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The Human Rights Centre of the Faculty of Social Sciences of the National University of Timor Lorosa'e (UNTL) was inaugurated on 27 August 2019. The event took place in a highly symbolic year and moment for the country: the 20th anniversary celebrations of the Popular Consultation on Self-determination of 30 August 1999.
The Inauguration was attended by prominent local and international personalities, including the Nobel Peace Prize Dr. José Ramos Horta, the Rector of UNTL Prof. Dr. Francisco Miguel Martins, the Minister of Higher Education, Science and Culture, Prof. Dr. Longuinhos dos Santos, the Ambassador of the European Union, Alexandre Leitão, the Secretary-General of the Global Campus, Prof. Manfred Nowak and Dr. Tamrat Samuel, focal point of the United Nations Secretary-General for the affairs of Timor-Leste between 1992 and 2000.
The Human Rights Centre is part of a 23-month project being implemented by the Global Human Rights Campus, entitled "Development of Human Rights Education and Research at the National University of Timor Lorosa'e".
The project is fully funded by the European Union through the European Instrument for Democracy and Human Rights (EIDHR) and aims to contribute to the promotion of human rights, democracy and development in East Timor. The creation of a new Human Rights Centre in a young democracy, which faces many challenges, will be an opportunity for the GC to use its vast experience in linking the Academy to development cooperation.
In his speech, Ambassador Alexandre Leitão said that "democracy and human rights are never granted, they are like a living body that needs to be fed and sometimes suffers from disease, so the best way to treat it is to nurture a culture based on human rights in young academics and future Timorese leaders. With this center, UNTL will be able to access global knowledge and research networks and help Timor-Leste consolidate its vocation as a democratic nation that defends human rights. He also called on the Government and the Rectorate to ensure the future sustainability of the Centre and suggested that, "within the scope of the national debate on the priority of investment in infrastructure and social capital, we can bridge the gap and consider the University as the infrastructure of knowledge".
The Human Rights Centre in Dili will engage in training, international networking and research activities, and is envisaged to prospectively become affiliated with the Global Campus Asia-Pacific network led by the Mahidol University, Thailand. Furthermore, the Center will open its doors to Timorese civil society, providing space and expertise to grassroots organizations advocating for human rights, as well as regular extra-curricular activities such as debates and human rights movie screenings.