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Doing business with East Timor

By Alexander Downer - posted Monday, 15 July 2002

Since 1999, much of the attention for nations interested in East Timor has been on rehabilitation and reconstruction. More remains to be done in those areas but it is clear that East Timor faces great economic challenges and these must increasingly become the focus of our attention.

The future of East Timor will largely be determined by the extent to which the private sector takes up opportunities to advance the new nation’s development and economic progress.

Australia, East Timor and the world.

Australia welcomed East Timor's independence on 20 May. Being there to witness the celebrations, as part of the Australian delegation led by the Prime Minister, was one of the highlights of my political career.


However, we all know that the role of the international community in East Timor is not yet finished.

For the immediate future, the United Nations will remain in East Timor. The mandate for the new UN Mission of Support in East Timor was adopted by the UN Security Council on 17 May.

Australia played a key role in achieving this outcome. And we will continue to play a key role in the post-independence UN Peacekeeping Force, just as we did in INTERFET and in the United Nations Transitional Administration in East Timor.

Internal security and law and order will be challenges for the new nation of East Timor. Australia is working actively with the UN, including through our Australian Federal Police contribution to UN Civilian Police, to ensure East Timor reaches its potential as a stable, peaceful nation. And the Australian Defence Force is also helping to establish and train the East Timor Defence Force.

East Timor will remain dependent on international donor support for at least the next three years, prior to Timor Sea revenues coming on stream in full.

Australia’s commitment to the new nation is underlined by our multi-year pledge of assistance worth A$150 million, over four years from 2000-01. Key sectors for Australian assistance are health, water supply and sanitation, agriculture and rural development, and education and governance.


Already, this assistance has made a substantial contribution in helping the people of East Timor prepare to meet the challenges of independence.

Australia will continue to work closely with East Timor towards sustainable economic development. We are prepared to provide significant assistance to East Timor as long as it continues to demonstrate sound financial management and development policies.

The Timor Sea Treaty

An important symbol of our joint efforts was achieved on 20 May when the Prime Minister and his East Timor counterpart, Dr Mari Alkatiri, signed the Timor Sea Treaty.

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This is an edited version of a speech at the launch of the Australia East Timor Business Council at The First Nation of the Millennium: East Timor: Ready for Business, International Conference on 12 June 2002.

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About the Author

The Hon. Alexander Downer MP is Minister for Foreign Affairs and Member for Mayo (SA).

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