State of the Planet

News from the Columbia Climate School


Timor-Leste: Sustainable Development Initiative Launched by the Vale Columbia Center in Partnership with the Revenue Watch Institute and the Open Society Foundations

The Open Society Foundations have awarded $800,000 to the Vale Columbia Center on Sustainable International Investment to promote integrated development in Timor-Leste in collaboration with the Revenue Watch Institute (RWI).

Though rich in oil and gas, the island nation of Timor-Leste remains one of the least developed countries in the world.  To use its revenues from natural resources to achieve higher living standards and sustainable development, the government has enlisted the assistance of Professor Jeffrey Sachs and a team at the Earth Institute, Columbia University to advise on the sustainable management and use of its petroleum resources.

Strategic integration of oil and gas revenues will help Timor-Leste develop equitably and sustainably.

“The government has pledged to carry out the Timor-Leste Integrated Development Project in a transparent and accountable manner, and the Revenue Watch Institute is pleased to support this effort,” said Karin Lissakers, RWI’s director. “The Earth Institute’s expertise in sustainable development strategy will help Timor-Leste ensure that investments of revenues from natural resources generate the greatest possible returns for the public interest.”

A cross-disciplinary advisory team will support the government’s efforts to achieve rapid, sustainable development and to build a diverse economy, with the goal of fostering a healthy, well-educated society that takes full advantage of Timorese entrepreneurship and initiative.

The project can serve as a demonstration of how channeling resource revenues into a focused domestic investment program to build physical and human capital can lead to poverty reduction, sustainable development and growth.

To support the project’s broader development goals, the advisory work in Timor-Leste includes analytical support for public institutions to finance, design, plan and implement large public investment projects in infrastructure, health, education, agriculture and other areas. It also includes legal and economic analyses of foreign investment, such as in the oil and gas sectors. Finally, the team will help design efficient monitoring and evaluation systems.

Plans for public investment in infrastructure can help support a healthy, sustainable economy in Timor Leste.

“The project will give government officials the tools they need to effectively manage public finances and develop a vibrant economy for the people of their country,” Lissakers said.

“The integrated, cross-sector approach to this project exemplifies the work for which the Earth Institute is best known,” said Karl Sauvant, executive director of the Vale Columbia Center. “It is this combination of breadth and depth that makes the Earth Institute and our approach to addressing the challenges of resource management in Timor-Leste unique.”

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