach. Together, we can contribute to build rural areas in which urban population would be happy to live.

UN Statement on National Priority 3: Human Resource Development

Timor-Leste is a young country and a country of young. More than half of its population is children under 18, or more than 60 percent are young people under 25. A successful investment in the potential of young people is crucial for the socio-economic development, achievement of MDGs, and peace and stability of Timor-Leste.

It would therefore be natural that the Government selected Human Resource Development as one of their National Priorities, and focused on the issues of basic education, vocational training and youth participation.

Challenges in Education Sector: Definitely, positive steps have been taken in those areas. However, there are still a number of challenges. About 20 percent of school-aged children are not enrolled in primary schools and less than half of children complete 6th grade.  Eventually, only 12 percent of the girls and 18 percent of the boys complete secondary schools. These figures are far away from MDGs 2 and 3.  Enrolling all girls and boys in primary schools, keeping them and helping them to complete 6th grade and move on to the secondary education continues to be the biggest challenge in the education sector. Improving the quality of education is an integral part of this challenge.

The approval of the Base Law for Education last year, ensuring all children 9 years of free basic education, demonstrates the Government’s commitment to the rights of all children. However, the gap between the current situation and the fulfillment of the educational right of young people remains significant.

For these challenges, UN is supporting the government in developing 9 years of basic education curriculum both in Tetun and Portuguese and provide support for school feeding, water and sanitation, and school gardening.  We will also support the Government in providing ‘second chance’ opportunity for out of school youth, like the literacy and basic education equivalence programmes, including literacy classes, civic education, life skills, reproductive health and population issues.

Human resource development for employment: On the issue of preparing young people for the labour market, the creation of the National Labour Force Development Institute (INDMO) demonstrates the Government's commitment to a market-orientated, efficient and accountable training system.

The training institutions in the country, however, can offer only entry level skills training. The challenge, therefore, is to provide basic skills training locally while building partnerships with the industry and facilitate international training at higher levels.  

Challenges related to Youth participation: On youth participation, historically, the young people of Timor-Leste demonstrated their potential for civic engagement in campaigning for independence and supporting elections. However, they are frustrated because of lack of mechanisms to constructively engage in the society and air their voices.

Therefore, realizing the nation’s vision for the “Youth Parliament”, which is a part of National Priority #3, is a major step towards more meaningful & effective participation of Timorese youth.  We will provide technical and financial support for the Youth Parliament as well as support for promotion of sports & culture, provision of learning opportunities, and strengthening the function and out-reach of youth centers to sub-districts and sucos.  

Ladies and gentlemen, engaging young people and empowering them is an urgent task for this nation, as they are growing now and many more are coming in.  It will require substantial resources and focused and concerted efforts of all partners.

UN Statement on National Priority 4: Social Services and Protection

Global financial and economic conditions demand that we strengthen our focus on further development of social services and social protection.

The international community, civil society and the Government remain committed to achieving the Millennium Development Goals and note the strong harmony between our efforts and those of the Government.

2008 saw rapid advances in social protection in Timor-Leste. 11,300 IDPs received Government to support their return or resettlement under the auspices of the National Recovery Strategy; almost 72,000 elderly or disabled citizens became entitled to a $20 monthly benefit payment; 7,000 female headed households benefited from a pilot of a conditional cash transfer programme; pensions were provided to over 2,000 veterans of the resistance; a Government-led multi-agency food security assessment resulted in the provision of needed food assistance to disaster-affected families; the National Disaster Risk Management Policy was passed..

We must now work together to consolidate these significant achievements. Have we done all we can to ensure the sustainable reintegration of the displaced?  Is the budget allocation for the benefit payments to elderly and disabled secure for the years ahead? Do the civil servants who work on these programmes yet have the necessary skills and training to carry forward and refine them? Are administrative and financial oversight mechanisms in place to ensure that the large state budget allocated to social protection is spent in an effective and efficient way that to consider gender needs of women and men, girls and boys and place the beneficiaries at the centre of all initiatives? 

UN assistance to the work of the Ministry of Social Solidarity and other relevant Government institutions going into 2009 will continue in the following key areas: processes of reintegration in communities affected by the 2006 crisis especially in the areas of dialogue, including improvements to community infrastructure, protection of women and children; technical advice on the development of conditional cash transfer programmes; enhancing resilience and preparedness at the community level for future natural or man made disasters, as presented in the UNDAF.

Social Services – Health.
Strengthening of management of health systems and strengthening of health service deliveries at all levels are the key Government priorities in the area of social services and all UN Agencies have also identified these as their priority areas for support.

Planning and monitoring of health services require good data that is sex-disaggregated and the strengthening of the Health Management Information System has been identified as a national priority. UN Agencies and other Development partners are actively supporting the health sector in strengthening of both the regular data collection system, including surveillance and surveys, which will provide updated information, including gender sensitive data. The Government is planning to conduct a Demographic and Health Survey this year and a Census in 2010. Financial and human resources are needed to support the government in this endeavour that will provide information on the effectiveness of the Ministry of health programmes during the last 6 years

The Integrated Community Health Services, better known under its Portuguese accronym; SISCa, will expand access of comprehensive health services to the entire population and will result in improved health status, especially for children and pregnant women and to better control of major killer diseases, such as malaria, tuberculosis and HIV/AIDS. Malnutrition is still a very serious problem and interventions to improve the nutrition status of children and women must be given top priority.

