Talks to strengthen ties
between NZ and Timor-Leste

A new Asia New Zealand Foundation initiative aims to build understanding between young people in Timor-Leste and New Zealand.
Four boys are pushing a cart with plastic tankards on it

Image: New Zealand Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade

Young New Zealand leaders from a range of sectors ­– including health, youth development, the arts and the media – are on their way to Dili for the Foundation’s first “Timor Talks”.

Starting on 31 August, the delegates will spend two days with young leaders from Timor-Leste discussing issues like economy and entrepreneurship, education and welfare, identity and gender, corruption and the role of the media.

The dialogue is being run by the Asia New Zealand Foundation with support from the New Zealand Embassy in Dili.

The Timor-Leste delegates also represent different fields, including tourism, research, urban planning and women’s rights.

Asia New Zealand Foundation deputy executive director Adele Mason says the Timor Talks build on the Foundation’s existing programme of Track II (unofficial) diplomacy.

 “The Foundation has been running a ‘15+15 dialogue’ with Indonesia’s Habibie Center for the past couple of years, which has been successful in creating ongoing relationships between young leaders in Indonesia and New Zealand.

“We’re really pleased to have this opportunity to work on another initiative focused on young people. About 60 percent of Timor Leste’s population is under the age of 25, so building the leadership skills of its young people is really important.

“Many of the New Zealand delegates are members of the Foundation’s Leadership Network, and the dialogue will also help them grow their understanding of the issues and potential of Asia’s newest country.”

The New Zealand delegation includes:

  • Aimee Adams, master’s degree student at the University of Canterbury. Her thesis has a particular focus on Timor-Leste.
  • Alice Canton, actor, theatre-maker and teaching artist based in Auckland.
  • Jimmy Ellingham, news director at the Manawatu Standard in Palmerston North. Ellingham reported from Dili in 2012 on the withdrawal of the United Nations Integrated Mission in Timor-Leste.
  • Luke Fitzmaurice, children’s advocate with a particular interest in children’s rights and youth justice. He has visited Timor-Leste twice previously.
  • Darren Foo, Hong Kong-based corporate counsel at FIS, the world’s largest global provider of banking and payment technologies.
  • Aaron Hape, executive advisor in the Ministry of Justice and executive director of Commonwealth Youth New Zealand (Wellington).
  • Jeremy Kenealy, Auckland-based CEO and founder of Ciqlo, a tech start-up that develops banking software for microfinance institutes in Myanmar and Central Africa.
  • Arish Naresh, director of Allied Health and Technical, Hauora Tairawhiti DHB (Gisborne)
  • Nive Sharat Chandran, Ministry of Health policy analyst and co-president of YWCA Aotearoa New Zealand (Wellington)
  • Jose Sousa-Santos, a strategic and security analyst who was an advisor to former Timor-Leste president Dr Jose Ramos-Horta, and is now completing a Master’s in international relations at Victoria University of Wellington
  • Outside of the dialogue, the New Zealand participants will also visit a coffee plantation and the Gleno fish hatchery, which is supported by the New Zealand Aid programme and the National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research Ltd (NIWA) to help improve Timor-Leste’s aquaculture industry for nutrition, food security and income generation targets.  

Timor-Leste achieved independence from Indonesia in 2002. New Zealand made defence and security contributions to its establishment as a new nation between 1999 and 2002, and following the internal conflict of 2006. New Zealand’s defence and police presence has reduced since the withdrawal of the United Nations Integrated Mission in Timor-Leste (UNMIT) in December 2012, but a small number of NZDF personnel remain as part of the Mutual Assistance Programme.

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