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etmnlong.gif (2291 bytes) spacer East Timor Action Network/U.S. & Jubilee USA 

International Action Alert

International Campaign for a Debt-Free East Timor

East Timor Action Network/U.S. & Jubilee USA 

JOINT INTERNATIONAL ALERT

THE WORLD'S NEWEST COUNTRY MUST START DEBT-FREE!

EAST TIMOR¹S INDEPENDENCE THREATENED BY DONORS' ECONOMIC CHAINS

Act NOW to Support Real, People-Centered Development

ON MAY 20, 2003, EAST TIMOR CELEBRATES ITS FIRST INDEPENDENCE DAY. But the jubilation may be short-lived. A lack of funds could stand in the way of East Timor's commitment to use its revenues for health care and education for its people, rather than to service a debt to wealthy states and financial institutions. The East Timorese government has joined with civil society in making poverty alleviation its highest priority. Top officials have publicly affirmed their determination to avoid the debt trap faced by so many countries in the Global South, and a "no loans" policy has been put into place.

The nascent government faces an estimated U.S.$154 to $184 million shortfall in its already lean budget for the first three years of independence. Compared to many national military budgets, this sum is peanuts; for example, the U.S. pays more for one F-22 fighter plane. But for East Timor, the money could represent the difference between "life and debt." We have a unique chance to take preemptive action ­ to prevent the stranglehold of structural adjustment, loans, and the vicious cycle of poverty from putting its deadly grip on the new country.

On May 14 and 15, donor countries and international financial institutions (IFIs) will hold a pledging conference to cover the financing gap in Dili, East Timor's capital. With concerted grassroots pressure from activists in donor countries, we can make sure that grants with no strings attached cover the gap in its entirety. Otherwise, East Timor may have no choice but to resort to loans with terms dictated by the IMF, World Bank and Asian Development Bank. We must not let this happen.

Join the International Campaign for a Debt-Free, Structural Adjustment-Free East Timor!

I. Write, call and fax government officials in your country dealing with economic policy and international development issues, urging them to make generous, macroeconomic condition-free grant pledges at the mid-May East Timor Donors Conference, and ask activist networks in your country to do the same.

Talking points (see sample letters, below):

  • Your country should build on recent international support for East Timor by helping it meet its short-term budget gap. With their country devastated by Indonesian occupation, the East Timorese are among the poorest on the planet. They should not be forced o choose between feeding the hungry and servicing a debt.
  • East Timor represents a unique chance for your country to take preemptive measures and put rhetoric about eradication of global poverty into action.
  • Your government should make the most generous donation possible at the May pledging conference in East Timor, with grants free from crippling conditions. (U.S.-based activists are urging the U.S. government to pledge funds covering 25% of the financing gap. We suggest that you advocate for your country to cover a specific amount as well.)
  • Senior administration officials in your country must work with colleagues in other governments to ensure the entire financing gap is funded with grants.

The best targets for this message vary from country to country ­ it could be your Prime Minister, the Minister for International Development, your country¹s G8 Representative, and/or Members of Parliament. We ask that organizations identify targets in their country in consultation with economic justice groups.

II. Organize nongovernmental organization sign-on letters making the above points, addressed to relevant government officials (sample letters follow this alert).

III. Educate others in your country on the issue with media work (letters to the editor, opinion articles, press releases) and by including information on the issue in newsletters, e-mail updates, meetings, and other relevant outlets.

Sample press releases and articles are available on ETAN's website, or contact john@etan.org or +1-718-596-7668.

Time is not on our side. We have only a few weeks left to exert public pressure. Please act today!

Please let us know the results of your work, at karen@etan.org or +1-202-544-6911.

Thank you! Your efforts do make a difference!

Background

The courageous people of East Timor paid a terrible price for their freedom. Many powerful nations actively supported the Indonesian military occupation that killed one-third of the population between 1974 and 1999, 'investing' in East Timor through weapons sales to Indonesia. In 1999, Indonesian security forces and their militia proxies violently retaliated after the East Timorese opted for independence in a UN-organized referendum. Troops destroyed 75% of the already poor country's infrastructure, displaced two-thirds of the population, raped hundreds of women and girls, and killed some 2,000 people.

Centuries of Portuguese colonial rule and 24 years of brutal, illegal Indonesian military occupation have made East Timor one of the poorest countries on the planet. East Timor has a 60% illiteracy rate, a per capita gross national product of $340, and a life expectancy of only 48 years. The infant mortality rate is 135 per 1000 live births, and the maternal mortality rate is twice that of other countries in Southeast Asia and the Western Pacific.

Worldwide poverty and inequality within and between countries have increased throughout the era of structural adjustment. The people of East Timor have only to look to their neighbor Indonesia to see this. Unfortunately, IFIs and the leadership of many countries appear to be ignoring these lessons. In doing so, they are repeating failed policies and practices, and it will be the East Timorese people who suffer. Unless those mobilized for global justice and debt cancellation rally in support of a debt-free, structural adjustment-free East Timor, the people of the world's newest country may be subjected to a new economic colonialism.

For more information, see the ETAN media release, "East Timor Action Network to Bush: 'Put Your Money Where Your Mouth Is'; Calls for a Debt-Free East Timor" on the internet at www.etan.org/news/2002a/03debt.htm.

Additional background can be found at www.etan.org. You can also contact karen@etan.org, phone +1-202-544-6911.

Sample letter for government officials (please modify to use your own words) 

Date

Dear _________,

East Timor will celebrate its first Independence Day on May 20. At this most critical time in its development, I am writing to ask you to support the world¹s newest nation as it faces an estimated U.S.$154 to $184 million budget shortfall over the first three years of independence.

The East Timorese are still in the early stages of rebuilding their devastated country following the 1999 Indonesian military-wrought destruction and simply cannot afford to start off their new nationhood in debt. If the budget gap, small in international terms, is not covered by pledges at the May 14 and 15 East Timor Donors Conference, East Timor may fall into a cycle of debt and poverty which plagues so many poor countries.

I urge you to support the most generous pledge of grants possible from <YOUR COUNTRY> to cover East Timor¹s budget gap with no macroeconomic conditions attached. I also urge you to work with others in the administration and abroad to make sure the entire gap is financed with condition-free grants.

This support would be in line with recent international commitments to the global eradication of poverty and is a natural extension of the positive relationship established between <YOUR COUNTRY> and East Timor. Covering East Timor¹s budget gap would ensure that international support given to the new country during its transition to independence would continue to be meaningful. It is also the least that can be done for a people who suffered so greatly for their freedom.

I look forward to your response.

Sincerely, 

Your name and contact information

see U.S. Action Alert

 


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