Expansion of services require resources and we are happy to confirm, that much has been mobilized in order to support the health system, but more is needed and we are confident that with positive thinking and sufficient funding, we can strengthen our contribution to further strengthening of social services in Timor Leste.

“Lack of capacity”, “lack of money” and “lack of this or that” are too often dominating our statements, but “lack of positive thinking” is probably worse that any other “Lack of..” We should all search for and identify possibilities for a healthy development process.

UN Statement on National Priority 5: Public Safety and Security

Public safety and security are essential for any other National Priority to be realised.  The commitment of Timor-Leste to ensure that the security sector plays its part in the maintenance of an environment conducive to development is apparent in the goals that the Secretaries of State for Defence and for Security are pursuing this year.  One is focusing on the start of the F-FDTL’s transition to an ethical and professional conventional defence force; the other on initiating – jointly with the United Nations – the resumption of policing responsibilities by the PNTL for the other.

Of the objectives identified by the Government to reach these goals, the UN System cannot underscore enough the importance of putting in place a legislative and policy framework that defines the responsibilities of each of the institutions of the sector.  A clear demarcation of roles between the PNTL and the F-FDTL is particularly critical.  The submission to Parliament of the National Security Law, once it is approved by the Council of Ministers, will be a significant step in that direction.  It will also allow civilian oversight mechanisms to weigh in on an issue of such national relevance.

Coherence between core legislation and implementing laws and regulations will require attention; so will the existence of appropriate links exist between policy and legislation.  Only then will the institutions of the sector be in a position to sustainably plan their development and professionalization.  Only then will they be able to transform the measures taken to date into long term gains, and to operationalize the vision that this Government outlined in the 2007-2012 Program that it presented to Parliament upon taking office.

Furthermore, for any of these developments to be visible to the Timorese public whom they aim to serve, they will have to be accompanied by concerted efforts to ensure that those responsible for the application of these texts are empowered to do so.  This is of particular consequence where the PNTL is concerned.  In Timor-Leste as anywhere in the World, law enforcement officials must know both intent and letter of the law that they are meant to uphold.  With a new Penal Code promulgated four days ago, a new PNTL organic law that implies some significant restructuring, a National Security Law soon to enter parliamentary debate and a National Security Policy yet to be fully developed, the challenges are daunting.

The UN System is committed to supporting the National Authorities as they put in place mechanisms to enhance security sector discipline and accountability.  In this connection, the United Nations will continue to assist in the completion of the PNTL certification.  Appropriate measures must be taken for the PNTL to emerge strengthened from this process.

The UN System will support the efforts of the National Authorities in this key priority area as they strive to ensure that security sector institutions can set out on their way towards professionalization, not only with a clear and transparent roadmap, a fully fuelled vehicle but also with a mechanic and appropriate sustainment on board, to complete their journey. The United Nations will do so, in accordance with their mandate and in collaboration with bilateral and other multilateral partners.

UN Statement on  National Priority 6: Clean and Effective Government

As the Government of Timor-Leste recognizes, measures to ensure transparency and accountability must be a part government institutions in any modern democracy to secure long-term integrity, stability and prosperity.

Realizing that accountable and transparent institutions are an imperative, the Government maintained ‘Clean and Effective Government’ as a key priority for 2009.  This priority reaffirms the Government’s clear message that good governance, the delivery of services equitably across the country, requires the establishment of a professional, transparent and accountable Government.  Some of the main measures to adopt to ensure good governance are the passing of anti-corruption legislation and the creation of implementing agencies. 

To this end, in May 2008, the Prime Minister declared that 2008 would be the year of administrative reform.  For this, he advanced policies for institutional development that would promote transparency and accountability through the establishment of two new institutions: Civil Service Commission and the Anti-Corruption Commission.   It is a credit to the Government that it has expeditiously developed and approved legal frameworks for both of these important institutions, frameworks which are currently before the National Parliament.

A review of the 2008 national priorities shows that most of the quarterly targets for the ‘National Priority Area on Clean and Effective Government’ were attained.  It is also clear that there was strong Government leadership from the Ministry of Finance and the Ministry of State Administration to ensure that the achievement of these targets was monitored closely and reported. 

Today we reflect on the lessons learned during 2008 and propose how to bolster the 2009 National Priorities for a Clean and Effective Government.  Whilst positive steps have been undertaken, there are a number of complex challenges which persist and require a systematic approach.

An increased capacity for development planning, implementation and monitoring is required and further attention should be paid to the strengthening of governance for core public services. Further, it is generally recognized that the promotion of gender equality facilitates the improvement of accountability and the mutual responsibility of the state and citizens - attributes which are elemental to strong public governance.

