Bridges series - Nobel Laureate H.E. President Ramos-Horta

Bridges - Dialogues Towards a Culture of Peace
VIII: Building a Culture of Peace and Development in a
Globalized World


TOP: Nobel Laureate H.E. President José Ramos-Horta. delivered his keynote address as a part of the Bridges Dialogues series.
BOTTOM: H.E. Dr. Kao (President of UC and Secretary of State for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation), H.E. President Ramos-Horta, and members of the UC Executive Team stand during the introductory ceremony


As part of the Bridges series presented by The University of Cambodia and the Asia Leadership Center, Nobel Laureate H.E. President José Ramos-Horta of Timor-Leste spoke to a packed audience in the UC Conference Center on April 21, 2010. Prior to His Excellency’s address, UC President H.E. Dr. Kao Kim Hourn bestowed an honorary doctorate degree in Political Science to President Ramos-Horta for his lifetime achievement in the field of peace.
In his keynote address, President Ramos-Horta expressed his belief that peace may not be realizable in our lifetime with all of the “many wars and conflicts around the world,” but encouraged people to not give up on humanity. He pointed out that people throughout history have shown extraordinary acts of kindness and solidarity to other human beings, such as the case of Haiti and Indonesia during their natural disasters.

Lasting peace in the world might be possible, President Ramos-Horta suggested, if all people take responsibility in their own homes, their own communities, and their own countries to eliminate prejudices, ignorance, and violence. He believes peace can be achieved through education.
“Education is the key towards lasting peace in our country and around the world,” urged President Ramos-Horta, who insisted that educational institutions from kindergarten to the college level should offer students a well-balanced curriculum that promotes cultural understanding and awareness between the different races, ethnicities, religions, ages, genders, and socio-economic groups. In doing so, people can learn how to respect and appreciate the differences and similarities between different groups, and they can reason and find peaceful resolutions to conflicts. Moreover, he pointed out, just as students should feel safe from abuse at school, women and children should feel safe within their homes so they can thrive in a healthy environment and make positive contributions to their families and society.

President Ramos-Horta added that peace-building in the region and throughout the world is a mission for people with patience, citing the people of Timor-Leste as a remarkable example. After 30 years of civil unrest and occupation, a referendum agreement was reached between Timor-Leste and Indonesia for the departure of Indonesia. Patience, dialogue and careful negotiation resulted in a free Timor-Leste.

But Timor-Leste still had much to do to develop itself and, in 1999, it decided to not set up an international tribunal (against the advice of others), and instead pursued a targeted social development program that aimed to heal its people. The new state organized public ceremonies to honor victims and created programs to help the livelihood of survivors, and public officials and institutions invited citizens to have honest and open dialogue sessions with them. These positive actions from the state helped ease people’s fears and gave them confidence in the government, mending the once-broken institutions and promoting self-determination.
“To build domestic peace requires a lot of dialogue,” President Ramos-Horta declared. “With dialogue, we empower the people and get people involved. Engaging people in development gives them a sense of ownership, dignity and pride in their home,

community, and country.” Empowering the people of Timor will have substantial economic, social, and political payoffs for the country in the near future, so President Ramos-Horta is patient with the country’s progress and is open to engage in dialogue with its citizens. He encouraged other Asian countries to do the same and stated that Asia has a unique opportunity to take a leadership role in building world peace, given that Asians constitute more than half of the world’s population.

“Asia has a responsibility to contribute to eliminating poverty and illiteracy, to preventing further deterioration of our environment, and building a peaceful world,” he concluded.

In 1996, Dr. Ramos-Horta was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize with Bishop Carlos Belo, the religious leader of Timor-Leste, to “honor their sustained and self-sacrificing contributions for a small but oppressed people.” It was hoped that the award would prompt further diplomatic efforts to find a peaceful solution to the conflict of Timor-Leste, which was achieved in 1999 when a UN-organized referendum decided in favor of independence.


“Engaging people in development gives them a sense of ownership, dignity and pride in their home, community, and country.”
His Excellency José Ramos-Horta,
President of Timor-Leste
and Nobel Laureate