José Ramos-Horta. Chairman
Before winning the Nobel Peace Prize in 1996, Dr. José Ramos-Horta was known internationally as a peacemaker. In exile from his country for the better part of three decades, he had been the international voice of the Timorese people while they fought for survival against the occupation of their island by Indonesian forces — an occupation that would prove to be one of the most brutal regimes of our time.
One third of the Timorese population perished under the occupation — a tragedy largely ignored by the West.
In exile for the entire occupation, from 1975 to 1999, José Ramos-Horta worked to build a human rights network to defend the rights of the Timorese — walking the halls of the UN, addressing the security council, traveling the world and speaking, and working tirelessly to ensure his people were not forgotten while they suffered.
In 1996, he and Bishop Carlos Ximenes Belo were awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for “for their work towards a just and peaceful solution to the conflict in East Timor.”
In 1999 Ramos-Horta’s work paid off when 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.
But the story was not over. When the referendum results came in, pro-Indonesia militia who had been put in place across the countryside were unleashed, virtually burning the country to the ground. 85% of the buildings in Timor were set aflame. Hundreds of thousands of people were displaced – at gunpoint – to West Timor and other parts of Indonesia. An unknown number, including foreign journalists, and men, women and children taking refuge in Churches, were massacred.
The rampage was halted by the arrival of a UN peacekeeping force on September 20, 1999. The UN then established an interim government to administer the country and prepare the country for the transition to democracy.
José Ramos-Horta returned from exile on December 1, 1999. Throngs of Timorese crowded the airport and streets to greet him and celebrate his arrival home. Assuming the post of Senior Minister in the new government, he quickly began work to help build a new democratic government in his country, becoming one of the chief architects of the new country’s government.
In 2006, the island of Timor-Leste, still getting on its feet as a young democracy, exploded in new violence, when a group of more than 500 split from the army. Amid burning buildings and gangs rampaging in the streets, the Prime Minister was forced to step down.
José Ramos-Horta, at the time Timor-Leste’s Foreign Minister and Senior Minister, was asked to step into the vacant Prime Minister post. At the time the LA Times called him the young democracy’s “last hope”.
The hope was well placed.
Once Ramos-Horta took office, peace began to steadily return to Timor-Leste. The camps of the internally displaced emptied as people returned to their neighborhoods and began rebuilding.
In May 2007 Ramos-Horta was elected President of Timor-Leste. Assuming the helm of one of the poorest nations in Asia, and a country devastated by conflict, his promise was to serve as the “President of the Poor”. He promised to remain dedicated to eradicating poverty in his country through improved public health and education, and by providing an environment where business can thrive.
In 2008 President Ramos-Horta survived an assassination attempt by members of the renegade military group. While the country prayed for his survival, the remaining members of the renegade group surrendered and turned in their arms.
On the President’s return to office, the country entered a new phase, a phase of putting conflict behind them, and building a new country.
In the years following, 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. Today the country is enjoying a well earned peace. With double digit growth for three years, the Timorese economy is today one of the strongest in Asia. Unemployment has plummeted, while the country is on track for 100% literacy by 2015.
José Ramos-Horta’s work in taking his country from devastating conflict to peace and economic growth in just over a decade serves as a model for building democracy in the twenty first century.
In 2012 he was asked by the office of the UN Secretary General to accept an appointment as UN Secretary General as Special Representative of the Secretary General to the African nation of Guinea Bissau. In April 2014 he took Guinea Bissau through peaceful democratic elections, helping the country to emerge from a military coup and peacefully transferring power back to the hands of the country’s citizens.
He will complete his mission in Guinea Bissau in May, 2014. Among his new activities will be assumption of the helm of TheCommunity.com as Chairman of the Board.
more information: http://ramoshorta.com
Before entering the Internet arena Mary worked in marketing, promotions and public relations for the publishing and graphic design industries in California. She directed promotional and marketing campaigns for four New York Times best sellers and acted as Account Executive and/or Art Director on promotional projects for clients that have included Pepsi, Sprint, Warner Records, and more.
Mary founded and owns Silverado Trail Media, a web design firm in California, and consults for non-profit causes.
She has served in numerous PR and Internet support functions for Ramos-Horta since 2000, including fund raising for Timor-Leste, editing and placing his international media, running his web site and social media platforms, organizing events and managing key contacts in the US, and more.
Today Mary is producing the campaign for the Universal Declaration of Human Rights with TheCommunity.com and NGO Partner Human Rights Action Center, and a series for web broadcast, What’s so hard about Peace?, with internationally recognized artists interviewing Nobel Peace Prize laureates.
more information: http://marywald.com
Bonnie Abaunza, Board Member and Advisor
As Philanthropy Director for Oscar winning composer Hans Zimmer, Bonnie develops and spearheads initiatives with non-governmental organizations and charities with support from the entertainment industry.
She is currently producing an online interview series teaming youth with Nobel Peace Laureates and activists, and working with the United Nations agency, the International Labour Organization, on outreach to the artist community.
Prior to joining Zimmer’s company Bonnie served as Vice President, Social Action and Advocacy at Participant Media for two and a half years, developing and executing social action campaigns to promote the documentaries and feature films produced by Participant Media.
Bonnie served as Director of the Artists for Amnesty program for Amnesty International from 2001 to 2007. As liaison to the artistic community for the world’s leading human rights organization, she worked closely with internationally recognized artists and entertainment industry professionals interested in leveraging their visibility for critical human rights campaigns. She raised Amnesty International’s profile in the entertainment industry and attracted a new generation of activists through the power of mainstream media.
She has worked closely with thecommunity.com and has been an integral part of our activities since 2001.
more information: http://abaunzagroup.com
Jesse Kornbluth, Board Member and Editorial Director
New York based writer Jesse Kornbluth has been a Contributing Editor for Vanity Fair, New York Magazine, Architectural Digest, and a contributor to The New Yorker and The New York Times.
In l996, he co-founded Bookreporter.com. From l997 to 2002, he was Editorial Director of America Online.
He currently writes and edits Head Butler, a cultural concierge site he created in 2004. As Butler, he appears on NPR’s “All Things Considered” and on Plum TV.
Mr. Kornbluth’s books include Airborne: The Triumph and Struggle of Michael Jordan; Highly Confident: The Crime and Punishment of Michael Milken; Pre-Pop Warhol; The Other Guy Blinked (with Roger Enrico); and Notes from the New Underground. He has written numerous screenplays and, for a decade, taught screenwriting at New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts.
Michael Collopy, Director of Photography
Michael Collopy is one of the preeminent portrait photographers of our time and has gained worldwide recognition for his commissioned portraits of hundreds of public figures. His portfolio includes a vast array of portraits from world leaders such as Pope John Paul ll, Mikhail Gorbachev and 5 U.S. Presidents, and a list of entertainers that includes the Rolling Stones, Clint Eastwood, Frank Sinatra, Carlos Santana, Paul McCartney, Salma Hayek, Bono and many others. His photographs have been published worldwide in numerous books, leading magazines and newspapers, and record and CD covers.
Michael traveled with Mother Teresa for more than 10 years, resulting in “Works of Love are Works of Peace,” a critically acclaimed coffee table book that has sold more than 100,000 copies and was selected as one of the top coffee table books of 1996 by USA Today. This was followed by Architects of Peace, which profiles 75 peacemakers, and formed the base for his Architects of Peace Foundation.
Michael is the recipient of the 2009 Martin Luther King Peace award from Stanford University. The University keeps a permanent display of his work as part of their Peace Studies program.
More information: http://www.architectsofpeace.org