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The Adventist Development and Relief Agency (ADRA) is the global humanitarian organization of the Seventh-day Adventist Church. Founded in 1956 as the Seventh-day Adventist Welfare Service and renamed ADRA in 1984, the agency has a long and successful history of providing humanitarian relief and implementing development initiatives.

Through an international network, ADRA delivers relief and development assistance to individuals in more than 118 countries—regardless of their ethnicity, political affiliation, or religious association. By partnering with communities, organizations, and governments, ADRA is able to improve the quality of life of millions.

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In 2015 ADRA International’s program expenses totalled $190 million—made possible through private contributions from private individuals like you, corporations, foundations, and other entities. We also obtain funding and commodities from governmental and intergovernmental organizations, such as USAID and the United Nations. ADRA Timor-Leste is funded through partnerships with ADRA donor offices such as ADRA Australia and ADRA New Zealand and by their respective governments such as DFAT and MFAT.

ADRA does not proselytize. God’s love in ADRA’s programs is expressed when it reaches out to those in need regardless of race, gender, and political, or religious affiliation. We work in harmony with a broad array of cultures, traditions, and people of non-Christian faith, respecting the human dignity of all. The positive impact of ADRA’s contribution globally validates our heritage and belief in benevolent giving, as well as introduces the Adventist name to communities.

ADRA has a worldwide infrastructure in more than 118 countries that enables the agency to pre-position and store aid, such as food, medicine, equipment, emergency supplies, etc. Depending on the type of program and needs, ADRA uses a wide variety of transportation methods to get aid to our beneficiaries— a boat, a truck, a train, a solar-powered refrigerator in a local clinic, mobile units, and even volunteers on foot.

ADRA Timor-Leste is responsible for coordinating audits for the projects being funded. Responsibilities of the Internal Audit Office at ADRA International include monitoring and arranging external audits for projects funded by USAID. The General Conference Auditing Service audits ADRA country and administration accounting. All audit reports are submitted to ADRA International Internal Audit Office. These reports are presented to and reviewed by the ADRA Audit Review Committee, which reports directly to ADRA’s International’s Board of Directors. ADRA International is audited yearly by PricewaterhouseCoopers.

As in international network, ADRA cannot provide financial assistance to individuals. ADRA works directly with communities through projects. However, you may contact our office if you are experiencing difficulties to enquire if there are any programs that can help you.

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ADRA is not a foundation, and as such does not make donations or grants.

As a network, ADRA receives a large number of product and service enquiries and unfortunately, we don’t have the capacity to respond to or consider every unsolicited enquiry. However, you may contact the Timor-Leste website directly below.

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ADRA Connections is ADRA International’s short-term volunteer program that allows you to get hands-on with ADRA projects around the world.

Learn more about ADRA Connections.

For longer-term support, we rely on the service and skills of local volunteers to implement our programs. Volunteering is coordinated through the national offices where the volunteer would be placed. To see what volunteer opportunities are available in Timor-Leste, submit your application HERE

Yes we do! However, this is determined on a case by case basis and dependant on needs and logistics with our country office. All interested applicants should submit their CVs HERE

 

Unfortunately, ADRA Timor-Leste does not do any fundraising. However, it is possible to donate directly to our projects through some of our international partners such as ADRA Australia on their respective websites. Visit our sector pages to learn more HERE

You can also make a donation direct to ADRA International for a specific appeal, response or a general donation as well as purchasing an item from their gift catalogue. Please note that these donations may not directly affect ADRA Timor-Leste, but will support ADRA as an organisation and those served in more than 118 countries. 

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Overview

East Timor, officially named Timor-Leste or the Democratic Republic of Timor-Leste, is a state in South East Asia. It comprises the eastern half of the island of Timor, the nearby islands of Atauro and Jaco, and Oecusse, an exclave on the North Western side of the island within Indonesian West Timor. The small country of 15,410km squared, is located about 640km North West of Darwin, Australia.

Timor-Leste was colonised by Portugal in the 16th century and was known as Portuguese Timor until their decolonisation. In late 1975, Timor-Leste declared its independence, but later that year was invaded and occupied by Indonesia being declared its 27th province the following year. In 1999, following the United Nations sponsored act of self determination, Indonesia relinquished control of the territory and Timor-Leste became the first new sovereign state of the 21st century on May 20, 2002. Timor-Leste is one of only two predominantly Roman Catholic countries in Asia, the other being the Philippines. 

