— Non-governmental organizations (NGO) met with local Timorese citizens and Pacific Partnership staff in Timor-Leste to discuss the roles they play in humanitarian assistance and disaster response (HA/DR) operations, June 21.
Conference participants and Dili residents discussed projects such as the Gedung Serba Guna Matahari Terbit (GMT) gymnasium restoration and what Pacific Partnership 2011 and NGOs have to offer as HA/DR operations planners. This gave local citizens and locally operating NGOs an opportunity to engage the Pacific Partnership team in meaningful dialogue.
“From what I have seen on this mission, individual NGOs working in isolation may achieve limited results, but NGOs networked with host and partner nations can potentially achieve game-changing results,” said U.S. Navy Capt. Jesse A. Wilson, Pacific Partnership mission commander and commander, Destroyer Squadron 23, “We are all faced with limited resources, and we need to work smarter, not harder.”
All 20 NGOs at the conference introduced themselves and gave all participants some insight on their respective activities.
“The NGO conference was very useful,” said Christina Nguyen, a volunteer with the University of California, San Diego (UCSD) Pre-Dental Society. “We had no idea that there were so many NGOs working in Timor-Leste. In the future, we should be able to coordinate with them and increase our interoperability, reach more people, work more effectively and be better partners with them.”
During the conference, some of the locals expressed concern that Pacific Partnership might be a temporary part of the U.S. Navy’s plans in the region. Wilson expressed an understanding of those concerns and reminded the group of the partner nations’ commitment to the region to achieve a sustainable improvement for the Timorese quality of life.
“Just like Rome was not built in a day,” he said, “we will not solve all the problems in Timor-Leste with just a few visits. Working together, we will eventually get to the result everyone is looking for: a stable, prosperous and peaceful country and region.”
While NGOs bring an unparalleled level of dedication to helping people around the world, military members bring focus, resources, and manpower to carry out a variety of missions over the same range.
“NGOs do most of the hands-on work in countries like Timor-Leste,” Nguyen said. “We serve as a kind of bridge between the local population and the military. They’re used to moving large groups of people and resources to carry out all kinds of missions, plus they have the ships that can move people and equipment all over the world. Their expertise shows how effective a relationship between NGOs and the military can be.”
Since 2006, Pacific Partnership has partnered with the militaries of Australia, Canada, Japan, New Zealand, France, Spain, Indonesia, Malaysia, and others, along with NGOs such as UCSD Pre-Dental Society, Project HOPE, World Vets, Vets Without Borders to bring a whole of several governments’ approach to HA/DR planning and operations.
During the past five years, Pacific Partnership has provided medical, dental, educational, and preventive medicine services to more than 240,000 people and completed more than 150 engineering projects in 15 countries. This year, Pacific Partnership has finished missions in Tonga, Vanuatu, Papua New Guinea, and Timor-Leste. Pacific Partnership will conclude its mission in the Federated States of Micronesia.
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