Developing Social Infrastructure in East Timor
Beginning in December 2005, ACDI/VOCA implemented a USAID-funded program to build NGO-sector capacity in East Timor, called the NGO Sector Strengthening Program. The Center for International Conflict Resolution (CICR) at Columbia University served as a subcontractor on the five-year program. Together, ACDI/VOCA and CICR worked with BELUN, a national nongovernmental organization (NGO) in East Timor that was set up to implement the project, bolster civil society, and reduce the underlying tensions that can lead to violent conflict. The program conducted focused and highly participatory needs assessments to identify community priorities, since these may inform efforts to reduce tensions and prevent violent responses to community challenges.
The program placed an emphasis on building sound relationships with community groups and NGOs based on open and transparent communication. BELUN had more than 150 NGO partners across all 13 of East Timor’s districts, to which it provided specialized technical assistance. The program also fostered NGO networks, using technology and other resources to enhance cooperation, facilitate national linkages, and strengthen relationships among international and Timorese communities. Vehicles for institutional learning, collaboration, and coordination included the National Database of Community Development Projects and the Small Grant Donors’ Network, both of which were managed by BELUN.
BELUN worked with the NGOs to reinforce areas of strength while addressing challenges faced by the organizations themselves and by the communities in which they work. To do this, BELUN positioned five teams throughout the country in Ainaro, Baucau, Dili, Maliana, and Oecussi. The teams facilitated interaction with BELUN’s remote and isolated partner base and improved monitoring and evaluation of partner activities. BELUN’s goal was to increase civil society organizational capacity in order to improve service delivery across all sectors in East Timor. To help achieve this goal, a small grants program was established to provide resources to innovative and sustainable initiatives that contribute to their communities. BELUN worked with partners to implement projects across a multiplicity of development sectors, including agriculture, education, environment, health, infrastructure, media, sports, recreation, water, and sanitation. In addition, BELUN sought to establish collaborative relationships with academic institutions in Dili and abroad to facilitate institutional learning and information sharing.
BELUN worked with partners to plan and implement programs in coordination with other donors and local government representatives. Consistent monitoring and evaluation of activities ensured quality. Of equal importance was BELUN’s commitment to assisting groups beyond the implementation of short-term activities. Technical support, capacity building, and training services help ensure that development efforts are long-term and holistic and that they involve true community participation.