TIMOR-LESTE: Falling short on MDGs


The Southeast Asian half-island nation of Timor-Leste is falling short on most Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), experts warn.

More children are surviving, but most MDGs still far from being met

“The areas that remain challenging or off-track compared to the 2015 targets include poverty, underweight children, maternal mortality and sanitation,” Felix Piedade, the national adviser of Timor Leste’s MDG Secretariat, told IRIN.

Timor-Leste gained independence from Indonesia to become one of the world’s youngest nations in 2002 after a 25-year civil war. Six years of instability followed.

Due to Timor-Leste’s recent violence, the UN chose it as one of nine countries worldwide to receive extra support in meeting the MDGs.

While Goal 1 includes halving the proportion of people living on less than US$1 a day, in Timor-Leste that population actually grew from 36 percent in 2001 to 50 percent in 2007, according to Piedade.

As of 2009, the rate dropped to 41 percent, still not close to meeting the goal of 14 percent set in 2004.

But there have been some improvements.

“Timor-Leste has surpassed the MDG target for 2015 for both under-five mortality rate [96/1,000 live births] and infant mortality rate [53/1,000 live births] based on targets set in 2004,” Piedade said.

The country is on track for only two of the other eight MDGs: achieving universal primary education, and promoting gender equality and empowering women, according to UN Development Programme.


But Silvia Cormaci, a gender mainstreaming expert with the International Labour Organization in Timor-Leste, is skeptical about gender equality gains.

“When you talk about gender here, there are different indicators,” she said.

Cormaci noted advances have been made in improving the political participation of women, with women comprising 30 percent of parliamentarians - among the highest in Asia.

A new law is set to be passed requiring that one in three candidates in the upcoming parliamentary election, scheduled for June 2012, must be a woman.

“But 70 percent of women work in unpaid work in agriculture. And there’s big issues on domestic violence, one of the highest rates in Asia - 75 percent of women here have been beaten up,” Cormaci said.

Widespread rape and sexual assault of women and children went largely unpunished during the military occupation. Parliament criminalized domestic violence in 2010 after the nation adopted its first penal code the year before.

“A lot of work has been done to train police on the law,” Cormaci added. “The problem is that many people turn to the informal justice system, to the head of the village. So you have [a] good domestic violence law there, but implementation is much harder.”

Source: IRIN