USAID Launches New Project to Support Local Governance and Access to Justice

For Immediate Release

Thursday, February 6, 2014
Linda Quamar
DILI, February 6, 2014 -- At a special ceremony today, Timor-Leste Vice Prime Minister Fernando "La Sama" de Araujo joined U.S. Embassy Chargé d'Affaires Scott Ticknor and newly arrived USAID Director John Seong to launch USAID's new Ba Distrito project. Ba Distrito means "To the Districts" in Tetun and the project will work closely with local government, NGOs, and communities to help improve local governance and expand access to justice over the next four years.
The project will help suco (village) councils build their skills and put citizens at the center of development discussions and access to justice efforts. It will also support local leaders in their efforts to improve public service delivery, represent citizens' needs and priorities, and facilitate local input to decentralized governance. The program will engage government officials and offices from the district level to the local level, as well as community organizations and Timor-Leste citizens in the communities where they live.
Ba Distrito will also work with local government and communities to strengthen local justice sector institutions and organizations that increase access to formal and informal justice for marginalized citizens. Ba Distrito will increase community participation in identifying, managing and evaluating public services, and will set up systems for local governments to provide better public services.
The project will begin working in Oecusse, Baucau, and Covalima before expanding in its second year to two more districts, Ermera and Liquica. Over four years and five districts, it will reach about 100 sucos.
"Suco leadership plays a critical part in Timorese democracy, just as local government does in the United States," said Chargé d'Affaires Ticknor. "Suco-level leaders are closest to the needs and concerns of the local people. They can best identify solutions for local challenges and they are best positioned to articulate local issues to higher authorities… But for suco leaders to play this critical role, they need to have the right skills… Ba Distrito will help develop these kinds of skills. Ba Distrito will also help link suco leaders to local legal support networks. There will be more effective access to justice for all through the local legal aid organizations and district courts that Ba Distrito will support."
The Ba Distrito project is implemented by USAID's partner, Counterpart International (CI). CI will work with an international partner, Tetra Tech DPK, and local partners including NGO Belun, the Association of Lawyers of Timor-Leste, the Judicial System Monitoring Programme, and Fundasaun Fatu Sinai Oecusse.
The United States Government and Timor-Leste work in partnership to support broad-based and effective development. Ba Distrito is one of the many assistance projects in Timor-Leste provided by the American people through USAID to support democracy and governance, economic growth and agriculture, health, and education.