Global Governance and Peacebuilding: Perspectives from Timor-Leste


29 November 2012
Speech delivered at United Nation University in Tokyo, November 2012

Ladies and Gentlemen,

We are living in times of great challenges in much of the world but also of hope and optimism for our peoples and our continent. Japan, the only nation in humanity’s history to have directly experienced the effects of atomic bombs, knows too well the costs of wars and the values of peace. I’m a frequent visitor to Japan and have visited several times the historic city of Hiroshima and toured the Museum that so vividly walks one through the corridors and chambers of horror of the devastation caused by the one single atomic bomb dropped on that city one clear day in August 1945 at the end of World War II.

No less heartbreaking have been my visits to the Holocaust Museum in Berlin that reminds us of the systematic cleansing of millions of Jews in Europe by the Third Reich. In both cities we are sadly reminded of human beings’ capacity to inflict destruction and pain on fellow human beings. And Japanese people should not be reminded only of the horrors of the effects of the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. They should be honestly and truthfully educated about not only the devastation and death in Hiroshima and Nagasaki but also the suffering and destruction caused by the Japanese Imperial Army in many parts of Asia during the five years of aggression and occupation.

Unfortunately human beings do not seem to ever learn from history. So soon after the end of WWII we had the Korean War unleashed by the communist regime in the North of the Korean Peninsula as it attempted in a lightening, surprise attack to overrun the people and forces of the South. And we had maddening policies of Stalin in Russia and Mao in China, the 1965-66 mass killings in Indonesia, the Indo-Pakistani War of 1971, the Vietnam War that lasted 15 years until the fall of Saigon in 1975, the Khmer Rouge Killing Fields in Cambodia in the mid 70′s, the genocide in East Timor beginning in 1975, the Rwanda genocide of 1994, the Balkan wars and ethnic cleansing in the 1990′s, the on-going tragedies in Darfur, Sudan, Congo, Afghanistan, Syria.

But let us not forget the past wars of partition of India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Biafra, Iran-Iraq war, the invasion of tiny Kuwait by the Saddam Hussein regime, etc. And let us not forget either the almost forgotten Indigenous peoples of the Americas and Australia who had been annihilated by successive “Christian civilizing” invasions beginning in the XV Century till this very day. Yes, ladies and gentlemen, indigenous peoples, the few remaining, are still dying today from humiliation, dispossession, exclusion, drugs, massacres, suicide.

The catalogue of human brutalities is a far too long one and still ongoing that makes me wonder whether we ever learn!

As the US and NATO forces begin their phased withdrawal from Afghanistan, there is growing anxiety and fear among many Afghans about their future – about their hard-won democratic gains; will these gains survive the American withdrawal in 2014 or will the country and the people be once again overrun by the Taliban? And what will happen in Pakistan, which faces its own internal Taliban and other security challenges?

Rising Asia: Opportunities, Challenges and Risks

But let’s look at also the good news about Asia. And about the challenges we face. Asia’s economic performance has been the single most remarkable development since the end of the Cold War in the early 1990’s.

Hundreds of millions of people have embarked upon self-reliant development and freed themselves from poverty, in particular in China, India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Vietnam, Indonesia, Malaysia, Cambodia, Laos, The Philippines, Thailand; others, Japan, the Republic of Korea and Singapore continue to outshine much of the world in science, technology and innovation. As we enter the second decade of the 21st Century, Asian economies have become the powerhouse of global economy.

China, India and Indonesia have been growing at annual rates of between 6 and 10 percent for sustained long periods, indeed, decades. The economies of Japan, China, Korea and India put together already account for over 14 trillion dollars of annual GDP. If you add some 2 trillion dollars of combined annual GDP of another fast growing economic region, ASEAN, the economy of Asia a whole is equal to or even surpass the 15 trillion dollars of US economy and the 16 trillion dollars of combined output of EU countries. And, every day, the sustained high economic performance of leading Asian countries help pulling smaller neighbours into the path of economic growth and human development.
The world has changed much, but Asia is changing faster, and in the face of the financial and economic predicaments of the US and Europe, Asia must seek to be the center stage and lead. I believe that time has come for Asia to lead and guide the world while navigating the challenges of the 21st Century.

But to lead is to inspire, to be able to forge partnerships, build bridges and seek common ground. Asia can and should lead on tackling the challenges we face in the 21st Century: we have resources to alleviate and finally eradicate poverty; we master sciences and technology; we possess know-how to lead the search for global answers to the challenges of climate change and the need for sustained increase in food production. For this to happen, Asia and the world needs a roadmap of priorities and resource allocation to answer our challenges and we also need leadership to establish and implement this roadmap, strengthening peaceful relations.

