Economically, the country sources almost 90 per cent of its income from petroleum revenues, making it one of the world’s most oil-dependent economies. However, little of the wealth trickles down to the population. This is despite the fact that the government of Timor Leste has complied with the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI) by promulgating the Petroleum Fund Law in 2005. Under this law, the government established the Petroleum Fund, where oil revenue is deposited in order to secure the national budget for development. In 2009 an anti-corruption commission was established (Comissão Anti-Corrupção, or CAC).
Luta Hamutuk was established in 2005 by a group of activists passionate about ensuring accountable and participatory development in their country. Luta Hamutuk believes that local people best understand the specific needs and circumstances of their communities because they live in or near these project sites. Thus their voices must be counted. Luta Hamutuk enables communities to convey their concerns to those who are responsible for infrastructure projects, and to engage with key stakeholders in order to foster greater accountability at local, district and national levels.
They hold a three-stage theory of change:
- People are made aware and informed of their rights.
- People take action to hold the state accountable.
- The state is more accountable and responsive.
The process begins with community briefings by Luta Hamutuk staff, seeking out remote areas where people may have less access to information. During the briefing, staff try to identify members of the audience who could act as volunteer focal points. Their role is to collect evidence about the delivery of specific infrastructure projects, write reports and engage with local leaders and national policy-makers. One hundred and forty-six focal points have been trained so far in all 13 provinces.
A typical community briefing agenda includes the presentation of faktus informasaun (factsheets) about national and local issues relevant to the community, prepared by Luta Hamutuk staff. Factsheets focus on budget allocations for infrastructure projects in their area, the national budget, and oil and gas issues. This is followed by a discussion session to address questions from local residents. Often, this part of the meeting triggers critical thinking about government plans and policies, especially as this relates to local developments and projects.
This is reflected in comments from two participants at a community briefing, held in April 2008 in the village of Maumeta Vila (Atauro Island) in the District of Dili. As villager Patricio de Jesus says:
It is clear that Timor Leste is a state rich with natural resource but we, the people, don’t feel it, since the government do not realise its programmes like they said during campaign’ (Luta Hamutuk activity report, 2008).Where the focal point has the time and skills, and the local government is responsive, a monitoring committee may also be established. These committees (there are currently three) focus on particular local projects, ranging from road rehabilitation to developing schools and healthcare facilities. And where appropriate, Luta Hamutuk may mount a media campaign to pressurise the government to act.
Because of its entirely local content, Luta Hamutuk’s initiatives can be very cost-effective – one example calculated a cost of $1 for every $1,000 of project that was monitored.
From their own experience Luta Hamutuk recommend that:
- More people, especially the marginalised, should be encouraged to take part in community-driven accountability processes.
- These processes should take into account Parliament’s responsibility in relation to government projects.
- Networking with donors and other civil society organisations can help these approaches to spread.
- In the long run, formal accountability mechanisms should be set up that require public participation.