RSIS Distinguished Public Lecture by His Excellency Dr Dionísio da Costa Babo Soares, Minister for Foreign Affairs and Cooperation of Timor-Leste
Timor-Leste: Celebrating the 20th Anniversary of the Referendum from Past to Present
In the twenty years since the historic vote for independence on 30 August 1999, Timor-Leste has defied the expectations of a post-conflict country and is now viewed as a success story and an example for other countries. From devastation and destruction, the country has rebuilt, and its economy is continuing to grow from strength to strength. The country intends to become a member of ASEAN and supports the Indo-Pacific concept.
The international community was pivotal to Timor-Leste’s success in peacebuilding and state building and the country now looks to how it can contribute to stability in the Asia Pacific region and beyond through forging close bilateral ties and contributing to regional organisations and at the United Nations.
About the Speaker
H.E. Dr. Dionisio da Costa Babo Soares is the seventh Minister for Foreign Affairs of the Democratic Republic of Timor-Leste, in the new Executive body of the Timor-Leste’s Coalition Government. Prior to this position, Dr. Babo Soares held several senior member positions in the previous governments such as the Minister for Justice, Minister for State Administration, Coordinating Minister for State Administration and Minister for Justice, as well as serving as Member of the Defence and Security Superior Council.
Born in 1966 in Ermera municipality, East Timor, Dr. Babo Soares, commenced his University studies from 1986 to 1990 at University of Udayana-Denpasar, Bali, where he successfully acquired his first Degree in Constitutional Law.
Dr. Babo Soares also holds an MA Degree in Philosophy and Development Studies from Massey University (1993-1995) and a PhD in Anthropology from the Australian National University, ANU (2003). He was professionally engaged with universities and other socio-political organisations in Timor-Leste prior to independence. After the independence of Timor-Leste he wrote extensively on Timor-Leste, as well as actively led and occupied many highly privileged socio-political and legal positions in Timor-Leste’s government, including co-chairman of the Indonesia – Timor-Leste Commission of Truth and Friendship (Portuguese Acronym as CVA). Dr. Babo Soares was a lecturer at the National University of Timor-Leste (1992-2010). He was also the first Dean of post-graduate studies at the University of Peace (UNPAZ) from 2008 to 2015.
Dr. Babo Soares was a founding-member of CNRT (Congresso Nacional de Reconstrucao de Timor) Party, one of the major political parties in Timor-Leste, led by former freedom fighter, Dr. Xanana Gusmao. He was later elected as Secretary-General of the Party (2007-2017). He is the present President of the National Directive Council (CDN) of the party.
Besides the executive positions, Dr. Soares was also previously selected (2004-2005) as Member of Timor-Leste’s Superior/Supreme Council of Defense and Security, again re-selected as a member for the same State body for two consecutive terms, from 2012-2017 and 2018-2023.
In June 2018, Dr. Babo Soares, was elected by the ruling-coalition AMP (Alianca para Mudança e Progresso) to lead the portfolio of Foreign Affairs and Cooperation of Timor-Leste for the period of 2018-2023, in the new Executive led by Prime Minister, H. E. Taur Matan Ruak.
As a polyglot, he is fluent in Portuguese, English, Malay/Indonesian, Tetum and Mambae, among others, and is married with three children.