President Ramos-Horta Honored at Global Baku Forum

Mar 12, 2023 | Features, International Relations, Presidency, Speeches

Text of Speech

The 10th edition of the Global Baku Forum was held in Baku, Azerbaijan, from Mach 9-12. The Forum brought together over 300 participants, including current and former heads of state and government, Nobel laureates, international organizations, and civil society. More than 100 current and former heads of state and government, Nobel Laureates, and more than 4,000 other high-level representatives of governments, international organizations, and civil society have participated in the Forum. 

The theme of this year’s forum was “The World of Today: Challenges and Hopes.” It included open dialogue on topics including climate justice, food security, multilateralism and discuss how to overcome the world’s most pressing challenges.

In meetings with President of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev and Prime Minister Ali Asadov, President Ramos-Horta discussed issues of mutual interest including the commitment to international peace, food security and regional economic development, a well as Timor-Leste’s participation in the Non-Aligned Movement.

The President also met with the Minister of Ecology and Natural Resources, Mukhtar Babayev. Azerbaijan, known as the first oil drilling country in the world, also invests in renewables as well in forestry and agriculture. Topics covered in the meeting included agricultural reforms, food security, climate change and water management. It was followed by a visit to the first oil fields in Baku, which date back to 1846.

The official opening of the Global Baku Forum took place in the evening with welcoming remarks from NGIC Co-Chairs Vaira Vike-Feiberga, former President of Latvia 1999-2007, and Ismail Serageldin, Vice President of the World Bank 1992 – 2000.

On the forum’s opening night gala at ,Gulustan Palace, former President of Latvia and NGIC Co-Chair Vaira Vike-Freiberga, with Former Vice President of the World Bank and NGIC Co-Chair Ismail Serageldin presented President Ramos-Horta with the Nizami Ganjavi International Award 2023.

The award is presented to distinguished personalities and institutions embodying the values embodied by the works of 12th Century Azerbaijan poet Nizami Ganjavi, considered one of the pillars of Persian poetry. Kailash Satyarthi, Margaret Thatcher, Bill Clinton, His Majesty Abdullah II Bin Al-Hussain and Helen Clark are former recipients of the award. 

In presenting the award Ms. Vike-Feiberga said, “I am speaking of a leader, who by word and deed, committed his life to ensure that his people, despite brutal foreign occupation, would achieve self-determination and independence and establish themselves as a land of freedom, peace and democracy. Neither exile nor assassins bullets would deviate him from continuing on the path of devotion and service to his people, and to the personification of these high ideals.” thus Vaira
Vike-Freiberga before she handed the honorable Award to President Ramos-Horta.

The following morning President Ramos-Horta addressed over 300 participants for the opening of the forum; this speech was attended by  President Aliyev. He stressed that, in line with the forum’s theme, each country should “maintain our solidarity and continue our efforts to solve problems” in the context of the current global challenges the world is facing.

Also attending were Egils Levits, President of the Republic of Latvia, Miguel Angel Moratinos, the Under-Secretary-General UN, Winnie Byanyima, Executive Director UNAIDS and Ismail Serageldin, Co-Chair NGIC.

On local media during the forum Ramos-Horta stated that the Global Baku Forum could become an indispensable forum for communication on resolution of international conflicts. 


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By J. Ramos-Horta
President of Timor-Leste, Nobel Peace Prize Laureate (1996)
At the Xth Global Baku Forum
“The World of Today: Challenges and Hopes”

BAKU, AZERBAIJAN, 9-11 March 2023

Excellency President Aliyev,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
It is a privilege to be among global luminaries gathering at the Xth Baku Forum under a very
appropriate theme…”The World of Today: Challenges and Hopes”.

This peaceful and prosperous country, after years of war and suffering, is very naturally
suited to host a SUMMIT of PEACEMAKERS to explore alternatives to rivalries and wars,
pathways to human fraternity and prosperity.

The Document on Human Fraternity co-authored by His Holiness Papa Francisco and Prof
Dr Tayyeb the Grand Imman of Al-Azhar is a great inspiring guide for those seeking
pathways to peace.

The National Parliament of Timor-Leste unanimously voted in May 2022 to adopt the
Declaration on Human Fraternity as a National Document to be adapted into our school

I am an optimist but I am not a hopeless romantic optimist but I believe that there is always
a light at the end of the tunnel.


