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Post-National Priorities Lessons Learned Workshop

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On 12 April 2012 the Ministry of Finance held a Post-National Priorities Lessons Learned Workshop at the Ministry’s Training Center room with support from the United Nations and the World Bank. The Minister of Education , Joao Câncio Freitas, Vice Minister of Finance, Rui Manuel Hanjam, the DSRSG, Mr. Finn Reske Nielson , the representative of the World Bank Mr. Hans Anand Beck and the Executive Director of Fongtil, Ms Dinorah Granadeiro were among the participants of the event. Other participants comprised of Directors General and Directors from line ministries, development partners, UN agencies and civil society representatives also attended the event.

Minister of Finance, Emilia Pires who chaired the workshop highlighted the objectives of the workshop including evaluation of the establishment of the national priorities (NPs) more than 4 years ago. Minister Pires pointed out that the AMP government inherited a wide range of complex problems including the 65 IDPs camps throughout the territory, martial arts groups fighting, petitioners and rebels, high poverty rate of almost 50%, all of which made the government lost public confidence. However, beyond expectations of many people, the government successfully overcame all these problems in particular reestablishing the security and stability throughout the country. Having achieved this, since 2009 the government started with new paradigm of moving from fragility to development which is now adopted by many countries across the world. Also importantly, the Government has successfully established various administrative, legal and management systems including Public Financial Management (PFM) system that help promoting the well functioning of the government machine over few years ago. Despite these successes, the government has always committed to strengthen dialogue with IDPs, with opposition, PNTL versus Army, local leaders, etc, in order to secure the gains and ensure that the development programs ahead are not hindered.
Specifically Minister Pires emphasized that the strengthening of these achievements along with the MDGs are essential ingredients in the accomplishment of NEW DEAL that was agreed in Busan, South Korea last year. The New Deal consists of three key elements, PSGs (5 goals), FOCUS (fragility, one vision, one plan, compact, use PSGs to monitor, and support to political dialogue), TRUST (Transparency, Risk sharing & management, use & strengthen country systems, timely and predictable aid). Regarding MDGs, in particular in the area of health and education, the Minister reiterated (from the presentation by Felix Piedade) that significant progress has been made, such as reduction on MMR and increased school’s enrolment, respectively. She recommended that all these require a new framework. But to do this, “we have to change negative mindsets and start promoting self confidence and ownership”, she added. Additionally, Minister Pires gave a demonstration of the Timor-Leste Aid Transparency Portal (www.aidtransparency.gov.tl) which was launched at the Yellow Road Workshop last Tuesday. Minister Pires stated that, “People will be able to use the site to review foreign aid projects, generate charts, graphs and maps to monitor vital trends and statistics, and produce reports on public development spending. Most importantly it encourages even better coordination with donors.” In the end this will lead to more effective use of aid.
Finally, Minister congratulated the organizing committee who tirelessly strived in preparing and organizing the workshop so that it runs smoothly and successful.

Mr. Hans Anand Beck pointed out that TL has made remarkable achievements, but advised to keep paying attention on the process of the changes, undertake regular monitoring and focusing on problem area, and ensure good documentation of process, “because the real success is the process itself ”, he said. He also said that it is up to TL to decide the priorities or what and how it benefits the country, and for sure the donors are committed to align with these decisions. Mr. Beck underlined that “the real focus is on what to do and on what not to do”. Lastly, he is confident that looking at the first round of elections, TL will be able to carry out it successfully.

DSRSG, Finn Reske Nielson, only provided his general comments. He congratulated all stakeholders, the government, Parliament, and civil society for their concerted efforts so that TL has achieved an amazing progress on peace building and state building. He admitted that with such success, TL is no longer a fragile state. However, he advised that the country still needs to improve the quality of livelihood which is key to stability, and how to operationalize the PSGs, and how to strengthen the donors coordination and cooperation. “The UN will stand in continuing to support the country to make all these happening”, he assured. Regarding the SDP, he underlined that it is just the guide to address the long term needs and not the end of process, because to get there it requires a dynamic process of hard work and togetherness and a good coordination mechanism. To this end, he said it is not wise to reinventing, but rather to improve the existing tools. Concerning ODA, Finn recalled that in 2005-2006, the ODA was bigger than state budget but this year it has reversed, and reached $1.7 Billion, which is much bigger than ODA. This demonstrates the solid and strong leadership of this government in putting in place systems to achieve this level.

The Director of Fongtil, Dinorah Granadeiro thanked the government for inviting the civil society to this event which demonstrates a strong commitment and awareness of the increasing role of the civil society to participate in the decision making process of development programs including which regards to NPs. She congratulated the MOF and the GOTL for setting up national priorities with support from the UN and WB and thanked for their support to CSOs in the dissemination and setting up monitoring network. She appreciated positive lessons such as: sitting together to address country issues, access to national priorities and acknowledgement of the CS role. However, she noted that several problems still need to be addressed, including the lack of communication with CSOs, lack of time schedule of each working group, insufficient time to deliver opinion, and importantly language barriers. She recommended to do: clear definition of roles and responsibilities (TOR), involvement of CSOs since the beginning and establishing liaising person with CS, regular feedback of information with reports sharing, and more transparent mechanism for all government programs, and advised the donors to continue support the government in the future.

Besides the above, other key speakers of the workshop are Helder da Costa from National Directorate of Aid Effectiveness who presented the topic of “ Where we are now- Past, Present and Future”, Felix Piedade, the key organizer of the workshop on “MDGs”, Helder Lopes on “overview on TL macroeconomic “ and Arlindo from NP secretariat on “the results of Donor and Governance Questionnaire”.

To achieve the objectives of the workshop, as above, 3 thematic working groups were formed to discuss the three key areas of NPs such as : policy, process and ways forward. The discussions were conducted in a very friendly but intensive manner and its results were brought to plenary discussions for more in depth analysis.
Finally, the results of the workshop are, as follows :

Conclusions: 1) NP has been useful and communicating priorities; 2) Improved dialogue between government, donors and civil society; 3) Influenced in programming and understanding of challenges.

Challenges : 1) Lack of coordination ; 2) Lack of communication with line ministries; 3) Lack of participation due to language barriers ; 4) Lack of ownership; 5) Inconsistency of planning with the budget due to competing priorities

Recommendations: 1) Improve communication; 2) Use Tetum language for documents and meetings; 3) Involve the CS from the beginning of process; 4) Establish Planning Commission; 5) Adapt the existing NP working groups to align with the SDP, example the SWGs.

Next steps : 1) At end of April – to finalize the results of the workshop and propose key recommendations for TLDPM on 15-16 May 2012; 2) Produce key policy documents for TLDPM; 3) Gathering inputs from stakeholders on fragility spectrum; 4) Submission of Report from Donors to MOF by early May; 5) One team to look at operationalization of the SDP