Before he was renown as a Nobel Peace Prize laureate, Dr. José Ramos-Horta was known internationally as a fiery advocate for the people of Timor-Leste (then known as East Timor) and at the same time, a highly skilled diplomat, negotiator, and peace maker. In exile from his country for the better part of three decades, he had been the international voice of the Timorese population while they struggled to survive as a nation against one of the most brutal regimes of our time.
In 1996, José Ramos-Horta and Timorese Bishop Carlos Ximenes Belo were awarded the Nobel Peace Prize “for their work toward a just and peaceful solution to the conflict in East Timor.” In 1999 the United Nations sponsored a referendum, allowing the Timorese people to vote between independence, and remaining a part of Indonesia. The country voted overwhelmingly for independence.
In his years as Prime Minister and President, working with fellow Timorese hero Xanana Gusmao, and with an unfaltering love for and faith in the Timorese people, Ramos-Horta saw many of his dreams for the Timorese people start to come to fruition, both in the city and countryside.
While serving as President and the international voice of the young government, he personally created peace initiatives ranging from a world class mountain bike “race for peace” to opening his office for youth from neighbouring areas to come and peacefully resolve conflicts. His anti-poverty initiatives, including building homes for the neediest, lifted tens of thousands out of extreme poverty. His leadership and expertise have walked Timor-Leste toward a new era of peace, reconciliation and economic growth.