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"The Brussels Donors' Meeting on East Timor worked according to the Goebbels principle of propaganda: 'If you repeat anything often enough and long enough, people will believe it.' By repeating often and at length what a marvellous job the WB, UNTAET and ETTA had done, one presumes everyone except the NGOs/INGOs went away believing this."
Sieneke Martin, INGO representative

Report on the Brussels Donors' Meeting on East Timor, 5-6 December 2000

From Sieneke Martin, INGO representative

1. Introduction

1.1 Participants
Three representatives of national NGOs (Aleixo da Cruz, chair of the Board of the NGO Forum, Antero da Silva, NGO Forum representative, and Filomena dos Reis, REDE representative) as well as one representative of the international NGOs working in East Timor (Sieneke Martin, Oxfam GB) attended the Donors' meeting. The three NGO representatives were included in the East Timor delegation to the meeting. One NGO representative was given a seat at the table and was able to speak during the meeting.

Funding was provided by UNDP, the World Bank (WB), the Catholic Institute for International Relations (CIIR) and by a number of international NGOs working in East Timor. Travel and other support arrangements were made by Oxfam.

Although UNTAET Donor Coordination Unit  was supposed to have made visa arrangements the NGO representatives still spent 4 1/2 hours at the airport while frantic phone calls were made by the INGO representative to the EU, the UN and the WB to facilitate the issue of the necessary visa.

1.2 Programme
Oxfam Belgium arranged a number of meetings for the delegation, these included meeting with Vicky Bowman in Chris Patten's office, with Andreas List, East Timor Desk at the EU and an open meeting for NGOs with the WB staff. A media conference was also held at the Oxfam Solidarity office.

1.3 Documentation
A number of background documents were provided to delegates and copies of these are available at the NGO Forum office in Dili.

2. The donors' meeting

2.1 Participants
A list of participants, including the members of the national delegations and the representatives of the EU, WB and other multilateral agencies is available at the NGO Forum.

2.2 Content
Sergio Vieira de Mello (UNTAET), Jemal-ud-din Kassum (WB), Chris Patten (EU), Jose Ramos Horta (ETTA) on how marvellous they all were and how things could not have been done faster or better.

Mario Carrascalao (ETTA) appreciated the Portuguese support. He described development processes as sluggish and procurement processes as top heavy and costly. He mentioned the lack of support for the cabinet members and the need for genuine partnership between the UN and the Timorese [government]. He mentioned the forthcoming political processes (electoral registration, political parties and the need for a Pact of Unity as defined by the CNRT August Congress, the need for a debate on the constitution).

Ana Pessoa (ETTA) presented issues connected with public administration . She said that decisions about decentralization would have to be made after independence. A think tank was to be established, with support from the ADB. Local communities were regaining their strengths through the CEP. There was a need to establish the legal framework for ETTA.

Finn Reske-Nielsen (UNDP) highlighted the need for capacity building and the dearth of well-educated people even for the small public service. There was a discussion on the need for dedicated and interested people to be recruited who could be trained, rather than adhere to the requirement of at least a Master's level, which is not realistic. Michael Francine, Cabinet Member for Finance, reinforced this from his own department's experience. In-service training, training overseas and the language issue as a barrier to effective communication were all mentioned as issues to be dealt with.

Luis Vadivieso, IMF, and  Michael Francino both highlighted the financial difficulties ahead for the new government.

Emilia Pires (ETA) presented the need for planning for sustainability in education, health and agriculture. She mentioned the need to bridge the gap between local people and those from the diaspora. She highlighted the need for strengthening of partnerships between ETTA, the UN agencies and NGOs. She indicated that there would be workshops on setting sectoral strategies.

2.3 NGO input
At that stage the agenda presented an opportunity for comment by the NGOs. Both representatives spoke in support of the statements previously distributed. Some of the critical remarks made by Aleixo da Cruz on behalf of the NGO Forum and by Filomena dos Reis on behalf of REDE, were immediately dealt with as it was obvious that no discordance could be allowed:

Sergio de Mello contacted Dili by phone and assured the meeting that the Serious Crimes Unit's investigation had NOT been cut back to four crimes.  Six indictments would be served shortly and two groups of a further five each were expected to be presented to the courts in the very near future.