Timor-Leste has a lower middle income economy. It continues to suffer the after effects of a decades-long independence struggle against Indonesia, which damaged infrastructure and displaced thousands of civilians. It is placed as 120th on the Human Development Index scale (HDI). 

WATER AND SANITATION: Improvements in sustainable access to improved water sources were hampered by the political crisis in 2006, and this setback will make it difficult to reach the 2015 target of 78%. In 2007 only 60% of the population had sustainable access to an improved water source, and there was a sharp divide between urban and rural areas. Regarding access to improved sanitation, there has been significant improvement in both urban and rural areas.

 

CHILD MORTALITY: Timor-Leste’s child mortality rate not only shows the actual death rate for infant and under-five children, but in a wider sense describes the social and economic conditions of society.

Between 2001 and 2004 there was only a slight improvement in under-five mortality, from 144 deaths per 1000 births in 2001, to 130 in 2004, with a target of 96 by 2015. These children succumb to common diseases such as respiratory infections, malaria and diarrheal illnesses. There was a further deterioration during the same period in the infant mortality rate (below age one) with 88 deaths per 1000 births in 2001 to 98 in 2004. There has been progress since 2004 when the trend was verified by the DHS-2010 to indicate if the target of infant mortality rate of 53 was reached with required pace of acceleration.

 

MATERNAL HEALTH: With the maternal mortality ratio of 660 maternal deaths based on the 2000 UNICEF, UNFPA and WHO estimates, Timor-Leste has made efforts through the past years to improve the quality of maternal health services. The developments of the National Reproductive Health Strategy and the National Family Planning Policy were milestones and provided a good approach in response to this issue. The training evaluation and refresher courses to health providers regarding clean and safe delivery, commencement of Emergency Obstetric Care essential to decrease the risk of complications and morbidity during delivery, and family planning has strengthened national capacity to ensure better quality services to pregnant women. The community has better access to skilled health workers, considered to be fundamental to good childbirth care. The government is working to improve access of pregnant and birthing women to health care and health facilities. The 2010 Demographic Health Survey was able to reflect the current situation.

 

DISEASE: Disease continues to be a major problem for the people of Timor-Leste, often due to lack of access to health services. Common diseases include respiratory and gastrointestinal infections, as well as malaria, dengue fever, tuberculosis and leprosy. In 2007 there was a 10% prevalence of malaria, but little improvement in the treatment and prevention of the disease between 2001 and 2007. Another emerging problem is HIV/AIDS and work must be done to educate the population on the risks of the disease and effective preventative measures. There has been significant improvement in this area, with about one fifth of the adult population both using condoms and in monogamous relationships in 2007.

 

EDUCATION: Education standards in Timor-Leste have fluctuated over the years but in general the standard is poor. Only 65% of children enrolled for primary education in 1999 compared to the figure which shows an increase to 74% in 2007. Significant improvements are needed to provide the children of Timor-Leste with a complete and comprehensive education, in both rural and urban areas, and for both sexes equally. The target percentage for completion of primary education was 100% by 2015.

Population: 1,177,834 (2011)

Population growth rate: 1.981% (2011 est.)

Birth rate: 25.7 births/1,000 population (2011 est.)

Death rate: 5.89 deaths/1,000 population (2011 est.)

Net migration rate: 51.07 migrant(s)/1,000 population (2002 est.)

Infant mortality rate: 38.01 deaths/1,000 live births

Life expectancy at birth: 67.95 years male: 65.54 years female: 70.47 years (2011 est.)

Total fertility rate: 3.13 children born/woman (2011 est.)

Urbanization: 28% of total population (2010)

Rate of urbanization: 5% annual rate of change (2010 est.)

Median age total: 22.5 years male: 22.5 years female: 22.5 years (2011 est.)

