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On January 30th, students from the Bachelor and Master in International Relations had the unique opportunity to dialogue with a true man of peace, former President of Timor-Leste (2007-2012) José Ramos-Horta. On his way to Bogota, where he had been invited by President Juan Manuel Santos of Colombia, to help him in the process of building peace after decades of conflict, Nobel Peace Prize Laureate (1996) and member of the Club of Madrid José Ramos-Horta stopped by Madrid and visited IE School of International Relations.

José Ramos-Horta is a journalist and political activist who, along with Bishop Carlos Filipe Ximenes Belo, received the 1996 Nobel Peace Prize for their efforts to lead Timor-Leste, a former Portuguese colony that was under Indonesian control from 1975 to 1999, into a peaceful transition to independence. “Today, there are no countries in Asia that have a better relationship than Timor-Leste and Indonesia”, a relationship that has impressed everyone, even Shimon Peres, former President of Israel.

How was that possible? By “making prevention a doctrine”, by having humble leaders who listen their people, make education a priority and managing the country’s resources in a reasonable way. José Ramos-Horta served as Prime Minister of Timor-Leste from 2006 to 2007 and as President from 2007 to 2012, a period of time in which several oil and gas reserves were discovered in Timor-Leste, bringing rapid economic growth to the country. “One of the smartest things we did, explained José Ramos-Horta, was the national sovereign fund, where all oil and gas revenues go”. In 6 years, Timor-Leste collected $16 Billion, divided into 1.000 portfolios.

In 2013, José Ramos-Horta became the United Nations’ special Representative and Head of the United Nations Integrated Peacebuilding Office in Guinea-Bissau (UNIOGBIS). A year later, he was appointed by Secretary General of the United Nations Ban Ki-Moon to chair the United Nations High Level Independent Panel on Peace Operations. The Panel drafted a comprehensive report in 2015, providing observations and recommendation to keep building Peace. Some of these recommendations have certainly inspired the Colombian President José Manuel Santos in his negotiations with the FARCs. But José Ramos-Horta warns us: “each country is different and has to find its own peace.” His advice to Colombia: “it’s time to forgive, not to forget”.

Written by Soizic Belliard, Associate Director of Admissions, IE School of International Relations

 

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