As Japan has achieved much, other Asian countries can and should lead on reversing environmental damage and ensuring sustained development, while keeping up with the welfare of our peoples. In our globalized world, Asia can lead only in partnership with other stakeholders, even with other emerging countries far away from Asia like Angola, Mozambique, Nigeria, South Africa, Brazil, Mexico, Venezuela, and other fast developing economies and societies that are looking for solutions to challenges similar to those we face.

In spite of the remarkable progress in many areas, there are also enormous risks facing Asia as a whole that should not be underestimated. I thoroughly disagree with the optimists, Asian scholars and others elsewhere, who want us to feel good about ourselves and paint too rosy a picture about the emerging 21st Century Asia. The challenges facing us are, in fact, overwhelming and daunting. And we can overcome these challenges only by pooling resources, solutions, in partnerships, with the US and the EU that remain technological powerhouses that have much still to contribute to global solutions.

Need for a Long-term Vision

Asian leaders should consider a 30-year Asian Road Map for integrated, sustainable Human Development that include not only the goals of eradicating poverty, illiteracy, TB, malaria, etc. but also of restoring our forests, rivers and seas by harnessing new and unimaginable technical-know that we can marshal.

We have heard that knowledge is more powerful than the sword. But, remember what Albert Einstein said: “Imagination is more important than knowledge.” For our own survival, by solidarity with our brothers and sisters from other parts of the world, we must now act with vision, imagination and determination.

Asian leaders and elites must rise to the challenges of the 21st Century, to the dreams and hopes of a peaceful and dignified life for our peoples, and lead with vision and courage.

Today, Asia is the most populous region in the world with its population of 4 billion out of a little more than 7 billion in the world as a whole. We represent more than half of humanity; the largest, oldest, richest civilizations appeared and met in Asia. Only 50 years ago our region was extremely poor. Today Asia emerges as a center of world power and the 21st century could be Asia’s century; we have the brainpower, advanced technology and financial means to make this dream come true.

But the challenges and risks we face in Asia are immense and complex. I would dare say that our region is the most dangerous in the world, the most militarized, most nuclearized, with complex land and maritime border disputes, regional rivalries, ethnic and religious conflicts that have exploded frequently in and among states. Just the sheer size of standing armies and the weaponry available to each side, ready to unleash devastating wars is maddening. More maddening is the mentality of some people who still believe in chauvinism and bellicose patriotism with a belief in their national superiority and glory. It`s a symptom of 19th and early 20th centuries. We must rise to the expectation of a new 21st century.

Europe, and even Africa and Latin America, have freed themselves from the legacies of the past century and the world of Westphalia. European countries have transcended past animosity and mistrust and formed a union. Africans and Latin Americans have created regional political bodies. In Asia, smaller countries of Southeast Asia have been trying to come together and move forward. But, our big brothers of the Northeast Asia look like they are still living in feudal XIX Century.

Only in Asia there is still a regime like the one in North Korea, as barbaric as the worst of the Stalinist era, although there is a hint of change that may emerge under new leader Kim Jong-Un; in some parts of Asia, there are still extremist stone age beliefs and practices that deny girls the right to go to school; in some other parts of Asia acid is thrown on girls for daring to sit in a class room; girls are shot for daring to walk to a school; girls are married off or simply sold off; and a girl is murdered by her own parents. Her sin? Looking at a boy!

Only in Asia can a woman be sentenced to death by stoning for committing adultery. I’m sorry to say, as long as all these horror stories occur daily in our region, as long as we have religious fanatics who want half of humanity, the women, to remain enslaved to ignorance and poverty, as long as too many in Asia believe in a God that is NOT MERCIFUL but MERCILESS and REVENGEFUL and in His behalf they kill all those who disagree with certain interpretations of the holly script; as long as Asia has an anachronistic regime like the Kim Il Sung communist dynasty, the 21st Century will not be ours.

As long as leaders and peoples of North East Asia (China, Japan and Republic of Korea) are not able to free themselves from the past, as long as Japanese officials and educators continue to trivialize the facts of the suffering caused by the Imperial war unleashed on Asians, and as long as leaders and peoples in China do not have the courage to free themselves from this chapter in their history with Japan, this Century will be still the American Century or it might be the African Century – an Asian Century will be elusive to us!

Japan and Asia in Need of Leadership

Asia has these enormous challenges and risks, yet it has opportunities to become a region of the future. Japan has an opportunity to lead the region if Japan makes another transformation as it did from the feudal Tokugawa era to the Meiji reformation.

I am glad to be visiting Japan at the time when Japanese people are choosing political parties and leaders to re-build the country. This time, it should be more than just to build a strong nation physically and militarily.

