Ambassador Karen C. Stanton: Speech during the National Youth Forum and the Launching of “My Adventures” Comic Books for Good Governance and Peacebuil

people holding picturesWelcome everyone to the opening of the fourth National Youth Forum and the launch of “My Adventures” Comic Books. It’s important that you, the leaders of tomorrow, meet and discuss issues of importance to you.

The U.S. Embassy is proud to provide that opportunity. But these discussions are only useful if they spur action when you return home and you use your leadership role to inspire your friends, family, and community. To help you do that, USAID’s Youth Engagement to Promote Stability (YEPS) project, implemented by Search for Common Ground, has produced comic books as tools to help transform youth behavior by offering better solutions to issues identified by youth for youth – youth like you who will shape the future of Timor-Leste.

I marvel at the possibilities for your future. The world you are growing up in is completely different from the one I knew at your age when Facebook meant an album with pictures of your friends! Young people today are coming of age in a world with more access to information, networks, and new technologies than any previous generation.

You can do things that your parents, your grandparents, your great-grandparents would never have imagined. You will shape the future of Timor-Leste, and it is up to you to decide what that future will look like. Over the course of USAID’s YEPS project, you have told us a lot about your hopes and dreams for Timor-Leste.

I’d like to share with you some ways in which the United States is helping to support the future you have described for us, a future for Timor-Leste which is secure, prosperous, healthy, and ecological. Together, I believe we can help to realize your vision for this country.

Together, I believe we can make Timor-Leste more secure. Since regaining independence in 2002, this country has shown that it is possible to leave animosity behind to build a better nation – a nation committed to democracy and respect for human rights. We know that you want to be safe where you work, live, and play.

That’s why each year U.S. Navy ships sail into port in Timor-Leste to conduct exercises with their Timorese military counterparts. That’s also why we provide opportunities for Timorese military officials to train in the United States.

And, just as you want to be safe from outside threats, you have told us you want to enjoy the benefits of law and order in your communities. We are proud of our ongoing assistance to the PNTL, which has provided many training opportunities for the police and has led to the establishment of community policing initiatives throughout the country to help keep you safe.

And we are also providing training to judges and prosecutors so that they can bring justice to the people of Timor-Leste. We know that there is more work to be done, and the United States is committed to working with Timor-Leste to strengthen capacity at all levels of Timorese society to promote stability.

Together, we can make Timor-Leste more prosperous. We want to ensure that you and your families can work, innovate, and contribute to the economic development of your country. Through USAID’s Developing Agriculture Communities project, farmers in rural Timor-Leste are learning to increase incomes and food security through improved farming techniques and access to markets in Dili.

Last year, we launched our trilateral food security project with Timor-Leste and China—the first such joint cooperation in Asia. The initial “trilateral” maize and beans were harvested this past March. And just last week, our mud crab hatchery and cultivation project, which promises significant future crab production, was successfully handed off to the Government of Timor-Leste.

We also helped build today’s coffee industry, the country’s largest private employer, through twenty years and twenty million dollars of support. What is your dream? To help you reach your goal, whatever it may be, we want to be sure the conditions are right to permit you to achieve.

That’s why we will help support Timor-Leste’s bid to join ASEAN, a key effort in supporting future growth. Having the right regulations and legislation in place is critical to economic growth, so we will continue our effort to help clarify key investment issues, such as the land law, to allow employers to develop businesses and hire workers.

Whether you want to grow crops, find a job, or build your own business, the United States is committed to helping Timor-Leste build and sustain businesses and economic growth so that you and your families have a more prosperous future. We want to do that together.

Together, we want to make Timor-Leste healthier. Your health affects everything else you do – your job, your family, your finances – and it’s important to get a healthy start in life. We are focusing on strengthening maternal, neonatal and child health systems in Timor-Leste.

We are providing mobile phones to midwives – life-saving technology that connects these skilled medical professionals with pregnant women to increase each woman’s chance of a healthy pregnancy and delivery. By educating farmers and increasing access to fresh fruits and vegetables we will see improved nutrition. We are committed to fostering a healthy Timorese society to help produce a strong economy and secure nation. We want to do that together.

Together, we want to make Timor-Leste – and the world –- cleaner. Climate change and marine pollution affects everyone on the planet, but it is uniquely challenging in Timor-Leste. Whether you live on the coast in Liquica (le-key-sah) or Lautem (laow-tem) or hours from the closest beach in Maliana (mall-e-ana), we all depend on the ocean.

Protecting the ocean isn’t only an environmental issue; it is also an economic issue, a global health issue, and a food security issue. And above all, it’s a moral responsibility. This is why the U.S. and Timor-Leste have established a five year partnership to preserve and responsibly utilize the rich marine resources this country enjoys. We are committed to finding solutions to the threats facing our oceans while helping you benefit from its bounty – and we want to do that together.

For Timor-Leste to succeed and achieve this future, you, the youth of this country, must be partners and leaders.  Right now there are opportunities for you to participate in local development in your sucos, sub districts, and districts.

We are supporting these efforts with the reintroduction of the Peace Corp in the sucos. Also, as the government prepares to give more responsibility to the municipios (mewh-neh-cip-ios) and sucos, we are helping the sucos get ready to take on these new challenges and better meet your needs.

Now, we are asking you to get involved, to begin preparing to be leaders in your sucos and in your country, because I firmly believe that you can shape the future of Timor-Leste for the better.

Today, we are fortunate to have the President’s Chief of Staff and Vice Minister of Education here to help us launch “My Adventures” comic books, which aim to provide tools for coping with issues you have told us matter to you, including how to manage conflict in your lives, at home, and in your communities, as well as how to have your voice heard in the decision making process. I hope you will use these books to start conversations and inspire your peers to take leadership roles in their communities.

I would like to thank our partners, Search for Common Ground and the National Youth Council, for their work on this activity through USAID’s Youth Engagement to Promote Stability project, which is generously funded by the American people.

I would like to thank everyone who came today to celebrate the role of youth in Timor-Leste and launch this book designed to help realize your vision for this country. As you do so, I hope you know that the United States is your ally in building this future. We are proud to support this project, and to support the youth of Timor-Leste, as we look toward a brighter tomorrow together.