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Crisis in Timor-Leste reveals the emptiness of the ‘Build back for better’ rhetoric – The Diplomat


Debate | Opinion

Despite calls to envision a better, more equal world after COVID-19, global inequality persists.

At the end of Easter weekend, as the first shipment of COVID-19 vaccine is expected to reach the Timor-Leste capital Dili, tropical storm Seroja has arrived instead. It brought about one of the most horrifying flash floods in recent memory, sweeping across East Timor and parts of eastern Indonesia, killing hundreds and displacing thousands. Concerns that Dili’s Presidente Nicolau Lobato Airport would be too submerged in water to receive the vaccine shipment went viral on social networks when 9,000 people The people who lost their homes in Dili alone began to gather in temporary shelters.

The tornado brought an even worse humanitarian disaster for Timor-Leste. The youngest and poorest country in Southeast Asia, Timor-Leste has been hailed as a success story in stopping coronavirus through tight border security and systematic communication efforts. . Up until a few weeks ago, no cases of COVID-19 were reported in East Timor for several months. This week, the virus claimed the life of a 44-year-old woman in Dili, the first death recorded in the country since the pandemic began.

The Timor-Leste crisis reveals something much deeper about the global inequality that the pandemic has created, raising questions about whether we can actually rebuild “better.” or not. Despite more than a year of rhetoric from governments around the world promising that a pandemic will be an opportunity to “do things differently” and launch a green revolution, a recent reports from the United Nations Environment Program it is revealed that such visions are not meeting their ambitions. Of the $ 14.6 trillion in recovery spending announced by the world’s 50 largest economies by 2020, only 2.5% is allocated to green operations. Greenhouse gas emissions higher than before the pandemic, although an eloquent year affirms it will, should, and right opposite. Who did we “rebuild the better” to start with?

The return of travel and travel could reveal the answer. As wealthy nations’ economies rebound strong no longer green or more sustainable, their residents also begin planning to return to crowded beaches and airports, a hallmark of an industry. travel probably hasn’t gotten better despite a stressful year inside. A recent image taken on social media depicts the entire world in three colors: the richest countries, who will achieve widespread vaccine coverage by the end of the year. now on; slightly richer countries will reach their target by the end of 2022; and the rest of the world, won’t get there until later, if any. Inequality, due to climate change and pandemics as shown by recent events in Timor-Leste, may only get worse when mass tourism starts to return. But travel can also offer a solution.

Timor-Leste still has to adhere to the preferences of richer nations, given that they limit carbon emissions and distribute the COVID-19 vaccine. It doesn’t want to be. After centuries of brutal occupation under the colonial regimes of both Portugal and Indonesia, a tough fight for independence and a temporary period in which the United Nations governs the new country and chooses its children In its political line, Timor-Leste is eager to assert its independence on the global stage. In the days after the flooding started, Prime Minister Timor-Leste Taur Matan Ruak did not call for humanitarian aid, with government sources speculating this was due to a deep sense of pride and a desire to testify. illustrates Timor’s power in solving the nation’s crisis. The government has done its best to protect natural ecosystems and diversify the economy – strategies reflected in tourism development.

Preventing future pandemics and addressing the climate crisis both have a common solution: protecting biodiversity. Tourism, when it does its best, represents one of the only viable alternatives to a continuing economic slowdown. Timor-Leste has made significant investments in tourism development in the hope of diversifying its economy beyond the agriculture and oil and gas sectors, on which the country is heavily dependent. On the island of Ataúro, 25 kilometers from the mainland, 25 kilometers from Dili, power was taken from the hands of elite foreign interest groups and reassigned to the local people through the establishment. Asosiasaun Turekmu Koleku Mahanak Ataúro (ATKOMA), an organization that brings together local stakeholders to develop, manage and market Ataúro as a tourism destination in their own right. Marine protected areas are locally managed, based on custom tara bandu, has been maintained by access fees and has thus helped maintain the community as visitors disappear.

Travel for Timor-Leste represents a way to protect this biodiversity – but it cannot be done in a vacuum. Despite doing its best to face these crises on its own, Timor-Leste is largely still in favor of global capitalist systems that prioritize profits over human health and the environment. . Floods and other natural disasters will continue to be exacerbated as climate change causes more erratic weather patterns and increases disaster risk. Countries like Timor-Leste will be the first to feel these effects. Like the COVID-19 vaccine, Australia and other countries may race to deliver aid in the event of a disaster, but ignore actions that increase inequality and aggravate problems already. help create those disasters in the first place.

Last week, the world saw a double crisis of inequality – COVID-19 and climate change – demonstrated by Timor-Leste’s unequal access to vaccines and a flash flood. history, in spite of all efforts, will continue to engulf this nation. Tourism can provide a path through which a nation can shake off the legacy of colonialism and create a future based on the basis of man and nature above profit. As Initial research indicatedTourists will be more eager to support destinations like Ataúro, where sustainability is at their core. But the return of tourism can also be a sign of the consequences of what happens when we let global inequality continue, and don’t go beyond the rhetoric to actually build. better than before.

Both COVID-19 and climate change, for the foreseeable future, are here to exist. We must work to ensure that inequality does not exist with it. Travel can be our glass on our two futures: one where we have failed humans and the planet, and one where we have succeeded.

If you would like to contribute to the flood relief efforts in Timor-Leste, please see this list Of 22 different ongoing fundraisers are supporting the country’s recovery.

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