Intl Donors Meet in E. Timor

DILI ~ International donors to East Timor kicked off a three-day meeting on Thursday to discuss how to lock in security gains and promote development in the young nation, one of the world’s poorest.

The meeting includes foreign governments, non-governmental organizations, the United Nations and the World Bank and will focus on maintaining peace and reducing widespread poverty amid the global economic crisis, officials said.

“2009 will be a difficult year in (the) face of the current international financial crisis, and a drop in the price of oil, which has sharply reduced Timor-Leste’s prospective petroleum revenue,” a government briefing paper said.

“The challenge is to consolidate the reforms in the security and defense sectors, improve the efficiency and sustainability of the social safety net programs in place and sustain economic growth and poverty reduction in the long term.”

The conference started with bilateral meetings between the government, the World Bank and the United Nations.

East Timor gained independence in 2002 after a brutal 24-year occupation by neighbor Indonesia that killed roughly 200,000 people.

A mass desertion by soldiers in 2006 triggered violence among police and military factions and street gangs that killed 37 people and displaced 100,000.

A UN-backed stabilization force has returned security to the country and many displaced people have gone home, but security forces remain riven with divisions and around half the population lives on less than 88 US cents a day.

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