Taking Peace Building to the World

In January 2013, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon appointed Jose Ramos-Horta as his special representative to Guinea-Bissau. He took up the post on January 31.

The small African nation of Guinea Bissau was so unstable that since its independence in the 1970s not one elected leader had finished a term.  The last election attempt before Ramos-Horta’s arrival was in 2012. That election was aborted when troops under army chief Antonio Indjai stormed the presidential palace days before a run-off was due to take place. Instability had turned the country into a prime drug smuggling spot.

In his time in Guinea Bissau, he saw the country through peaceful elections and a peaceful transition of power from the military to the election government, returning power to the people of Guinea Bissau.

In October 2014, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon established a High-level Independent Panel on UN Peace Operations to make a comprehensive assessment of the state of UN peace operations today, and the emerging needs of the future. Announcing the decision, the Secretary-General said that “the world is changing and UN peace operations must change with it if they are to remain an indispensable and effective tool in promoting international peace and security.”  He asked José Ramos-Horta to chair the panel.

Ramos-Horta chaired the 16-member Panel with Ms, Ameerah Haq of Bangladesh as Vice-Chair. The panel conducted global consultations with world leaders and on the ground visits to peacekeeping operations and more.  It considered a broad range of issues facing peace operations, including the changing nature of conflict, evolving mandates, good offices and peacebuilding challenges, managerial and administrative arrangements, planning, partnerships, human rights and protection of civilians.  It  encompassed both UN peacekeeping operations as well as special political missions , which are referred to collectively as “UN peace operations.”

Ramos-Horta presented the Panel’s report, now known at the HIPPO (High-Level Independent Panel on Peace Operations) to the Secretary-General on 16 June  2015. The Secretary General then transmitted it to the General Assembly and the Security Council. Ramos-Horta received widespread international acclaim for the achievements of the panel.

Ramos-Horta is a frequent speaker, along with other Nobel Peace Prize Laureates, at Peacejam conferences. He has served as Chairman of the Advisory Board for TheCommunity.com, a web site for peace and human rights, since 2000. In 2001 he gathered the post 9/11 statements of 28 Nobel Peace Prize Laureates on the web site, and has spearheaded other peace initiatives with his fellow Nobel Laureates. He is a member of the Global Leadership Foundation, an organization that works to support democratic leadership, prevent and resolve conflict through mediation and promote good governance composed of former heads of government, senior governmental and international organization officials. He is a member of Club of Madrid, an association of former Presidents and Prime Ministers working to build democracy internationally.

Ramos-Horta is a member of the committee for the 2022 Zayed Prize for Human Fraternity, an international award which was established to mark the historic meeting of Pope Francis and the grand imam of Al-Azhar that resulted in a mutually signed document on human fraternity. In late 2021 he met Pope Francis at the Vatican with other members of the jury, who included the undersecretary of the Holy See’s migrants and refugees office, Cardinal Michael Czerny; former Niger president and winner of the 2020 Ibrahim Prize for achievement in African leadership, H.E. Mahamadou Issoufou; and former deputy president of South Africa and former UN undersecretary-general, H.E. Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka. Ramos-Horta has encouraged the adoption of the document to be used by all world leaders, including in Timor-Leste, and its principals included in school curricula. 

Ramos-Horta said his request for the adoption of the document followed a request by Pope Francis and the grand imam of Al-Azhar for all leaders around the world to have its principles included in school curricula.

Today, as one of the world’s real peace builders, he continues to do high level peacekeeping and peace building actions globally, while leading the young democracy he helped to build.