Literacy definition: 58.6% of age 15 and over can read and write of the total population

Education expenditures: 7.1% of GDP (2008)

Languages: Tetum (official), Portuguese (official), Indonesian, English

The Portuguese arrived in Timor in 1515 to a “loose collection of independent kingdoms with languages and cultures vastly different from those of its neighbours to the west” (Taudevin, 1999, 15). The Portuguese established ports, in the then called Indies, to control the spice trade. However, it was not until the 1700s after the Governor was installed in Dili that they began more efficient commercial exploitation of resources. They made huge profits from exports of sandalwood but eventually overexploited this resource. As sandalwood became almost extinct the Portuguese in 1815 introduced coffee, along with sugar cane and cotton (Duncan, 1999). Duncan (1999) continues in mentioning that East Timor remained largely underdeveloped with an economy based on the barter system.

Prior to World War II, the capital, Dili, had no electricity or water supply and there were few roads. Even so, before the Second World War the Japanese Empire considered East Timor to be of strategic importance. When World War II started, the Australians and the Dutch, aware of Timor’s importance as a buffer zone, landed in Dili despite Portuguese protests. The Japanese then used the presence of the Australians as a pretext for an invasion in February 1942 and stayed until September 1945 (Brahmana, 1996).

By the end of World War II, Timor-Leste was in ruins. Approximately 60,000 East Timorese had lost their lives because of the Japanese occupation and the efforts of the Timorese to resist the invaders and protect Australia as reported by Brahmana (1996). The Timorese and the Portuguese tried to help the country recover. Nevertheless, development was slow. The average annual growth rate between 1953 and 1962 was just 2%. Meanwhile the United Nations, through Resolution 1514 (XV) of December 14, 1960 declared East Timor a non-self governing territory under Portuguese administration (UN, 2000). Portugal tried seriously and systematically to develop Timor-Leste but did not achieve much success.

The transition to democracy in Portugal had a sudden impact on all its colonies. In 1974, Portugal acknowledged the right of the colonial territories under its administration, including Timor-Leste, to “self-determination” and withdrew. With the withdrawal of the Portuguese, civil war broke out between those who favoured independence and those who advocate integration with Indonesia (UNDP, 2005).

On November 28, 1975, Fretilin, the most popular political party at the time, declared independence of Timor-Leste. Two days later the pro-Indonesian parties also proclaimed the independence of Timor-Leste and its integration with Indonesia (Martin, 2001). On December 7, 1975, Indonesia launched an invasion. The international community subsequently adopted resolution 389 calling on Indonesia to withdraw without delay all of its forces from the territory and respect the territorial integrity of Timor-Leste and the “people’s rights to self determination” (UN & East Timor Government, 2004). The early years of the Indonesian rule resulted in heavy loss of life. Estimates of the number who died as a result of the conflict, including the famine and disease that accompanied the displacement of large parts of the population, range from tens of thousands to as many as two hundred thousand (Martin, 2001). The fall of President Suharto in May 1988 opened the way for significant progress diplomatically and in June 1998 President Habibie announced that Indonesia was prepared to give Timor-Leste wide-ranging autonomy (Taudevin, 1999).

On August 30, 1999, the East Timorese voted in a popular consultation and 78.5% of East Timorese voted for independence from Indonesia. Gross violence, destruction and intimidation followed in the next days with countless East Timorese killed and many properties destroyed. More than 200,000 fled to West Timor and the UN was forced to withdraw. Nearly one month later United Nations peacekeepers arrived and in October 1999 the United Nations Transitional Administration in Timor-Leste (UNTAET) officially took charge. On May 20th 2002, Timor-Leste became fully independent, (UNTAET & World Bank, 2000).

As a newly-independent country, Timor-Leste is still struggling to improve the lives of its people, working together with development partners including the United Nations team. Outbreaks of gang violence in 2006, 2007, and 2008 were recorded in the capital city of Dili. In 2008 the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) reported that during 2006 Timor-Leste, although a medium human development country, ranked at 150th position out of 177 countries. This indicates that much has to be done to improve the health, education, and economic productivity of Timor-Leste’s people (UNDP, 2006).

