The following information reports U.S. Government priorities and activities of the U.S. mission in Timor-Leste to promote democracy and human rights. For background on Timor-Leste's human rights conditions, please see the 2009 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices and the International Religious Freedom Reports at 2009-2017.state.gov.
Part 1: U.S. Government Democracy Objectives
The U.S. Government's strategy in the country is to support democracy by fostering a more transparent and accountable government. U.S. programs seek to strengthen the justice system, foster the independence and professionalism of the media and civil society, promote free and fair elections, and improve the responsiveness of government to citizens.
Part 2: Supporting Top Priorities and Other Aspects of Human Rights and Democratic Governance
U.S. assistance in 2010 supports the development of the formal justice system by strengthening personnel management systems for judges and prosecutors and improving basic management and administration of justice sector institutions, including the offices of the independent ombudsman and the vice prime minister, who has a mandate to combat corruption. In addition, U.S. assistance targets increasing and expanding access to legal services and information to all citizens, with particular emphases on women and other marginalized groups. U.S. programs are the only donor-sponsored activities currently supporting the Superior Councils of the Magistracy and Prosecution to oversee the appointment and evaluation of newly entering Timorese judges and lawyers, an activity that will be replicated in the nascent Superior Council of the Public Defender in 2010. U.S. justice system programs also provide critical and comprehensive monitoring of the country's four district courts and Court of Appeals to ensure judicial fairness and equity. In 2010 U.S. assistance will provide executive financial management training to Justice Institution agency directors, authorizing officers, and other staff supervisors with the broad objective of increasing the managerial skills of senior staff in the areas of operational planning, budget planning, and execution, financial reporting and analysis, human resource management, and asset management.
In addition, the U.S. Government's assistance provides citizens, particularly rural women, with access to justice and dispute resolution through support to legal aid and mediation centers. Legal aid centers also raise public awareness of laws and citizens' rights and responsibilities. The U.S. Government has spearheaded several key seminars that resulted in the collaboration between the U.S.-funded implementing partner, the Ministry of Justice, and the Timorese legal aid community on drafting a law regulating and providing for state-subsidized legal aid.
U.S. programs to develop civil society emphasize the importance of promoting government accountability and transparency and target two main groups: civil society organizations including elected suco-(village) level community leaders, and the media. The U.S. Government provides technical assistance to print, radio, and Internet news outlets. The United States will open a sixth media house in the country that will provide professional and logistical support to district-based media outlets and journalists. Notably, U.S. assistance resulted in the launch of the country's first-ever online news agency.
Programming to orient and train newly elected suco council representatives is ongoing in 2010. To support the government's decentralization initiative, the U.S. Government provides support to review the draft municipal government laws.