Japan should exercise leadership in building not only a just society for its own people, but also a just world for everyone. A just society, that Japan is close to achieving it, is one in which resources of society are distributed to all in a fair manner, including those most deserving first. As John Stuart Mill advocated such a society in a century and half ago, the government attended to the “common good,” and all other citizens worked collectively to build communities and programs that would contribute to the good of others. Japan can extend its vision of social welfare to the rapidly globalizing world that needs mutual trust and assistance. Japan, in short, should strengthen more the bond of mutual relationship, or KIZUNA as I understand you call it, between the Japanese and other peoples of Asian countries.

But, to do so, Japan first needs to overcome the past. Japan needs to become cognizant of its past brutality as Germany was of the Jewish people. In dealing with the maritime territorial issue, Japanese Prime Minister Noda rightly stated that it should be resolved based on international law. But, international law should be applied not only to defend Japan`s position but also to enable fair and impartial settlements of disputes. The principle of international law should indeed be up-held in resolving issues surrounding Takeshima (Japanese) or Dokdo (Korean) islands but also other islands claimed by Japan and other countries.

Malaysia and Singapore did so with regard to Pedra Branca and several other islets located at the eastern entrance to the Singapore Strait. The dispute that began in 1979 was largely resolved by the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in 2008, which opined that Pedra Branca belonged to Singapore and Middle Rocks belonged to Malaysia. Timor-Leste is also prepared to take the maritime boundary issue to the International Court of Justice. The reason I suggest this approach is not just to have a group of international jurists to render their impartial judgments but more importantly to move ourselves from the world of Westphalia created five centuries ago to a world of global governance in which we all can live based on laws and standards that are common to all.

Maybe the various claimant States in the South China Sea dispute should agree to turn the whole area into a Zone of Peace and Joint Development and revenues from the oil, gas and other wealth extracted from the area should go to a newly created Asian Fund for Sustainable Development to be allocated and invested in the whole of Asia. In few words, rather than engaging in dangerous brinkmanship and saber rattling, the claimant States in the South China Seas should engage in dialogue, build bridges of understanding and search for common ground beneficial to all in Asia.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

As Japan rose above the atomic bombs dropped over Hiroshima and Nagasaki, so should China and Korea to move beyond the “Nanking massacre” and “comfort women.” To do so, the three countries should consider establishing a truth and reconciliation commission as Timor-Leste and Indonesia did. Such an international commission should include outside leaders so that the commission can record in an impartial manner what happened in terms of not only suffering and misery they brought about to countless people but also historical perspectives of what happened in past wars and conflicts.

Then, the Northeast Asia region will be free of the past and can lead the whole of Asia to form a formidable union that can surpass, in its size and power, the European Union and the United States of America.

For these transformations of Japan and Asia as a whole to occur, we need a leader who possesses the true leadership quality of Mahatma Gandhi to inspire and unite us, to have the courage to overcome the shackles of the past and the differences that exist among us. There is a chance if such a new leader emerges in Asia and leads us all, the 4 billion people of this vast region of great civilizations, religions and cultures, of great challenges and great possibilities, he or she can then, enable us face the present and adopt a Road map to build a Future of Peace, Freedom and Prosperity in not only Asia but also the entire World.

Thank you for listening to me and sharing my vision of the Rising Asia and an analysis of its Challenges, Risks and Opportunities.


6 thoughts on “Global Governance and Peacebuilding: Perspectives from Timor-Leste

  1. Ted McDonnell

    Jose, a wonderful speech.

    It saddens all peace loving people that the world has not learned the brutal lessons of the past. War does not solve anything it just creates death, heartbreak, destruction and queues of refugees seeking new safer homes/havens. Religion seems to create the majority of today’s conflicts – apart from invasion of another country’s sovereignty.

    When will we wake up and become one?

  2. jacqueline

    Hay tanta gente en este mundo que hace daño, y tan poca como usted. Siga Señor…. Soomos muchos los que lo admiramos y lo seguimos.


  3. Joao Baptista

    Dear Jose,
    Truly inspiring and courageous words.
    I just hope the leaders of this world may listen to them.
    But even if they don’t, you can be sure they touch the heart of many of us who are not leaders, just people.
    Thank you.

  4. Zenny Correia

    Dear Mr. Horta,

    It’s a great speech. True that, we have to build a future of peace, freedom and prosperity.


  5. Rhonda Palmer

    Truly a great speech – intelligent,courageous,honest and inspirational – Bravo Dr. Ramos-Horta ! May Peace prevail.

  6. Pingback: 法政大学長谷川ゼミ | [NEWS] Former President Ramos-Horta Calls Upon Japan, China and Korea (28th Nov 2012)

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