In the International Monetary Fund (July 2005) Timor-Leste country report, it is declared that the Timorese are known collectively as Maubere. Timorese consist of a number of distinct ethnic groups, most of who are of mixed Malayo-Polynesian descent and Melanesian/Papuan stock.  In East Timor, the largest Malayo-Polynesian ethnic groups are the Tetun or Tetum (100,000), primarily living in the north coast and around Dili, the Mambere (80,000), living in the mountains of central Timor-Leste, the Tukudede (63,170), who are living in the area around Maubara and Liquisa, the Galoli (50,000) living between the tribes of Mambae and MakasaeKemak (50,000) in north-central Timor island, and the Baikeno (20,000), living in the area around Pantemakassar. The main tribes of predominantly Papuan origin include the Bunak (50,000) living in Central interior Timor island, the Fataluku (30,000) living in the eastern tip of Timor-Leste around Los Palos, and the Makasae living in the eastern end of the island (IMF, July 2005).

The article entitled Ethno Linguistic Situation in East Timor (Hattori, Gomes, Ajo, & Belo, 2005), elaborates on the diversity of the population as being very significant, with more than 30 languages or dialects in use. The major local languages include TetunMambae and Macassae, each spoken by more than 10% of the population. The main language, Tetun, is understood by a large majority (about 80% according to some estimates) of the population, with about 40% able to understand and use Indonesian, approximately 5% able to understand Portuguese, and about 2% English. Indonesian was the working language for the government and the medium of instruction in schools during the more than 20 years of Indonesian rule. The new official languages are Portuguese and Tetun, with Indonesian and English given the status of working languages.  Indonesian is still widely spoken and English is fast becoming the preferred language of commerce. This poses unique challenges of communication within the Government, between the Government and the people, between the Government and businesses, and within the education system (Hattori et al., 2005).

The Timorese are a racially mixed people composed of Melanesian and Malay genetic elements as mentioned by the online encyclopaedia, Wikipedia (Wikipedia, East Timor). In addition, in common with other former Portuguese colonies where interracial marriage was common, there is also smaller population of people of mixed Timorese and Portuguese origin, known in Portuguese as Mestiço. The best internationally known East Timorese Mestiço is José Manuel Ramos, presently the president of Democratic Republic of East Timor since May 20, 2007.

Upon independence, Timor-Leste became one of only two predominantly Roman Catholic countries in Asia (along with the Philippines). Portugal’s major religion is Catholic and their influence had been significant for centuries in their colonies. Out of the current approximate one million citizens of Timor-Leste, the population is predominantly Roman Catholic (90%), with some Muslim (5%) and Protestant (3%) minorities. Smaller Hindu, Buddhist and animist minorities (2%) make up the remainder (Pedersen & Arneberg 2004).

Church membership grew considerably under Indonesian rule. Indonesia’s state ideology, Pancasila, does not recognize traditional beliefs and requires all citizens to believe in God. Pedersen & Arneberg (2004) reports that although the struggle was not about religion, as a deep-rooted local institution, the Church not only symbolized Timor-Leste’s distinction from predominantly Muslim Indonesia, but also played a significant role in the resistance movement. The constitution acknowledges the Church’s role among the East Timorese people although it also stipulates a secular state that guarantees freedom of religion to everyone (Pedersen & Arneberg 2004).

Poverty is one of the main problems in underdeveloped countries. Every year, a large number of people from these countries are found to die mainly due to poverty, and the country of Timor-Leste is no exception to that. Many people belonging to this part of the world are found to be victimized because of poverty (IMF, 2005, pp. 31).

An estimated 41.5 percent of the population is living under the national poverty line in 2005 (UNDP, 2006, 2). This figure is not only extremely high in absolute terms but represents an increase in poverty of more than 2 percentage points in just three years. This trend no doubt reflects the decline in real nonpetroleum GDP that was occurring in those years and underlines the importance of growth in the nonpetroleum economy to achieve poverty reduction. Also worrisome is the persistent income inequality. According to the UN Development Report (2006), “the poorest two-fifths of the population account for less than 18% of total expenditure while the richest two-fifths account for 66%” (UNDP, 2006).

Timor-Leste poverty is primarily caused due to the non-availability of food material in this part of the world. Every year, there is a scarcity of food grains in the country. Another important cause of Timor-Leste poverty is the improper allocation of the available food grains. The IMF (2005) observed that every year, a large amount of food grains, either produced or imported to this land seem to vanish into the suspense accounts of the black marketers, leading to an utter scarcity of food grain.  