Although several Ministries have developed medium terms plans and others are still engaged in completing their plans, they have done so in an environment in which there is no national medium-term plan.  The World Bank poverty report, and more recently the MDG report, highlights some disturbing results in the delivery of core services to the people of Timor-Leste.  The Government must address these issues through a carefully developed national medium-term plan, supported with sound socio-economic data and with the targets of the MDG goals to which the Government has committed itself.  We note the Government’s commitment to prepare a Strategic Planning Framework in 2009 which will underpin the 2010 Annual Action Plan and budget.  The UN looks forward to working within this Framework.

The UN welcomes the progress to establish the Civil Service Commission and we believe this will enable the development of sound human resource management systems and practices across the civil service.  The UN is committed to continuing its support in this area, particularly with the full implementation of a national civil service database and the strengthening of human resource management practices across the civil service.  The civil service database is essential to future human resources planning, contributing to more evidence-based policy development in the civil service.  Also, the database will be linked to the payroll, ensuring more transparent HRM practices across the civil service. 

The integrated development of government policies, systems and staff requires all parties’ long-term commitment.  To this end, we call on the Government to finalize the development of its national and sectoral plans to ensure that Development Partners are better able to plan their programming activities and budgets and harmonise them with those of the Government.

The 2009 quarterly targets for a Clean and Effective Government provide for a continued focus on aid effectiveness, anti-corruption, decentralization, (including an emphasis on Suco elections) and capacity development of civil servants. With the Government’s plans for decentralization of government services throughout the country and the development of local governance at the municipal level, measures for accountability and transparency will be crucial.   The Government is taking this into consideration in all of its efforts to ensure good governance.
The Government’s pursuit of a more decentralized service delivery is one of the key strategies to ensure that planning and decision-making can be more responsive to the needs of the local communities.   On the issue of capacity development the UN urges the Government to revisit its capacity development strategies so that it focuses systematically on a medium-term approach to the development of national systems and staff and to ensure that there is an exit strategy for advisors, both national and international. 

The capacity development of the national and local institutions remains a priority. Although significant progress has been made, much more time, effort and funding will be needed to effectively develop the capacity to higher levels, including the empowerment and participation of women in policy and decision making.

Given the impressive progress which has taken place in this country in such a short period, it is certainly feasible that Timor-Leste has strong systems in place to ensure clean and effective government which will ensure an effective and equitable provision of services to the population.  This accountable and transparent system will welcome the role of political parties, of a vibrant civil society and citizenry.  In this regard, we very much appreciate and look forward to continuing our partnership with the Government and development partners in ensuring that the Government reaches its targets for a clean and effective government.

UN Statement on National Priority 7: Justice

Strengthening the rule of law requires sustainable, properly functioning legal and judicial institutions - including effective accountability mechanisms - so that confidence in the legal system will become rooted in society.  A successful justice system can only be achieved if the law is applied fairly and equally to everyone - free from political influence and in conformity with international human rights standards.

The commitment of Timor Leste to justice issues is clear in the decision to create a National Priorities Working Group dedicated specifically to justice.  It is encouraging to see that the National Priorities include a policy on gender justice and the implementation of a justice sector strategic plan complete with establishing national legal actors in line functions on a permanent basis throughout the country.

In order to further facilitate strengthening of the justice sector, an overall strategy is necessary.  As welcomed by the national authorities and the Security Council in February, the United Nations is assisting Timor Leste in an Independent Comprehensive Needs Assessment of the justice sector which aims to underpin the overall national justice strategy.

The approval by the Council of Ministers of the criminal code is a critical step forward.  It is encouraging to see that domestic violence has been categorised as a public crime and defamation has been decriminalised however, many challenges remain.  Adoption of the Law Against Domestic Violence must soon follow to put in place the framework to provide services to survivors of domestic violence to which they have a right.  As well, the adoption of a civil code is anxiously awaited.

The recent swearing in of four more national prosecutors, two judges and four public defenders shows progress being made towards the nationalisation of the justice system in Timor Leste. The new staff will be instrumental in bringing justice to the districts through fully functioning district courts and the withdrawal of international staff from line functions to advisory roles. This is being achieved at the same time as establishing the magistrates’ inspection system which will enhance the accountability of the judiciary.

Access to justice, paying particular attention to those groups at higher risk of insecurity, is fundamental to the rights of citizens.  Developing a legal framework regarding possible links between the informal justice mechanisms and the formal legal system that respects and promotes international human rights, will contribute greatly to achieving access to justice in both criminal and civil matters.  The UN continues to support the Minister of Justice to reach this goal.
Strengthening the legal system at every stage of the process is vital to justice including increasing overall efficiency between the police and the prosecution office.  Among other needs, a fully functioning case management system would assist a great deal in increasing the effectiveness of the prosecutor’s office. 

Much progress has been seen in the prison service including creating conditions which meet internationally accepted standards and developing capacity for prison administrative officers and guards. The UN is committed to helping the Ministry of Justice in continuing these efforts throughout 2009.

A fully functioning justice sector is essential to security in terms of individuals and business which is necessary for stability and a sustainable and prosperous nation.  We look forward to moving ahead together in 2009.