José Ramos-Horta, Chairman, Advisory Board

Invaded by Indonesia in 1974, for 24 years Timor-Leste (formerly known as East Timor) suffered under one of the most brutal occupations of the 20th century. One third of the Timorese population died during the occupation during what can only be called a campaign of extermination.

Journalists were banned from the country and the invasion and occupation were largely ignored by the West.

Exiled from his homeland for 24 years, José Ramos-Horta was the international voice, at times the only voice, of the Timorese people while they fought for survival. He built a diplomatic network and an international human rights network defending the rights of the Timorese people, and kept the story of their struggle and their suffering alive.

In 1996, Ramos-Horta and Bishop Carlos Ximenes Belo were awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for “for their work towards a just and peaceful solution to the conflict in East Timor.”

Ramos-Horta’s work paid off in 1999 when the UN sponsored a referendum allowing the Timorese people to choose by ballot whether to become an independent country or remain a part of Indonesia. The vote was 86% for independence. He returned to home to a hero’s welcome in December, 1999.

In 2002 the country, now renamed Timor-Leste, because the first new democracy of the millennium. Ramos-Horta served as Senior Minister and Foreign Minister of the new democracy.

In 2006 Timor-Leste erupted in civil conflict from a renegade military unit, forcing 150,000 from their homes. Ramos-Horta stepped in as the country’s Prime Minister. Peace immediately began to return to the country. In 2007 he was elected President.

As President of the country in 2008, he survived an assassination attempt, when renegade soldiers invaded his home and put three bullets in his back. As citizens poured into the street in protest at one of their “Founding Fathers” being harmed, the attempt put an end once and for all to the young democracy’s civil conflict. The country has remained at peace.

In 2013, after finishing his term as President, Ramos-Horta was asked by the UN Secretary General to head a UN Mission in Guinea Bissau, a small African nation that was under military coup at the time. He brought Guinea Bissau through two peaceful elections and restored democracy in the country.

In 2014, again at the request of the UN Secretary General he chaired the UN High Level Panel on Peace Operations, a worldwide review of the UN Peacekeeping and Mediation efforts with the goal of making the UN “peace and security architecture” more efficient in preventing and revolving conflicts.

Today, renowned as one of the world’s real peace builders, Ramos-Horta is serving his second term as President of Timor-Leste. 

more information:

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Originally published in Wall Street International Magazine (link below) On 3rd March 2021, wearing...

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