Good morning and welcome.
I would like to give special thanks to Belun for organizing this event today to commemorate this important occasion: the launch of the first Civil Society Organizations Sustainability Index, or CSOSI Report, for Timor-Leste. The CSOSI is an annual index that reports on the strength and overall viability of the civil-society sectors in 74 countries. This is a product that we at the U.S. Mission, through USAID, are proud to support, and this year we are excited to see that Timor-Leste is included in this list. We are proud of this report because this index is an important tool for civil-society, governments, donors, academics, and others to understand and measure the sustainability of civil society. Local organizations can also use the index to advocate for improvements in the legal and regulatory enabling environment.
Today’s report will provide valuable baseline information that can be used for USAID’s new NGO Advocacy for Good Governance Activity and help track progress towards strengthening NGOs in Timor-Leste. The CSOSI report will be also an important reference for the government, development partners, and local NGOs to continue their effort in strengthening organizational capacity in Timor-Leste. I would like to provide a little bit of context for this report, and show how it fits into our broader support for Timor-Leste’s priorities. The United States provides approximately $20 million in development assistance per year to Timor-Leste through the United States Agency for International Development, which provides grants and contracts to non-governmental organizations and companies. Since 2002, the United States has invested about $572 million in the development of Timor-Leste across several key areas, including health, economic growth, and democracy and governance. We do much of this work through USAID, but all our programs at the U.S. embassy contribute to these areas and are focused on empowering Timorese citizens. For instance, our Ambassador’s Small Grants program focuses on civil society and economic empowerment. Through these grants, we work with dynamic Timorese NGOs to help support Timor-Leste’s development goals. The Young Southeast Asian Leadership Initiative, YSEALI, also focuses on empowering youth working in civil society and civic engagement so they can create a vibrant democracy from the ground up. We support programs and initiatives like this because we believe that a strong, vibrant, and capable civil society is truly a pillar of democracy. NGOs can help advocate for citizens’ needs while also helping to disseminate important government policies. For example, while Timor-Leste has done an excellent job of preventing the community transmission of COVID-19, an achievement for which the Government should be quite proud and for which we are all extremely grateful, continued success with prevention measures will take sustained vigilance and citizen engagement through competent, skilled, and empowered NGOs.
As you know, Timor-Leste has had a robust NGO community since independence. Unfortunately, many nascent NGOs find their advocacy skills limited by a lack of administrative capacity and sustainable financial support.That’s why we are excited about the CSOSI report. I believe it will be an important tool that will help decision-makers make the necessary investments in Timor-Leste’s NGOs so that they can become more sustainable. And strong NGOs can play a more meaningful role as reliable partners to the government in responding to local and global challenges. Congratulations again to Belun for their leadership in preparing this report and releasing it today to the public, and for their consistent work supporting Timor-Leste’s journey to self-reliance.