Although there are many other causes that lead to Timor-Leste poverty, yet these two above-mentioned causes are described to be the most serious ones as reported by the International Monetary Fund (2005). Briefly, until and unless these two problems are solved in the most appropriate of manners, the Timor-Leste poverty problem will continue to thrive and kill hundreds of people every year.

Environment and natural resources are particularly important for the development of Timor-Leste. Timor-Leste is relatively poor, however endowed with natural resources apart from the oil and gas reserves of the Timor Sea. Anderson and Deutsch (2001) note that oil and gas are amongst the few high value natural resources that can be exploited for economic purposes, with the Timor Sea thought to be one of the world’s 20 richest oil deposits.

Fishery stocks that are poorly regulated and managed may also comprise an important economic resource.  UN (2000) concluded that Timor-Leste’s marine ecosystem, if used in a sustainable fashion, has considerable potential to support economic development and sustain the population, thereby contributing to poverty reduction. Fisheries development is currently guided by a Strategic Plan formulated by the Department of Fisheries and Marine Environment (FME) (UN, 2001).  Strategies must recognize these limitations, but must seek to develop sustainable domestic capabilities that optimize natural resources while also protecting the natural environment.

Timor-Leste’s economy is largely agricultural and a society which is largely agrarian. However, it is a mountainous country that is less than ideal for agricultural production. Its soils are derived from limestone and metamorphosed marine clays and are, consequently, generally of low fertility. The generally steep terrain, shallow soils and heavy rainfall events during the wet season, render many parts of Timor-Leste very prone to erosion. Deforestation and grazing often adds to the problems of loss of topsoil. Ongoing erosion causes sedimentation of rivers, reservoirs and near-shore marine areas (World Bank, 1999).

Data collected by the IMF (2005) from the poverty assessment undertaken in 2001 showed that agriculture is the main source of income in 94% of the rural areas and that 97% of the cultivable area have farms, and that 57% have some irrigation. It was also found that the crops produced were predominantly used for self-consumption (subsistence), with less than 20% of the villages selling most of their rice or maize. Consequently, it appears that there is little surplus agricultural production in the nation. The cash income of farm families in 2002 was generated mainly by the sale of chickens, pigs, eggs and some vegetables (IMF, 2005). Coffee for export is the main cash crop and engages over one-quarter of Timor-Leste farming households. Like other crops, coffee is grown with limited inputs and modern techniques.

The IMF (2005) document mentions that because poor people in Timor-Leste are engaged primarily in agriculture (including fisheries and forestry), improving productivity in this sector is a high priority. Proposed initiatives include rehabilitation and construction of irrigation systems and their improved operation, introduction of water harvesting techniques, wider distribution of improved seeds of cereal crops, fruits and vegetables, improved livestock health, improved management of fishing, and sustainable management of forests and other natural resources. These initiatives have to be undertaken with the participation of the communities that depend on them (IMF, 2005).

Fox (2003) indicates that natural resource development, environmental interventions, and the primary goals of poverty reduction and economic growth are directly linked to one another. The author continues to say that the following sectors need to be addressed in the development of the country: (1) improvement in people’s health due to poor access to resources; (2) enhancement of the livelihoods of poor people, particularly in rural areas where they depend on land, water, forests and biodiversity; and (3) reduction of vulnerability to natural disasters such as violent storms, floods and fires (Fox, 2003).

Programs within the government plan needs to reflect environmental and resource priorities, and the need to encourage private development without exploitation. This responsibility requires inter-ministry cooperation, particularly concerning oil and gas resources and the related infrastructure that is essential to support national development (UN, 2001).

The basic vision for a country like Timor-Leste is for the people to live in a prosperous society, comfortable in terms of food, shelter and clothing, in safety, and free from illness and ignorance (illiteracy). People of this new nation should have an income that is fair and equally distributed; with no discrimination; and with a balanced development of towns and villages in different areas (Pedersen & Arneberg, 2004). Part of the national plan is to bring the population to live on a higher quality of life through its developmental strategies.