In my country we cherish our relationships with everyone in the community of nations, large
and small, rich and poor, and I cherish the friendship I share with you present here today.
Timor-Leste, as a Nation, is grateful for every gesture of friendship and solidarity that helped
us in this bumpy journey of building durable peace and a democracy that delivers.

Timor-Leste is an oasis of tranquillity. We live in peace and harmony with our neighbours
and we enjoy exemplary relationship with all.

There are no reported cases of politically motivated violence nor are there reported cases of
religious and ethnic based tension and violence.

Our democracy is a dynamic one but we are still belong in the “fragile” category. And by
any definition we are still a Least Developed Country.

Freedom House, Reporters Without Borders and the Economist rate Timor-Leste very high
in most categories, namely, functional democracy and Press freedom, number one
democracy in Southeast Asia and in Press Freedom number 17 in the world. Ours is an
imperfect democracy as most democracies are but our people live in complete, unrestrained

2020-2022 were terrible years for almost every country in the the world. Fortunately the
Covid-19 pandemic seems to have subsided but its endless offsprings continue to hang over
our homes. Let’s not let our guards down with this apparent return to normality, the new
normal. We can expect a new pandemic in the not too distant future for which I hope we will
be better prepared.

Hundreds of millions of fellow human beings, particularly the most vulnerable – children,
women and elderly – who had freed themselves from generations of living in abject poverty,
were thrown back into extreme poverty. Child labour went back up. Many millions lost their

We in Timor-Leste came out of the pandemic almost unaffected when measured by the
number of fatalities where Covid-19 was the direct cause.

However, the unavoidable prevention measures imposed by health authorities inevitably
impacted on peoples livelihoods, particularly the rural poor whose modest income depended
on their ability to reach the markets to sell their products.

Hundreds of schools were closed with the obvious implications for the hundreds of thousands
of children in pre school and elementary school age for whom the basic daily bowl of rice and
vegetables provided at the school was their only meal.

As attention and resources were poured into preventing and containing the Covid-19
pandemic, other public health care sectors were neglected. Less attention and resources
went to the more prevalent epidemics like child malnutrition, dengue and TB.

Our vaccination campaign was highly successful, helped save many lives. I thank in
particular Australian Govt and Australian doctors as well as the Cuban Medical Brigade in
Timor-Leste for their prompt support in strengthening our response capabilities. Even as
Australians were fighting the pandemic in cities and towns across the Continent they did not
stop deliver vaccines to Timor-Leste.

We thank also our many other friends near and distant – USA, Portugal, EU, New Zealand,
Cambodia, China, Japan, South Korea, Indonesia, the UN system, in particular WHO,
COVAX, UNDP, UNICEF, WFP, and others.

The global pandemic revealed in every country much of the ugly side of fellow human
beings, but it also showed the better side of us, with touching stories of compassion and

In addition to the Covid-19 pandemic in Timor-Leste we endured two successive devastating
floods, one in 2020 followed by another one 2021.

We and our sister Nations members of Small Islands Developing States, Least Developed
Countries and of the g7+ of Fragile States, innocent, absolved, are the main collateral
victims of decades of wreckless exploitation, depredation, of Mother Nation by larger

But let us be honest and not put all blame on larger and richer nations. We too in the
Developing World should accept blame.

We burn our forests, fell our trees out of extreme greed and to satisfy others, we are the
ones wasting humanity’s most precious commodity, FRESH WATER.

We carelessly dump plastic and every waste into the rivers and seas.

Instead of finger pointing we should change our own behaviour. Let’s plant more suitable
trees, green all our towns, reforest our mountains, plant fruit trees and flowers in every
school, in every village.

In Timor-Leste we agree on
A People Centered,
Sustainable Green Economy
Sustainable agriculture as National Priority,
Water policy, Protection of Water Sources, generate new water sources from ground, rain,
A decent home for every destitute family
Clean water for all
Youth employment
Elimination of extreme poverty
Elimination of stunt and child malnutrition Elimination of illiteracy
Quality basic education and vocational education for all, including digital education.

On other matters, Timor-Leste remains firm against threats of, and use of force, in settling
disagreements, disputes of all nature. We firmly uphold the UN Charter and in particular the
principles and obligations of States.

Timor-Leste firmly upholds UNCLOS and in particular the EEZ provisions . We firmly rejects
the militarisation of South China Sea and attempts at undermining freedom of navigation in
the area. We will join whatever consensus stance adopted by our common regional
organisation ASEAN.

