by Kennedy Graham
It is more than a passing irritation, as has been noted in various speeches and blogs of recent past, that NZ government leaders are unable to resist the temptation to crow, once safely tucked up in Parliament back home, about how we have punched above our weight at various international meets.
Whether it is climate change or trade, we are never more pleased than when we may have stolen a bit of a march on the others. Yet it is incontrovertible that 193 nation-states punching above their weight guarantees global ecological overshoot.
So it comes as more than a mild relief to witness the quiet and modest excellence of the Kiwis who work here in East Timor. Whether it is our police, our armed forces, our official aid people, or our civil society volunteers in the Red Cross, in VSA or elsewhere, our lot perform with credit to New Zealand, as they contribute added value to East Timor. And that does not go unrecognized, by the locals – whether it is the government or the people.
At present, NZDF has 70 personnel serving in the International Stabilisation Force which, along with the Australians, totals almost 500. The ISF has less to do now than in past years, meaning that they have done their job well and peace is perhaps breaking out. They have been confined to barracks for some months and, as the parliamentary election approached, were conspicuously absent from the streets. So was the Timorese army as well, giving the police the clear run of ensuring law and order during a politically-sensitive time. It has worked. The ISF is likely to terminate late this year. Job well done.
A much smaller bilateral military assistance programme will continue to run – TG Kaihanga.
The NZ Police are perhaps more well-known here, since they continue with an active and public presence. They operate both within the UN police contingent as part of the UNMIT mission, and also separately as part of a bilateral programme. Along with ISF, UNMIT is likely to leave before long. The bilateral presence will continue – mainly along community policing lines. We visited our lot in the Liquica District. The sheer quality of the work they do is impressive.
Our official NZ aid programme is, inevitably, small but it is, as usual, effective. We slot in with the Timorese Strategic Development Plan where we can be most useful – which happens to be in the sectors of education, economic development and security.
NZ aid reaches inside the Ministry of Education, assisting on human resource development and IT. We are helping out on teacher career development, affecting 12,000 teachers.
A joint US-NZ project in the cooler and beautiful hills of Railako sub-district regenerates high-quality, organic, fair-trade coffee. The ambassador’s head-of-mission fund supports a children’s library and a medical clinic in the town of Gleno, even further and higher into the interior. The children’s library is just exquisitely done – a pleasurable place to inhabit.
NIWA people are exploring an aquaculture project for coastal fish, shrimp and seaweed (environmental alert….).
NZ-AID is exploring with ILO the development of ‘value chains’ in horticulture, cattle and tourism.
A NZ foundation has built a micro-credit service to 13,000 women clients.
A literacy programme is up and running.
I know, with a deep conviction from my own experience with bilateral aid in Jordan, Thailand and Laos, the Caribbean and South Pacific, how exacting the task of genuine human development is – what combination of skill and commitment and stamina is required to really make it work.
The Green Party congratulates all the individual Kiwis our mission met – and those we didn’t – in East Timor. You should be proud of yourselves for what you are doing. We certainly are proud of you.