Conference on Sustainable Development in East Timor


The purpose of the Conference is to highlight the environment and to promote and facilitate dialogue about sustainable  development in East Timor, so that principles of sustainable development can be

incorporated into future planning.



The Conference will be highly participatory, bringing together East Timorese and international experts, United Nations bodies, non-government organisations and individuals. The Conference will build strong networks within East Timor and establish alliances with international sustainable development  organisations.


The program covers a comprehensive range of sustainable development issues;  Introduction to Sustainable Development, Natural Resources and Conservation, Economy, Social Issues, Institutions and Technology.


The format of the conference includes plenary sessions in the mornings, followed by workshops to discuss the topics addressed.  The workshops will identify and discuss specific issues and solutions relevant to East Timor.


The conference has been formatted with the aim of producing tangible outcomes.  It is proposed that a Task Force on Sustainable Development is established to carry forward the ideas generated. Anticipated outcomes also include outlining a framework for an educational exchange program, and identification of priority pilot environmental projects.


Sustainable Development

Development that is sustainable meets environmental, economic and social needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs


Over the past 30 years, growing numbers of people have come to recognise that efforts to improve their standards of living must be in harmony with the natural world. Many have also realised that a lack of development can be as great a threat to nature as reckless or misguided development.


East Timor has suffered major destruction - from the ashes a new independent nation is being built.  East Timor has the opportunity to develop an integrated sustainable development strategy; to build a sustainable economy and infrastructure, to protect the environment, reverse environmental degradation and conserve natural resources for future generations.


History of Sustainable Development

Public awareness campaigns in the 1960s and 1970s resulted in governments around the world beginning to address environmental issues. Sustainable development emerged from a global recognition of environmental problems.



The term sustainable development was introduced by the World Conservation Strategy in

1980.  The report of the World Commission on Environment and Development 'Our Common Future' (1987) put sustainable development firmly on the global agenda.  ‘Our Common Future’defined development as sustainable ‘if it meets the needs of the present without comprising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs". 


Agenda 21

The Rio Earth Summit in 1992 resulted in a major new sustainable development strategy - Agenda 21. Agenda 21 is designed to prepare the world for the challenges of the new century, to addresses poverty, hunger, disease, illiteracy and environmental degradations as a set of interrelated issues.


It is an action plan that calls on nations to adopt national strategies for sustainable development. Many countries around the world are presently working towards implementing National Sustainable Development Strategies.


Around the world people struggle with what sustainable development means in practice and how to achieve it. They have wrestled with the meanings of sustainable and development. Some have proposed other terms, such as ecologically sustainable development, or ethical sustainable development, sustainable living and sustainable well-being. A strong argument has been put that sustainability also incorporates spiritual and cultural aspects. 


Regardless of the terminology, the central concept is the same; the human system is an integral part of the ecosystem. A society is sustainable only if both the human condition and the condition of the ecosystem are satisfactory or improving. If either is unsatisfactory or worsening, the society is unsustainable.


Environmental degradation is a major source of unsustainability.  There is a need to tackle environmental issues as an integrated component of overall development.


The livelihoods of East Timorese people depend on a healthy and productive environment. All people and industries for example. depend on a healthy water supply. Agriculture, fisheries, and tourism also depend on the environment. To meet people’s needs now and for future generations, East Timor’s natural resource base must be conserved and improved.


East Timor's Environment

East Timor has a very fragile environment. It is particularly dry compared with other parts of the region, and is prone to regular droughts.   Deforestation combined with steep slopes, thin soils and heavy seasonal rains have resulted in erosion, soil loss and diminished water quality, which in turn threaten coral reefs and fisheries.


While the biodiversity of East Timor’s fauna is high, many species are at risk of extinction due to deforestation. East Timor has many valuable plant species, including Sandalwood and Teak but only small stands remain due to overharvesting in Portuguese and Indonesian times. 


In urban areas, pollution and waste is a problem.  Air and ground water pollution impact directly on human health and the climatic disruption caused by global warming is causing major disasters affecting the health and living conditions of people all around the world.


Sustainable development in East Timor will depend on effective environmental planning and management.  Appropriate technology will allow small villages to participate more fully in the economy and affairs of East Timor, and community participation in civil society is another vital component of building independence.


The conference will explore many aspects of development, including many essential components required to implement sustainable development.  For example, environmental laws at national and international levels will be discussed, as well as data management for effective environmental planning and management.  The conference will provide important opportunities for exchange of scientific and technical information, playing an important role in sustainable development for East Timor.