The problems and constraints for poverty reduction in the rural and regional development are grouped under the following broad headings as mentioned in IMF (2005, 125-128):

Resource Constraints: Shortage of animals. No means to lift and/or pump water for irrigation. Inadequate agro-processing facilities. Lack of capital. Lack of, or limited markets. Lack of economic opportunities. Limited economic support services. Lack of growth centres. Lack of opportunities for remunerative work. Shortage of labour during critical periods. Discrimination in access to work opportunities. Lack of information on employment and unemployment, and on labour issues such as workplace safety.

Social Aspects: Lack of social accountability. Informal institutions weakened during the occupation and violence, with no formal social institutions set up during the transition period. Lack of awareness of rights and responsibilities (civic education). Lack of willingness to take initiatives and break the cycle of dependence. Political and social divisions. Political disturbances. Social turmoil. Lack of, or weak social cohesion and solidarity.

Gender aspects: Discrimination against girls and women. High unemployment rate, especially among women. Low wages especially for women. Lack of professional skills among women, especially young women. Lack of training facilities for women.

Capacity: Lack of teachers and trainers. Limited capacity within Government, private sector and civil society organisations including NGOs. Limited capabilities or skills among people in general, and poor people in particular (e.g. literacy) in the villages. Lack of knowledge of industry. Lack of skills to start and operate businesses. Illiteracy, including inability to manage money. Inadequate number of personnel. Limited capacity of existing personnel. Traditional low-input, low-output technologies.

Infrastructure: Lack of appropriate and essential facilities, equipment and supplies, including medicines. Inadequate number of public facilities, such as schools and health centres. Inadequate, and limited access to infrastructure. Poor maintenance of existing infrastructure. Access to other parts of the country difficult and/or costly.

Rural-urban and regional disparities: Limited access to relatively lower quality social services (including education, health, water supply, sanitation, and housing in rural areas, as compared with urban centres. Regional disparities in educational achievement and opportunities (e.g. Baucau has the largest number of schools in the country while some of the other districts have very few schools). Civil service with very limited presence in regional areas. Lack of articulation of values and principles on the “service” role of civil service. Limited capacity within civil service. Limited number of civil servants.

Private sector: Lack of policies and programs to develop entrepreneurship and support for private enterprise development. Lack of competition in the private sector. Legal framework Lack of legislation and regulations in areas such as immigration and labour. Lack of national support and advocacy on behalf of susceptible groups in legal difficulties. Outmoded laws. Inadequate capacity (number of personnel, skills, institutions, facilities and equipment) in the judiciary, legal professions and the police force. High cost (financially and in time) of justice. Lack of well-defined property rights, especially for land.

Governance: Lack of coordination and cooperation between government and non-government institutions. Vested interests aiming to grab much of the public resources. Uncertainty regarding security and the nature of government and/or governance among the population. Crime. Lack of institutional mechanisms for coordination in different districts and/or regions. Lack of targeted support to meet the needs of children and the disabled. Lack of plans for district development, based on comparative advantages. Lack of criteria for allocation of resources to districts. Lack of capacity at district level to account for funds allocated. Lack of transparency. Inadequate accountability mechanisms. Long colonial past with highly centralised decision-making in government. Lack of understanding of the Portuguese language among many administrators. Legacy of bribery and corruption. Political favouritism in civil service recruitment. Political influence in allocation of funds. Corruption.

 

Civil unrest is the primary challenge and limitation that had a direct impact on the economic condition of Timor-Leste in the last four decades. The violence that erupted in Timor-Leste in 2006, 2007 and 2008 has thrown the country into an ongoing crisis that has shaken the foundations of the new nation-state. While the loss of life and physical damage incurred has been less than the murderous destruction inflicted by pro-Indonesia militia in 1999, the current violence and upheaval have been profoundly disturbing to Timorese and foreign observers alike. In the USAID (2006) report, they claim that the crisis has revealed a number of fundamental weaknesses in the Timorese nation-state. The most disturbing of these issues include:

a) deep divisions among the nation’s senior political leaders

b) critical institutional weaknesses – and rivalries – as manifested in the police and military

c) a propensity for violence among some elements of the population, particularly young, unemployed males

d) mobilization and amplification of regional differences (USAID, 2006)

The UN Integrated Mission in Timor-Leste (UNMIT) operates under the mandate provided by the Security Council Resolution.  The emphasis of this mandate is expected to shift from peacekeeping to peace building over time. Only then can development take a solid tenure.  Since independence in May 2002, Timor-Leste has adopted a constitution providing for a democratic, pluralistic society and fundamental rights and freedoms. The presidential and parliamentary elections were held in 2007 in a free, fair and peaceful manner.  However, peace remains fragile (USAID, 2008). Political unrest alone can be detrimental to the countries’ development.

