BACK DOOR Newsletter on East Timor      home June news

"Ultimately the challenge to donors now lies in finding ways to assist the East Timorese to lead their country into full independence and manage the demands that will bring. The East Timorese do not want a culture of dependence to develop with donors. Instead they want donors to work together with leadership within both the government and non government sectors to build the national human capacity across the country and across all sectors." Forum Nacional ONG Timor Lorosa'e / The East Timor National NGO Forum

Forum Nacional ONG Timor Lorosa'e
The East Timor National NGO Forum

Kaikoli Street,  Dili-East Timor  telephone 322772/


CANBERRA June 2001

Capacity building has been widely acknowledged as an issue of paramount importance to every sector of national development in East Timor during the next six month period. Indeed it will be an ongoing priority for many years to come.

Much has already been said about the urgent need to build human resource capacity for men and women working within the transitional East Timorese Administration in order that the principles of good governance can be implemented in the long term.

There is in East Timor an overwhelming sense that until now the process used to determine national development and funding priorities has been very donor driven.  In this next period of the transition, NGOs and INGOs alike believe that the priorities for national development, the timeframes for their implementation, the language used in decision making processes, and the approach taken to consultation should be driven by the East Timorese stakeholders themselves.

Ultimately the challenge to donors now lies in finding ways to assist the East Timorese to lead their country into full independence and manage the demands that will bring.  The East Timorese do not want a culture of dependence to develop with donors.  Instead they want donors to work together with leadership within both the government and non government sectors to build the national human capacity across the country and across all sectors.

There are ways in which donors can assist to improve and deepen the process of capacity building in the next phase.

1.  At the national level, participatory and consultative approaches to policy formulation and drafting of legislation are central to the development of a strong civil society and a democratic government. In addition to this, meaningful, participatory and consultative processes at the level of district and local development initiatives generate experience, ownership, skill and pride in the population, and trust in the government.

A strong civil society is essential to the development of responsible government.  Participatory and consultative approaches, however, are acquired under conditions which foster the building of trust over time between all the actors involved in nation building.  These actors also include local forms of traditional and other governance, local non government and community organisations, educational and research institutions and training bodies, women’s organisations, religious and interest based groups, and other service providers and intermediaries outside the government structures.

 Donors should continue to  demonstrate  their ongoing trust and funding support for civil society as an essential component of  a democratic and self sustaining nation.

 In addition, donors should support strategies for building appreciation of and understanding of the role of NGOs and other civil society actors within staff of the transitional administration.  They should support projects which foster partnerships between all stakeholders including government, NGOs and CSOs, local heirarchies, women’s groups and vulnerable groups.

2.  Capacity building is a process which involves more than skills transfer, training, and human resource management plans in government.  These elements are extremely important and should take place within a coordinated framework for national development.  However, the development of a national capacity building plan needs to go much further than the transitional government.  Such a national development plan needs to simultaneously address governance and policy related skills, community strengthening, network building, and organisational development.  In short civil society must be strengthened in order for people to enjoy the fruits of independence.

The highly reactive funding and political environment in which East Timorese  NGOs and other civil society actors are currently working makes sustained long term planning extremely difficult.  So much needs to be done and it will all take time. Priorities need to be established, experiences need to be documented, lessons learned need to be shared and civil society needs to advance towards it’s goals in an informed way and at an achievable pace.

Training and capacity building needs within civil society must be determined, particularly for community leaders such as  government extension workers, community leaders, women’s groups and other civil society actors.  Capacity building at all levels  needs to be carried out in a co ordinated way, and a national plan developed.

Donors should favour proposals that focus on the development of co ordinated, well researched and developed capacity building approaches rather than ad hoc training and capacity building responses which have not demonstrably improved capacity in past experience.

3.  Capacity building in East Timor will be a long term process.  “Some suggest that no organisation can absorb any more than 30% change at any one time.  East Timorese organsiational structures even when setup are seeming to undergo 100% change most of the time.  The pace of change is expected to continue after independence……… “ (Capacity Development for Governance and Public Sector Management strategic Management Framework- NPDA P15).  East Timorese communities, families, local structures, NGOs, and civil society in general are absorbing a large volume of rapid social, political and economic change.  This can lead to a sense of urgency about every priority.

 However, the reality is that building capacity for genuine community based self determination in the East Timorese context will require the building of trust over time between long term stakeholders.

 It has been suggested that there is a absence in ETTA and UNTAET of  coherent policy framework for capacity  development and that training is  not yet  linked to the performance expectations of the position.  Job performance and human resources development plans have not been developed within UNTAET/ETTA and there has as yet been no review of it’s performance with regard to capacity building.  In the absence of any  broad strategy or vision, donor driven, rather than East Timorese driven capacity building has been taking place.

 In order to promote strategies that work, NGOs believe that all international staff in particular working in East Timor should work to performance objectives related to skills transfer and capacity building which are monitored and assessed.

