JRH speech on climate change

[Text provided by the office of the President. Video of the speech and
other information about this conference are available at

Remarks by H. E. José Ramos-Horta
President of Timor-Leste
And Nobel Peace Prize Laureate


Human Impact of Climate Change,
Global Humanitarian Forum 2009
Geneva, 23-24th June 2009

Mr. and Mrs. Annan, Presidents, Your Highness, Ministers, Eminent
scientists, Ladies and gentlemen,

It is a privilege to be here in the midst of some of the best minds of
the world to listen to you all on the Human Impact of Climate Change. I
thank H. E. Kofi Annan for being so kind in inviting me to participate
in this forum. I don’t know whether I can add much to the volumes of
credible, scientific and verifiable data on the ground about this
growing human calamity. But here I am in response to H. E. Kofi Annan’s
kind invitation.

My country, Timor-Leste, attained full sovereignty only seven years ago
and it was Kofi Annan who presided over the nation-building of
Timor-Leste, with vision and compassion, from 1999 to 2002. To him and
the late Sergio Vieira De Mello, his Special Representative for
Timor-Leste from 1999 to 2002, goes our eternal gratitude.

Timor-Leste fits in the category of Least Developed Countries (LDC),
post-conflict, vulnerable, fragile States. This says all. The challenges
we face since 2002 are no different from those faced by many others who
have been on the world stage far longer – weak state institutions with
very limited delivery capacity, an inexperienced Public Administration,
lack of modern infrastructures like first class roads, bridges, reliable
power supply, efficient and affordable telecommunications, hospitals,
schools, doctors and teachers. Literacy is still very low particularly
among women and girls.

However, we have also made significant progress. We have come a long way
in reconciling among ourselves, healing the wounds of the past, and
reconciling with those who were at another trench. Our relations with
Indonesia are exemplary and I would say no two countries locked in a
long bitter conflict have reconciled so fast and so thoroughly as
Timor-Leste and Indonesia. But we have also reconciled with the powers
that be that contributed directly to our suffering with the provision of
weapons to the much detested regime.

Our economy grew 12.5% in 2008 and 8% the previous year. We expect a
continuing strong growth this year.

We are a modest oil and gas producing country with revenues totaling no
more than US$100 million/monthly. More fields are being found that will
double our country’s petroleum revenues in the next few years.

In 2005 we established a Petroleum Fund, governed by the strictest rules
of good management and oversight.

And we must be the only country in the world that did not suffer any
loss as all our petroleum revenues were invested in the relatively safe
US Treasury Bonds. We also do not have a single cent owing to anyone.

We are fully self-funded in terms of our National Budget which in 2009
is close to US$700 million. You should know that in 2002 when we
attained full independence our State Budget was a mere US$68 million and
some 40% were financed by donors.

We cannot complain of lack of financial resources and generous
international donor assistance even if often the so-called aid is not
entirely targeted on job creation, poverty alleviation, food security,
rural development.

Much of the aid money is spent on consultants, study missions, reports
and recommendations. Some 3,000 studies and reports have been done on
us. We have been psycho-analysed from every possible angle.

However, the reality is that poverty is still widespread; unemployment
is high worsened by a very high birth rate and a young population.

Now let me turn on to the topic of this conference. I begin by saying
that while I was impressed by the quality of the information available
from the Global Humanitarian Forum and the eloquence of the speakers we
heard yesterday and today, I am not at all convinced that leaders of the
powers that be are going to take imaginative and courageous steps in
saving our planet. Let me repeat: I do not believe.

Let me explain the reasons for my lack of hope and faith.

I ask, how many industrial countries have responded to the UN appeal
first made some 20 years ago to allocate 0,7% of their national income
for development assistance to poor countries? Only four small Nordic
countries have done so.

There is never money to assist the poor but there is always money to
wage wars and to rescue banks and insurance companies bankrupted by
corrupt, and incompetent and highly paid CEOs.

How many countries have agreed to open up their markets, tariff free,
for goods from developing countries? The rich advocate an almost
borderless world for trade but they heavily subsidized their farmers and
industries and imposed restrictive rules on agriculture imports from
Africa, Asia and Latin America.

