18 September 2009

Xanana Gusmao speech at the 2nd Consultative Conference on Good International Engagement in Fragile States


Health Sciences Institute in Comoro, Díli

17 August 2009

Your Excellencies the Members of Parliament

Your Excellencies the Members of Government

Your Excellencies the Representatives of the Diplomatic Corps

Excellencies, the Ambassadors and Heads of the International Agencies

Representatives of the Civil Society

Honourable Delegates

Ladies and Gentlemen,

This year we, the people of Timor-Leste, celebrated the 10th anniversary of our historic vote in favour of a Free and Independent Nation. It was just ten years ago that the soon-to-be citizens of Timor-Leste made their way over hills and through valleys to exercise their right to self-determination. Our call for freedom was heard throughout the world – and the world duly responded.

Our path to independence was, of course, not an easy one and it has left a mark on our People. So while this is a time to celebrate, it is also a time to reflect on what we have being through, our historic and our difficult moments, the turning points we have faced and the decisions we have made, and also or own “sins” as well as our “virtues”.

Ladies and Gentlemen

If we are here to reflect on fragile States and situations, we must first remember that each State has its own history, its own culture and its own traditions. Some, like Timor-Leste, are very young and have experienced a unique process of formation. In our country, this has involved a long and varied record in relations between our People; and between our People and the international community.

The Timorese have shared both good as well as difficult experiences – experiences that we can not simply cast aside as we move forward as a Nation. But when we talk about being a fragile State, it is common to say that we are fragile because we are a post-conflict country – but what does “post-conflict” mean?

For us, the Timorese, it means that in our past we fought for a cause, a cause that we were prepared to live and die for. Timorese were willing to die to gain independence, and some were willing to die in the fight against it. Either way, our People showing great determination and courage and a desire to fight for what they believed in.

Today, as a fragile State, we need to again embrace this great sense of purpose and determination. We must all take up the cause to develop our country, to promote stability and security and of course to consolidate our justice system and our democratic rules and culture.

But, we are young…and so the political maturity to put the interests of the nation – and by that I mean our People - above all other considerations is not yet our reality. And so we need stronger institutions, mature institutions that work to defend the best interests of the Nation, and that are not distracted by the pursuit of personal agendas or private gains.

And the only way in which we can be assisted in this endeavour, to move beyond being a fragile State, is with an understanding of the context and the history of our country – it is not through the use recycled formulas or concepts not appropriate to our national context.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Given this anniversary, I would like to take the opportunity to personally thank our Development Partners for their support to Timor-Leste over the past decade.

We have achieved so much, and I have no doubt will achieve much more in coming years. And so, with heartfelt and sincere gratitude, I say to those who have come from afar and who were willing to stand by us when we needed you most, thank-you.

I would like to acknowledge, in particular, the long and deep engagement of the United Nations in peace building and State building in Timor-Leste. The UN has played a critical role, from the very beginning, through successive UN Missions mandated by the UN Security Council.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

The needs of our People are many. As we celebrate 10 years of self-determination, we can cast our eyes over a growing economy and new businesses, people walking our streets in safety and improved health and education services – all of which are adding to the great hope in our new Nation.

The farmer in Aileu, the “mikrolet” driver in Baucau and the teacher in Oecusse all share a common experience. An experience of foreign occupation, of hope inspired by the blessings of independence – and sadly, and for too many of our People, an experience of poverty. It is, however, these shared experiences that contribute to our common values, that help define who we are and that bind our Nation together.

Distinguished guests,

It is a rare honour for us to be given the mandate to build a Nation. We must all appreciate that we are uniquely privileged to be sitting together here today assigned with such a task.

But, with this task comes the responsibility, shared amongst all present, to help make the dreams of the Timor-Leste’s People - urban and rural, male and female, young and old - a reality.

As a Government, we proudly embrace this task and this responsibility. And so with dignity and with honesty, we will with not only recount our successes but we will make known the times that we might have done better.

We have adopted a measured approach when addressing our peace-building and nation-building challenges. We have been able to meet our challenges by breaking them into smaller fragments.

By tackling our difficult challenges in this way, we have been able to focus on what is reasonable to achieve – and in doing so have achieved some great successes over the past few years.

One needs to only travel through Díli, and increasingly the districts, to bear witness to the results we have achieved by working together. Although, we can and we should do better!

We recognise that those living in rural areas are yet to enjoy the same rewards from our economic growth as those living in our urban areas. And so we have made the welfare of our People living in rural areas a high priority of our development agenda.

And we have agreement on a common cause in Timor-Leste – to fight poverty. But there are no short-cuts. And we must mobilise the whole country, as well as the partnership of the international community. We continue to count on our development partners, and our accumulated experience of what has worked well in this country and what has to change. And here the key message for success is: better coordination and engagement between us.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

The Strategic Development Plan to set the priorities and goals for the medium and long-term development of the Nation will be presented to the National Parliament shortly. Rural development must take priority. This is where the vast majority of our People live and where the occurrence of poverty is highest. By focusing on agricultural production, infrastructure, health and education, the development of human resources and a growing private sector we can make a big difference to people’s lives.

As Timor-Leste embraces peace-building and nation-building, in a word development, we are prepared to learn some very big lessons. Lessons we wish to share with the rest of the world in the Díli International Dialogue to be hosted by Timor-Leste in March 2010.

With this remark, I wish to thank you all for attending Timor-Leste’s Second Consultative Conference on Principles for Good International Engagement in Fragile States and Situations and wish you all a very successful conference.

Thank you very much.

Kay Rala Xanana Gusmao

17 September 2009

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