Timor-Leste actively upholds ASEAN Centrality. In this regard TL fully endorses ASEAN’S
stance on the military coup and gross, systematic, widespread human rights violations
against civilians and political opponents in Myanmar. TL demands the return of the
Constitutional regime.

We are grateful and pleased with the decision by ASEAN Leaders in welcoming Timor-Leste
as the 11th member with formal admission to take place sometime this year during
Indonesia’s presidency.

Timor-Leste will continue to endeavour to further enhance trade and commerce with our
neighbours which includes Australia and New Zealand as well North-East Asia – Japan,
South Korea and China.

Likewise we will seek enhanced relations with India, an emerging global power, which will be
the most populous country in the world in two decades. Timor-Leste will soon establish an
Embassy in India.

It was in December 1975 that I first set foot in New York and at age 25, young,
inexperienced, impressionable, I addressed the UN Security Council. A memorable moment
was when I met the Soviet Ambassador to the UN Yacob Malik, who was at the founding
meeting of the UN in San Francisco in 1945. My meeting with Yacob Malik lasted 10’…but
the gentleman was asleep. Not wanting to disturb his well deserved siesta I spoke very softly
which seemed to have put him to deep sleep.

Who would imagine that a quarter of a century later the mighty Soviet Union would dismantle
itself in the face of the profound convictions of individuals like Andrei Sakharov, Aleksandr
Solzhenitsyn, Lech Walesa, Pope John Paul II.

We witnessed the dismantle of the Berlin Wall and the Warsaw Pact, liberation of the Baltic
States and Eastern Europe, and the end of Apartheid.
NATO didn’t disband, instead it expanded Eastwards towards the borders of a much
diminished and humiliated Russia.
I am not suggesting that NATO should have
disbanded nor that the former Soviet States should not have joined NATO. After decades of
living in hopelessness and humiliation under the USSR and having regained freedom, of
course it was and it is only natural that they seek NATO deterrence umbrella.

The great Soviet era Statesman Mikhail GORBACHEV is celebrated in the West but he is
repudiated in his own country blamed for the collapse of the empire.

The theme of this Xth Global Baku Forum

“The World of Today: Challenges and Hopes” encapsulates the reality of our world today.
We must avoid escalation of the war in Europe; we must prevent escalation of China-US
rivalry, we must be alert to the increasing militarisation of South China Sea.
A nuclear North Korea is a reality and there is
nothing that will roll back this.
In 2022 we all woke up to a war that didn’t have to happen. After years of warnings and
escalating tensions President Putin finally did what was feared. He invaded Ukraine, an epic
miscalculation with catastrophic consequences…for Ukraine and for Russia. Europeans and
the rest of us are all paying a heavy price for a war not of our making.

I have always believed that Europe should stay united, UK included in the EU, the European
Home united, strong, prosperous, a bridge between the US and Russia, between the US and

Far remote from the theater of war, we in Timor-Leste are mere collaterals of a war fought by
supposedly enlightened civilizations.

Could this war have been averted? Yes, it could, it should have been averted. But everyone
miscalculated, misjudged, overestimated their own capabilities and underestimated the other
side’s. And as everyone got involved in the conflict no impartial mediator was left in the

In a meeting with President Lula in January I suggested that Brazil, India, Indonesia, South
Africa Turkey plus China should partner up to explore possibilities to engage with the two
countries in conflict towards mediating an end to the tragic war.

These emerging powers not implicated in the Ukraine war, all enjoying active relationship
with all others involved, US and EU countries, are uniquely placed to play the central role in
creating conditions for sustained dialogue towards an end to the war.

Needless to say, the UNSC has been sidelined, our collective security body is fractured,
devoid of authority. Like in Syria, Yemen, Afghanistan and Myanmar, to mention just a few of
the ongoing wars, the House of Global Security has crumbled.

In the midst of turmoils across the world, namely, Myanmar, Afghanistan, Yemen, Syria, Mali
(this is a very abbreviated list of countries engulfed in inter State or Intra State conflict), praise
is due to UN Agencies in the front-line sheltering and feeding, saving millions of innocent human
beings who would have perished if these UN

Agencies were absent. This is clearly the good side of multilateralism. Not all is bleak. But
the clouds of war are hanging over let’s work harder on prevention of escalation of the
tensions and threats to peace in Korean Peninsula, in South China Sea, Taiwan, China-US
and China-India relations.

J Ramos-Horta