How many weapons producing countries have acknowledged the immorality
and danger of conventional weapons sales to developing countries, in
particular, to regions in conflict and have reduced such exports?

How many armed nuclear countries have begun to destroy their nuclear

All of the above affect them, affect us. Weapons sold to one side of a
conflict will always end in the wrong side, sooner or later. We are all
worried about nuclear devices, biological and chemical weapons, ending
up in the hands of non-state actors. But there is no sign of anyone
trying to simply eliminate this possibility by clearing the world from
such weapons.

In view of the above, I have no illusions that in Copenhagen we are
going to see imaginative and swift action to commit all to save our
planet. There might be a consensus document, there might be even a solid
one that everyone will applaud and walk away declaring victory. But will
there be commitment in action to implement the pledges and binding norms
and targets? Will there be enough funding for developing countries to
deal with current impact of climate change?

Will there be enough money, no restrictions attached, and no
bureaucratic delays, for poor developing countries to assist them in
dealing with the consequences of decades of irresponsible greed of few?

We are all too familiar with the infamous pledges made by the rich in
pledging conferences but do not deliver on their commitments.

We in the developing world are responsible for less than 1% of global
emissions of green gases. But we are the ones who are paying a high
price for the greed and irresponsibility of the rich few and we will pay
even more.

Ladies and gentlemen,

In view of the above, as I see waters rising, floods surging, lands
sliding, rain patterns changing, followed by prolonged droughts, I will
say, I cannot just hope for others to do something about it.

We can continue to denounce the rich for their greed and
irresponsibility, but we must try to do small things, actually big
things, with our own resources and hands, to save our own countries, our
rivers and lakes, our seas and corals.

We must stop logging and destroying our forests, we must plant millions
of trees, preserve rain water and rivers; we must stop dumping plastics
and other non-degradable and toxic materials into our rivers and seas;
we must prevent over fishing and the depletion of our fish stock.

If we do this in every country, every island, and in every tropical
region from the Amazon basin to the Coral Triangle, we will mitigate the
impact of climate change; we might not have to witness the disappearance
of some islands, peoples and cultures in the next decades.

We heard yesterday the moving speech by the President of Kiribati. I was
almost in tears when he told us how his people might have to resettle
elsewhere as their islands disappear in the next decades, in our life

Islanders and indigenous peoples are deeply attached to the land more
than any other community. Let us pause and imagine the profound sadness,
trauma, emotional distress of those who are forced to live their
ancestral islands because they are sinking, disappearing under the
rising sea.

They will not be the only climate change refugees. In the next 30 to 50
years they will be joined by tens of millions from Asia to Africa. And
as they move to safer and higher grounds there will be conflicts with
others already there, all fighting for scarce land and water.

I do not assign all blame to the rich and the powerful. Maybe what we
are experiencing today is an inevitable consequence of the development
of human mind, of science, technology and industrialization. We could
not have told the people in the XVIII Century that they should not build
factories and power them with coal and fossil fuel; we could not tell
them not to manufacture the locomotive, ships, cars, tractors, and later

Life was simpler, there were fewer people some millions of years or just
even 500 years ago. Now we are six billion people sharing a shrinking
planet with shrinking resources.

So let us cherish the resources we have in each country, each island,
each village, and we might still have enough for all. We might still
save our planet. We might.

In my own country we have launched programs to reduce poverty, create
jobs and preserve the environment and consolidate peace.

With the government we have launched a clean city campaign where
everyday Friday morning thousands of civil servants are mobilized to
clean the city and neighborhoods, clear the clogged canals, rivers and

We have launched the “Dili – City of Peace” campaign to turn our city
and the whole country into an Island of Peace. My concept of peace is
that peace must start at home, within the family, in the schools, in the

Peace must mean end of domestic violence against women and children.
Peace must mean that we care about our elderly, the handicapped, HIV
victims, the poorest of the poor.

Peace means that we must be a model of solidarity and share our
resources with other peoples in need.

Even though we are a very new country with limited resources we made
contributions to peoples in China, Cuba, Burma and Indonesia affected by
natural disasters with a total grant close to US$2 million so far.

So I repeat let’s start in our own homes to try to save our common

May God the Almighty and the Merciful Bless Us All.

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