While I agree with the author on a few points, I believe his exoneration of the UN demonstrates a double standard.
As he himself concludes, state building is “ultimately a political matter.” If this is the case, it is not merely the Timorese that made political mistakes. The UN made many foolish political miscalculations in its first year in Timor which still haunt the country today.
Why for example, did the UN choose to sideline Fretilin, instead seeking a political interlocutor in one individual, who is now the President? Because he was more charismatic and consensual. This option deepened rifts between key Timorese political actors and set the stage for later troubles, and was key in preventing the creation of a sense of “national unity.”
I believe that Sergio Vieira de Mello, who some observers called the “King of Timor” under the UN’s transitional administration (UNTAET) actually recognized his error before his tragic death in Iraq. There, instead of dealing almost exclusively with the most appealing characters, as he did in East Timor, he conducted the broadest consultation of the Iraqi political elite possible.
One of the problems in Timor is that of image. There is this superficial image that FRETILIN is hardlined with its leaders still having some leaning towards Marxist-Leninist ideals while individuals like the Timorese President and Ramos Horta are presented as the unifying and consensual leaders. It is with this picture that many internationals in Timor tend to develop their opinions in Timor Leste.
Considering that the East Timorese constitution is one of the most liberal in South East Asia, a product of FRETILIN which has 55 seats in an 88 seat Assembly. Consider the fact that FRETILIN convincingly won local elections in 2005 under the observation of International and National observes. Or consider the fact that FRETILIN has strong organisational structure and grassroots support in East Timor, it is in the interest of organisations like the UN and the International community to better engage with FRETILIN and other organisations in East Timor.
If we start to engage Timor with preconceived opinions on organisations or individuals it may have a negative effect on the development of relations and cooperation between East Timor and the International community.
REPLY TO FUKUYAMA
Dear Professor Fukuyama,
Please let me introduce myself I am a postgraduate research student at Sydney University Australia. My name is Paul Duffy. The topic of my research is the impact on the Papua New Guinean state of Australian aid.
I have just listened via website to your talk given at ANU on December 15th 2006, where you commented on your trip to Timor and to Papua New Guinea.
I would firstly like to comment that I enjoyed the talk very much and found some of your observations on the impact of aid, and comments about your own thinking, very candid. I found it interesting that you could say that some aid has weakened capacity and even if the aid was well intended it had had a negative impact. I was also interested to hear your comment on your perceived lack of knowledge of the origins of the state.
I worked for the state of Papua New Guinea for over a decade and finished up only recently so I could take on the study I am currently engaged in. My involvement in the state administration of Papua New Guinea and seeing the impact of Australian aid – and now my research – has lead me to conclude that the way aid is given will in-fact shape the state, and indeed if the type of state that ‘aid will shape’ is not well considered then this has a negative impact. Not just a loss of capacity of the state but a redirection of the states abilities away from the interests of the majority of the people towards the interests of a few.
As I am sure you are aware most of the people of Papua New Guinea earn their living in the indigenous economy. This economy has very little to gain from a modern state. For most subsistence Papua New Guineans for purposes of governance and provision of food etc. it is customary economy that provides – not the state and the market. The state could become relevant if it fostered theses indigenous interests but it largely does not.
However the people in Papua New Guinea that most need the state are those working in the formal economy or running businesses in the formal economy. These people are mostly foreign primary producers, mining companies, oil palm producers etc. In shorthand the formal economy in Papua New Guinea is foreign owned and these are the people that have most to gain from a stable, internationally trading, state.
Your own suggestions re the state and aid seem to be concentrate on those sectors of the state that can be clearly monitored – the state bank and setting the currency. The implicit argument seems to be improve the easily measured sectors of the state bureaucracy and this will have good governance results.
My question would be, what would be the end result of strengthening central bank, etc ? – the institutions that you suggest. What type of state would result, especially if the current aid practices continue of getting foreign experts and contracting out the work. Would there continue to be a loss of local capacity. If contracting was used as the preferred method of aid delivery what type of department would result – one that needed contractors? A state that needed contractors? And where would these contractors come from – local or foreign?
My question would be if aid only concentrated on certain state institutions say central bank and did not engage with education or health. And the aid was delivered with a particular aid delivery method – say contracting – what type of state would result and whose interests would it most serve.
Already aid in Papua New Guinea has moved away from budget in the seventies, to structural adjustment driven by aid agencies and the world bank with the result being (as you comment) loss of capacity in the 1980’s and 1990’s. If aid is further moved out of the hands of Papua New Guineans and toward institutions that are central to the formation of a ‘state form’ that is needed for foreign interests working in Papua New Guinea, and away from the needs of the people. Who will benefit most? My own research has lead me to believe that the select of sections of the state that receive aid and the method of aid delivery most suits the needs of foreign interests in Papua New Guinea and not the local people. Any special emphasis on certain key state institutions and not a broad response got further weaken capacity of Papua New Guineans to shape their own economy. Rather a state would be formed that would be more likely to serve the needs of the foreign owned formal economy and not the needs of the local indigenous economy.
If you had time to read these comments I would be really grateful for any feedback.