Despite an unprecedented start to 2020, on Thursday May 14 the United Nations (UN) and United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) launched a new phase of assistance in its 20-year relationship with Timor-Leste.
Timor-Leste has made significant progress in the twenty years since the Popular Consultation that led to independence in 2002. The country has demonstrated strong commitment to reconciliation and reconstruction, as well as to human rights and democracy.
The new phase was officiated with the signing of a new United Nations Sustainable Development Cooperation Framework (UNSDCF) between the UN and the Government of Timor-Leste; and the presentation of a new Country Programme Document (CPD) from UNDP to the government.
The documents, presented on the same day, outline the national and international development priorities for Timor-Leste’s context from 2021-2025, in line with the government’s Strategic Development Plan.
The UNSDCF seeks to accelerate progress on the Global Sustainable Development Goals – with the goal of reaching upper middle-income country status by 2030 – while the CPD outlines UNDP support to government development priorities.
Representing the UN, Resident Coordinator Roy Trivedy signed the UNSDCF with H.E. Dionísio Babo Soares, Minister for Foreign Affairs and Cooperation after being approved by the Council of Ministers on May 13, 2020.
Intensive consultation with the government has resulted in six strategic policies in the UNSDCF in the areas of:
· Nutrition, food security and agricultural productivity
· Sustainable economic opportunities and decent work for all
· Access to quality education and life-long learning outcomes and skills
· Quality health care and well-being
· Accountable, inclusive and participatory governance and quality public services
· Sustainable management of natural resources and resilience to climate change
The CPD was presented by UNDP Resident Representative Ms Munkhtuya Altangerel to H.E. Soares, H.E. Abílio José Caetano, Vice-Minister of State Administration, and ministerial representatives, secretaries of state, and national police. In her speech, Ms Altangerel reaffirmed the supportive role of the UNDP and broader UN system play for the Government of Timor-Leste.
Progress on development goals will be tracked against measurable statistics in poverty, education, employment and health. Nationally 30% of Timorese still live below the poverty line and the country’s youth – 74% of the population – struggle with high unemployment. Timor-Leste is also highly vulnerable to climate change and increasing extreme weather – the mediation of which is a major priority for the UNDP, with more than $20 million dollars to be spent on climate resilience projects over the next six years.
“UNDP support for economic recovery and diversification; good governance and institutions in service of the people; and climate smart communities and livelihoods will be implemented by working with national institutions. It’s only by working together that we can achieve lasting results,” she said.
The UNDP has a comparative advantage in these three areas and is rare among development organisations in its scale and capacity to mobilise global networks of learning, procurement, resource sharing.
Ms Altangerel also thanked all Timorese for trusting the UNDP to support the government through government-financed projects, as in recent procurement responses to COVID-19 and other crucial medical health supplies that will spend over $5.7 million to reinforce the country’s health system.
These latest foundation documents represent consolidation of Timor-Leste’s shift from a post-conflict context to one of sustainable development – which began with the departure of peace keeping forces in 2012. Despite challenging economic and environmental circumstances, Timor-Leste is a development success story, with the achievement of becoming South-East Asia’s most democratic country.
“Timor-Leste has a historic relationship with the United Nations … The Government of Timor-Leste looks forward to working closely with the UN family to turn our country’s shared vision into a reality for all Timorese citizens,” said H.E. Soares.