The Australian Government aid program has been working in East Timor since the mid-1980s, but began establishing a partnership with the new nation of East Timor at its inception in 1999. The program focused on humanitarian aid in its early days, but quickly moved to broader development assistance. Now Australian aid supports East Timor's efforts to progress towards the UN Millennium Development Goals.
Australia is determined to help make a difference in a country which is a close neighbour and which shares Australia's interests in regional economic development and security. Between 1999 and June 2009, Australia provided over $820 million in Official Development Assistance (ODA) to East Timor. In 2009-2010 the Australian Government will provide an estimated $117 million in ODA, an increase of 21 per cent on the 2008-2009 estimated allocation of $96 million, which reflects Australia’s ongoing commitment to East Timor to ensure gains in stability are not lost and development and growth can progress.
Australia actively works to build partnerships with other major donors, such as the World Bank and the United Nations, to assist in the practical and efficient coordination of development assistance and state building efforts in East Timor.
East Timor, a country of just over a million people, is one of the world's poorest nations, ranking 158th out of 179 countries in the Human Development Index (United Nations Development Program). Life expectancy is 60.2 years, and the adult literacy rate is only 50.1 per cent (ages 15 and older). The proportion of children who are underweight for their age (0 - 5 years) is high (46 per cent), and only 38 per cent of people have access to an improved water source.1 Poverty estimates indicate that 49.9 per cent of East Timorese live on less than US$1 a day.2 Only two of the UN Millennium Development Goals are likely to be met-achieving universal primary education, and promoting gender equality and empowering women. Reducing child mortality, improving maternal health and ensuring environmental sustainability are also projected as possible to achieve, but only if some changes are made.3 East Timor is a newly formed independent state that remains prone to conflict. Relatively peaceful presidential and parliamentary elections were held in 2007; yet the attacks on the democratically elected leaders in February 2008 underscore the fragility of East Timor's new democracy. Most camps for internally displaced people are now closed and there has been good progress made in helping people to return to their homes; but the country continues to rely on international security forces to maintain stability. Across the country, large numbers of people remain vulnerable to natural disasters, disease and food shortages. Poverty and high levels of unemployment, particularly among young men and women, remain widespread. The rapidly growing population has placed increasing pressure on the East Timorese Government to provide basic social services to its citizens. East Timor generates significant revenue from Timor Sea oil and gas production, and there is a need to build the capacity to support the Government to bring the benefits of this income to the people of East Timor.
Country Program: $64.2
Total ODA: $117.0
Australia is committed to ensuring its aid to East Timor is effective and demonstrably improves the lives of East Timor's people. The following contributions since 1999 illustrate how Australian assistance is making a difference in East Timor.
Security sector reform
The Australian Federal Police manages Australian aid to the policing sector in East Timor. The AFP has trained over 800 staff in the National Police Force of East Timor (PNTL) in collaboration with the United Nations. The project has also helped the PNTL deliver better, more accountable and effective law enforcement through adopting appropriate operating procedures, improving management of finances and personnel, and developing and reviewing policing policies.
Improving health services
To assist the poor to access health services, Australian aid has:
* Restored surgical services across East Timor and supplied health practitioners to conduct over 10,000 surgical procedures and over 14,900 consultations
* Provided overseas specialist training for East Timorese doctors and nurse anaesthetists
* Restored the eyesight of over 1,650 people with cataract surgery
* Repaired cleft palates for two generations of East Timorese people
State building by improving Government capacity
To strengthen the East Timorese Government institutions, Australian assistance has:
* Supported the delivery of national budgets over the past five years. In 2006 - 07 Australian assistance to the Ministry of Planning and Finance was essential in supporting production of the Government's US$315 million budget. In 2007, Australian advisers helped develop and expen