Conversation Series

Peaceful Negotiation under International Law — Lessons from Timor-Leste’s Maritime Boundaries

TOKYO: On 18 December 2023, UNU will host a conversation with His Excellency Kay Rala Xanana Gusmão, Prime Minister of Timor-Leste.

On 18 December 2023, UNU will host "Peaceful Negotiation under International Law — Lessons from Timor-Leste’s Maritime Boundaries” a conversation with His Excellency Kay Rala Xanana Gusmão, Prime Minister of Timor-Leste. The event will start at 19:30 in the 1F Annex Space at UNU Headquarters in Tokyo.

Many maritime boundaries worldwide remain disputed. Timor-Leste, situated between Australia and Indonesia, has prioritized establishing its maritime boundaries to complete its sovereignty. The peaceful resolution of its maritime dispute with Australia, through the first-ever compulsory conciliation process under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), exemplifies the potential of international law to settle such disputes.

The success of this process, culminating in a treaty signed at UN Headquarters, underscores the effectiveness of diplomacy and respect for law in international relations. Timor-Leste now aims to peacefully finalize negotiations for the delimitation of its maritime boundaries with Indonesia.

Prime Minister Xanana Gusmão will join UNU Rector Tshilidzi Marwala for a conversation focusing on Timor-Leste's experience in resolving its maritime disputes with Australia, insights into the conciliation process under UNCLOS and the broader implications for international law. What wider lessons can be learned from Timor-Leste’s experience in the peaceful settlement of international disputes? How do smaller countries negotiate with powerful neighbours and achieve positive outcomes?

The UNU Conversation Series aims to foster audience participation; you are encouraged to engage with the speakers during the conversation and at the reception that will follow, where all audience members are invited to enjoy hors d’oeuvres and drinks while exchanging ideas and making new contacts.

Please note that this event will be in English. Advance registration (by 17 December) is required. Please click on the REGISTER button above to access the online registration page.

Please be prepared to present identification at check-in.

About the speaker

In 1981, Kay Rala Xanana Gusmão was elected Leader of the Resistance and Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces for the National Liberation of Timor-Leste. He was arrested by the Indonesian military in 1992, after having spent 17 years as a guerrilla fighter. He endured seven years as a political prisoner and was released in 1999.

In 1998, Xanana Gusmão was elected President of the National Council of Timorese Resistance (CNRT). In August 1999 the Timorese voted overwhelmingly for independence and a period of transition under the United Nations began.

Xanana Gusmão was elected the President of the Republic in 2002 serving a five-year term. In 2007 he was elected Prime Minister and was re-elected in 2012.

In 2015, Xanana Gusmão resigned as Prime Minister and became Minister of Planning and Strategic Investment until 2017. In 2016, he was appointed Chief Negotiator of the Council for the Final Delimitation of Maritime Boundaries. He led negotiations with Australia, including the first ever Compulsory Conciliation mechanism under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, which resulted in the Maritime Boundary Treaty with Australia. The process for delimitating permanent maritime boundaries with Indonesia is still ongoing.

Since 2010, Xanana Gusmão has also worked as the Eminent Person of the G7+, a group of fragile and conflict-affected countries in transition to the next stage of development. In 2018, Xanana Gusmão was appointed as Special Representative for negotiating land boundaries with the Republic of Indonesia. In December 2019, Xanana Gusmão was appointed Timor-Leste’s special Representative for the Blue Economy. Having been re-elected in the 2023 legislative elections, Xanana Gusmão took office as Prime Minister of the IX Constitutional Government on 1 July 2023.