This paper uses the Cuban Timor Leste health partnership to illustrate desirable principles in aid partnerships. For all its problems, Timor Leste has graduated one thousand doctors in the past decade, created clinics in all rural districts and has seen substantial improvements in some critical health indicators. Over this period, Cuba was by far the most important partner in health training and health services. We consider what it was about this partnership that facilitated substantial gains in both human capacity and human development.

We argue that development partnerships promoted by the United Nation’s Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are not immune from aid failure, in both economic and human development terms and that there are problems of a democratic deficit in external aid, together with the parallel problems of ‘aid trauma’ – through bubble economies, aggravated inequality and failures in human capacity building.

2018 Partnerships for self-determination: The Cuba-Timor health cooperation PDF

Development Bulletin, January 2018