In the wake of
references to East Timor being a “failed state”, and to humanitarian
efforts being inadequately protected by international forces, it is
important to point out that East Timor may exhibit signs of “failing”,
but – in the midst of the troubles – sections of Government continue to
operate as effectively as can be expected.

This
is especially
so at present in its coordination of food distribution efforts, in
cooperation with many UN agencies and international NGOs. This is being
handled via the Inter-Agency Humanitarian Assistance Group, which
comprises the Timorese Government, seven UN agencies (WHO, UNICEF, etc)
and five international NGOs (Oxfam, Plan International,
HealthNet, Red Cross
and Care). They are being assured adequate military protection in their
joint efforts to reach internally displaced people under difficult
conditions.

Australian forces have clearly been pulled in many
directions in ensuring a proper rapid response to secure necessary
locations (communications, fuel supplies, airport, national hospital,
munitions stores, main transport routes, diplomatic missions, etc), and
to restore order in the many hot spots in and around Dili, in addition
to helping humanitarian aid efforts. I’m not sure how much capacity the
stretched military presence has to similarly safeguard World Vision’s
(apparently separate) efforts, but I doubt that this should be the
source of criticism of the former.