Background and Objectives:
On 20 May 2002, the small nation of Timor-Leste (population 880,000) became the world’s newest nation after more than 400 years of Portuguese colonization and 24 years of Indonesian occupation.
The militia led violence and destruction following the referendum for independence resulted in extensive physical destruction and the breakdown of institutions. The country was systematically destroyed. Over two thirds of the population was displaced and 40 per cent of the housing stock destroyed (approximately 68,000 houses).
Dili, the nation’s capital (population 120,000), was the hardest hit with over 50 per cent of the capital city buildings destroyed and extensive destruction taking place at the country’s only port, airport and major government buildings.
While much had been achieved in the first 4 years by both the UN and the first Government of Timor-Leste in rebuilding infrastructure, there was a clear need to develop sustainable models for active community participation in improvements to living conditions.
There is a growing realization in Timor-Leste that the local community will need to take a more active role in community development initiatives. This is particularly so given the considerable reduction in both the size and financial capacity of the government following the end of Indonesian rule. Active community participation is a big challenge in a society where community organization and participation in decision making has been extremely limited and actively discouraged under the Indonesian occupation.
The Dili City Upgrading Strategy provided the first citywide assessment of housing conditions. Areas in highest need of assistance have been mapped and analysed based on levels of infrastructure, socio-economic status and vulnerability (e.g. insecurity of land tenure). Four pilot project areas have been identified and communities have formulated action plans to improve their living conditions. Key government departments provided support through technical assistance and adopted these community action plans within their infrastructure planning.
The project team undertook pilot upgrading activities in four communities in urban Dili and followed the steps of the Community Action Planning process.
Twelve selected projects of varying complexities were fully completed in October 2005. These projects included creation of local roads, rehabilitation of drainage systems, rubbish collection points, a community hall, water supply and sanitation facilities.
The projects assisted about 3,000 people living in the pilot areas. As a result of the project, through learning-by-doing, staff of the Community Development Unit was trained in planning and guiding community-based projects. The unit was integrated into the ministry after the completion of the Dili City Upgrading Strategy Project.