Because Timor-Leste is still a new nation, the development strategy plan should design programs and pursue initiatives that systematically address its main development goals. The main development plan that needs to be address is the poverty reduction sector. The specific strategies formulated by the Poverty Reduction and Rural and Regional Development of East Timor include the following as mentioned in the IMF (2005) report:

a) Transformation of the non-farm subsistence economy through small-scale, home and cottage industries and other business activities that generate income for the poor.

b) Provision of skills training and guidance to increase the ability of the poor in managing small businesses so that they become self-reliant.

c) Increased production in the rural areas through the application of appropriate farming techniques and promotion of agro-industries.

d) Identification and development of potential markets for products inside and outside the country.

 

The Poverty Reduction Strategy would focus on improving the productivity of the poor by achieving strong economic growth within an enabling environment. This will catalyze and sustain contributions of the poor to national development.  Government would have to provide basic social and economic services to the poor, nurturing and promoting their entrepreneurial initiatives, and prohibiting discrimination based on gender, ethnic origin, language, or geographic location. Because poor people in Timor-Leste are engaged primarily in agriculture (including fisheries and forestry), improving productivity in this sector is a high priority. Proposed initiatives include rehabilitation and construction of irrigation systems and their improved operation, introduction of water harvesting techniques, wider distribution of improved seeds of cereal crops, fruits and vegetables, improved livestock health, improved management of fishing, and sustainable management of forests and other natural resources. These initiatives will need to be undertaken with the participation of the communities that depend on them. As reported by the UN and the Timor-Leste Government (2004), improvements in marketing and infrastructure are planned for this new nation. The micro-enterprise segment of society (a substantial part of the informal economy) has been an important contributor to growth in developing nations. A large number of people work in micro-enterprises or pursue very small independent activities to subsist. Expansion of opportunities and productivity improvements in this sector are crucial, not only for rural families but for those in urban slums. The development plan must address provisions made for training, quality-improving technologies, support services, and micro-credit (UNDP, 2009). A critical requirement for poverty reduction is to strongly enhance opportunities in the formal private sector, where growth and employment can be achieved in manufacturing, construction, trade, transport, tourism, and many domestic services. These would depend largely on government policies and legislation being formulated to improve the private sector and the ability of Timor-Leste to sustain both domestic and foreign investment (Da Costa, 2000). Poverty eradication in Timor-Leste as indicated by the UN (2009) report calls for multiple efforts, including the following:

  • There is a need for agricultural policies that lead to adequate levels of food self-sufficiency.  This strategy would lessen dependency of Timor-Leste on imported food items.
  • It is necessary to control the inflation rate to ensure that the poor, who are vulnerable to macroeconomic shocks, are insulated from the risk of reduced purchasing power.
  • Investment must promote the business and industrial sector through the creation of a conducive investment climate, to ensure that people have alternative employment opportunities in the non-agriculture sector.
  • Distribution of agricultural produce and farmers’ access to the market and financial services should be improved in order to bring about a transformation from subsistence agriculture to commercial agriculture.  The purpose of this is to generate an income for farmers and increase the percentage of paid workers in the agriculture sector.

 

Poverty reduction cannot occur without the provision of infrastructure that includes an effective network of roads and bridges, efficient seaports and airports, reliable electric power, a telecommunications system, and postal services. The IMF (2005) document indicate that agricultural and business developments are crucially dependent on this infrastructure, and trade, tourism, and foreign investment cannot be encouraged without it. Consequently, a poverty reduction strategy is an integrated process that requires a pervasive effort by government and international donors who will play a major role in assisting Timor-Leste’s development.

NOTE: The above information is derived from the ‘International Development Paper for Concept of Community Development’ by Former ADRA Timor-Leste Country Director, Luc Sabot.