No. 1 — January 7, 2000

 

Weekly Review

NOTES

Aid totaling around $520 million over three years was pledged to the devastated territory of East Timor at a donors' conference held in Tokyo December 16 and December 17. Representatives from more than 50 countries and international organizations participated in the meeting, which was cochaired by the World Bank and the United Nations Transitional Administration in East Timor. About $370 million of the promised assistance will go toward reconstruction and development; the other $150 million or so is earmarked for humanitarian aid. Participants agreed to meet regularly to discuss and evaluate progress in East Timor. Portugal will host a midyear review in Lisbon.

Part of the aid will be disbursed by two trust funds. One, jointly run by the World Bank and the Asian Development Bank, will finance projects in such areas as infrastructure and agriculture. The other, administered by UNTAET, will cover improved governance and human resources development. The remaining bilateral and multilateral money, which totals more than $300 million, will be used for reconstruction and humanitarian relief efforts.

On the eve of the donors' meeting, Japan committed $100 million toward the three-year total of $370 million for reconstruction and development. Its earlier pledge of $28 million for refugee relief is included in the roughly $150 million promised for humanitarian assistance (see JEI Report No. 44B, November 19, 1999). The United States pledged about $34.9 million in help at the meeting, plus another $30 million in direct assistance for refugees.

Discussions at the the two-day conference focused on the rehabilitation and development of what will be the first new country of the 21st century. Along with East Timorese leaders, UNTAET, which should be fully operationally in February, is tackling the daunting task of building political, judicial and economic systems from the ground up. At the same time, though, East Timor must resolve events of its recent past, especially the violence that erupted after the September 1999 vote to separate from Indonesia. Teams of investigators are examining information that human rights abuses occurred at the hands of militia widely believed to be supported by the Indonesian military. The number of people killed still is unknown. Forensic experts have rushed to gather evidence before it is washed away by the rainy season and before memories fade. The evidence collected to date has proved that Jakarta's count of about 100 people killed is an underestimate. Also, some 170,000 East Timorese refugees have yet to return to their homeland from camps in West Timor.

Prime Minister Keizo Obuchi met with East Timor independence leader and the head of the National Council of Timorese Resistance, Xanana Gusmao — who likely will be elected the country's first president — on the sidelines of the donors' meeting. The premier expressed Japan's hope that East Timor would continue on the path of national reconciliation and that UNTAET and the East Timorese would work together. He also urged East Timor to build good relations with its neighbors, namely, Indonesia and Australia. Mr. Obuchi said as well that the East Timorese must take the lead in the nation-building process. He mentioned, too, that Tokyo might establish a diplomatic presence — not necessarily an embassy — in Dili, the capital of East Timor, to manage liaison and coordination activities.

The views expressed in this report are those of the author
and do not necessarily represent those of the Japan Economic Institute

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