Sergio was personally in favour of dealing strongly with violence against women and with the need for gender balance in the civil service and other environments and said that he looked forward to meeting with Filomena on her return to Dili to discuss this issue with the Gender Unit and CivPol.

In this section of the meeting the ICRC indicated that it would hand over the main hospital in June 2001 Mario Carrascalao made an impassioned plea for economic planning and development (especially for coffee growers) Japan indicated the need for an agricultural masterplan the EU pointed to the need to handover the management of the health sector from INGOs to the Department of Health Services.

WB indicated that there would be sector supervisions missions in March and April 2001.

2.4 Results
The Brussels Donors' Meeting on East Timor worked according to the Goebbels principle of propaganda: "If you repeat anything often enough and long enough, people will believe it." By repeating often and at length what a marvellous job the WB, UNTAET and ETTA had done, one presumes everyone except the NGOs/INGOs went away believing this.

As the meeting progressed it became very clear that there was a complicity between all the players at this meeting to present everything connected with East Timor in a rosy light, except perhaps for the representatives of Canada, Australia, the UK and the USA, who insisted on presenting some real and critical remarks on unrealistic standards in recruitment, on the language issue, on overseas training, on the need for planning and budgeting for recurring costs in relation to staff, etc.

Questions on detailed planning and on the need for a complete budget were answered by promising that, "This would all be ready by the June Donors' meeting in Canberra."

I understand from Scott Dawson, Australia, that the meeting between the actual donors to the Trust Funds and the WB was much more critical than the open meeting and that questions were asked there with requirements of detailed answers. Scott described this meeting as a minor donor revolution against the WB.

2.5 Item of concern
The timetable presented by Xanana to the Council was also discussed during this meeting and this gave rise to an extraordinary intervention by Timor Aid right at the end of the meeting:

After a number of final remarks and before Ramos Horta was to speak, the chair gave permission for Timor Aid to speak and Jose Lobato, who had sat down next to Antero da Silva just before that, expressed the hope that the timetable would be cautiously implemented so that the lives of those who had died in the struggle, including his father's, would not be wasted.

The NGO representatives decided not to react to this intervention in the meeting itself, but it has been extensively discussed afterwards. The impression was given that NGOs has discussed this issue and had an opinion to offer.

Horta concluded the meeting by giving an overview of regional support for East Timor and foreshadowed entry into ASEAN after independence as well as strengthening other regional links for security and other reasons.

3. Items for information and further action

3.1 NGO Trust Fund
The WB is not inclined to start a Trust Fund section for NGOs, let alone provide for access by INGOs, except through the usual tender processes.

However, a number of other donors, including the EU, would be interested in following this through. The NGO forum needs to develop a proposal and approach each possible donor to canvas financial commitment to such a fund.

3.2 INGO funding
If  INGOs want to increase funding from bilateral donors, those donors will have to be approached individually. Some are sufficiently dissatisfied with the WB to look at proposals more sympathetically.

3.3 Capacity building
The NGO Forum focussed capacity building programme designed by UNDP will go forward and arrangements will be made as fast as possible to start the programme next year. This is likely to be through contracting an international NGO.

3.4 Future representation at donors' meetings
The delegation feels that it is imperative that NGOs and INGOs are represented at these and other meetings. Planning should start soon for the June meeting in Canberra and the Australian Mission should be approached to ensure funding. ACFOA should be approached to start lobbying and advocacy arrangements. (see description of ACFOA below)

The delegation also feels that there should be some continuity of delegates. Processes are involved and complicated and it is important that delegates are familiar with these and can operate effectively in that environment.


Australian Council for Overseas Aid
ACFOA is the peak body of the Australian Aid and Development Non-Government Organisations (NGOs). It provides membership services, eg. training, and it develops policy and advocacy related to development issues. Members adhere to a Code of Conduct
ACFOA has various working groups who are part of its policy/advocacy activities. The East Timor WG meets now every two months to share information on East Timor, build up strategies to campaign and lobby governments in matters such as the refugees in West Timor, to liaise with AusAID, the ET NGO Forum [101k](a similar organisation to ACFOA in East Timor), etc.
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