This year, 2019, is an important milestone in the short but proud history of Timor-Leste, as it is for the United Nations team in this country.
On the 27th January, 1999 the President of Indonesia, B. J. Habibie, requested the United Nations to hold a referendum, and the people were given a choice of either greater autonomy within Indonesia or independence.
In August 1999 almost 80% of the population voted against autonomy, and the United Nations shepherded the country to independence.
The UN has been in Timor-Leste since then, providing impartial advice and supporting Timor-Leste’s initiatives for a stronger economy, improved health services and education, and peace.
Now, 20 years later, it is a good time to take stock of what has been achieved, to re-double efforts to achieve more and to realign aspirations for the future. A team from the Government, with support from the United Nations, has already begun collecting data and relevant information to prepare a presentation that Timor-Leste will make to global leaders at what’s known as ‘’The High-Level Forum’’ in New York in July on progress of the main development issues in Timor-Leste. This ‘Voluntary National Review of the Sustainable Development Goals’ will showcase the areas in which Timor-Leste has made substantial progress, like near-eradication of malaria, and also reveal where more work needs to be done, like dealing with the scourge of malnutrition, caring better for children and girls, or the provision of safe drinking water for everyone.
This is an important time not just for Timor-Leste but also for the relationship with the UN which has delivered much over the years, but which is now in the midst of implementing reforms to make the organisation better suited to tackle global challenges.
The UN is being urged by António Guterres, our Secretary General, to focus on finding effective ways of supporting national governments to accelerate progress against the Sustainable Development Goals, which together offer the promise of creating a better world, more peaceful and secure, by supporting through investments in ‘’People, Planet, Peace, Prosperity and Partnerships.’’
We are being challenged to find new and innovative ways of transforming the lives of poor and vulnerable groups of people at local, national, regional and global levels through improved policy advice, programme implementation and cost-effective delivery.
The UN strongly believes development cannot take place without the support of the people of Timor-Leste, and the Government has put in place a number of initiatives to ensure that everyone has a voice, and that no-one is left behind.
We have already started an Evaluation of our current agreement with the Government of Timor-Leste, known as the UN Development Assistance Framework, or ‘’UNDAF,’’ which ensures UN programs are aligned with Government development priorities.
Later this year we will start to prepare our Common Country Analysis and a new Partnership Framework that will set out priorities for the UN’s work with Government and others in the country for the period from 2020 onwards.
The UN has 300+ highly skilled and committed people (national and international), working together on programmes to meet the aspirations of Timor-Leste people. We are working in every municipality of the country, and with Government Departments and other partners to better understand the problems that the people of Timor-Leste face and what’s being done to build stronger more cohesive communities. Our work, as practical as it might be, is always underpinned by humanitarian considerations.
We can draw on the experience of UN staff and systems from around the world who have knowledge about what works and why it is vital to continually strive to get ‘value for money’.
Together with the UN Heads of agencies in Timor-Leste, I will be working with our staff and partners to see how, we can accelerate progress towards sustainable economic growth and improved well-being for all.
I look forward to hearing from you about your hopes and dreams as this work unfolds throughout the year. Please contact me through this blog page at any time or talk to our people. We’ve been here the whole 20 years, and we will be here in Timor-Leste with you, for many more yet.