Donors should be prepared to commit to longer timeframes, and to develop realistic and achievable measures of successful capacity building for donor reporting requirements.   These may include a description of respectful mentoring processes used by organisations and qualitative differences that will be measured and monitored in the performance of East Timorese staff.  They should also include a description of how international staff performance in the area of capacity building has been measured and monitored throughout the life of a project.

Organisations employing international staff in East Timor should be obliged by donors to develop performance indicators relating to skills transfer and training and demonstrate that staff performance is monitored according to these as a pre requisite to receiving donor funding.  Such organisations should also be required to show a staff development plan for East Timorese staff.

6. NGOs believe that international staff working within the transitional administration and also within other organisations funded through the donors should be recruited according to qualities relating to their experience in, and demonstrated abilities to deliver skills transfer, mentoring, support and capacity development to identified East Timorese counterparts.  These skills should be considered essential to any work in the country.

In addition, NGOs in East Timor believe strongly that international staff recruited to skilled and senior positions in the administration or in projects should work in a mentoring role to an East Timorese counterpart.  The East Timorese counterpart should officially hold the title of the senior post, whilst the international staff member should hold a title of advisor or assistant to the position.

Donors should insist that international staff recruitment practices favour the employment of staff skilled in capacity building.  They should also insist that wherever possible position descriptions should have East Timorese posts bearing the senior title and international staff posts bearing the title of advisor or assistant to the position.

7. In an environment where NGOs are working hard to build continuity and capacity of their organisations at  salaries that cannot compete with those of UN agencies,  ethics need to be developed and adhered to around such UN agencies making offers to East Timorese staff  working for partner NGOs.   In addition, UN agencies should not then pressure “headhunted” staff to leave their NGO at extremely short notice.  These practices work directly against the development of a long term and co ordinated approach to capacity building of  NGOs.

UN agencies should be required by Donors to sign a voluntary code of conduct regarding “headhunting” East Timorese staff from NGOs working in development.

8.  Much has already been done in East Timor over the past 18 months in the name of Capacity Building.  It is time to assess those activities that have been successful in actually building the capacity of East Timorese people within organisations, communities, and government departments.   Without the benefit of learning from our experiences - good and bad- it will not be possible to develop a coherent future strategy based on good practice.

Donors should fund initiatives which document best (and worst) practice in the area of Capacity Building

9.  The legal system in East Timor is under enormous pressure to deliver justice which can be believed and trusted by the people of East Timor.  The problems relating to capacity building in the justice system are extremely alarming to the NGOs.  Jurors and employees within the court system require rigorous training and extremely committed international legal mentors who are prepared and able to train and lead by example.

Donors should closely monitor the appropriateness of the current capacity building activities within the legal system.  Donors should join with NGOs in insisting that only the most appropriate, culturally sensitive and experienced international staff are employed in this sector, and that they play a strong role in capacity building of counterparts to an internationally acceptable level.

10. Building the political skills and capacity of the population of East Timor is crucial to the development of an informed and active civil society.  In particular, East Timorese women are seriously disadvantaged by the unrealistically short timeframes in the delivery of civic education, voter education and the consultation on the Constitution.  If the constitution is to reflect the will of the diverse population of East Timor, then it needs to result from a consultation that allows for the full participation of women and marginalised groups in society.

Donors should seriously consider the long term negative impacts on women and marginalised groups of the short time frames for the election and the constitution.  Donors should be prepared to financially support the development of political capacity within the East Timorese population through long term civic education and community consultations.

See also:
BD: Capacity Building & 'Timorisation' - A collection of recent statements, reports, articles and news

East Timor National NGO Forum / Forum Nacional ONG Timor Lorosa'e  Updated June 14
Umbrella agency for East Timorese Non-Government Organisations (NGOs)
VISION: To contribute to the building of a pluralist, democratic, just and sustainable East Timor through the development of a strong, independent and responsible civil society committed to upholding and making real in the daily life of the community, both village and urban, the full range of human rights so that all East Timorese, particularly the poor and disadvantaged, can enjoy the fruits of liberation and development in an East Timor forever free.
MISSION: To realise its vision by promoting a culture of learning, cooperation, partnership with the community and respect for human rights and good practice amongst East Timorese NGOs and between them and other development actors, both domestic and international, and by serving as a collective, independent voice for the rights and needs of the community.
VALUES AND PRINCIPLES: a rights approach to development; inclusiveness, participation; accountability; gender balance; respect for the environment; non-party political; non-sectarian; good governance; volunteerism.
Kaikoli Street, Dili-East Timor  Telephone +670(390)322772
E-mail:  Homepage:
Jun 7 ETNGO Forum: Donors Meeting must be for Rural People:
Jun 13 ETNGO Forum: The voice of Civil Society calls the Donors:

BD: East Timor National NGO Forum / Forum Nacional ONG Timor Lorosa'e - A collection of recent media releases, position-statements, speeches, petitions, reports, and news

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