The ability of human rights advocates to harness modern communications means regimes around the world can no longer commit barbarities against their own people and expect to get away with it, East Timor's President Jose Ramos-Horta has told a UNSW audience.

"Sixty years ago, when the UN Declaration of Human Rights was drafted, it was difficult to communicate, to educate... now the development of modern tools of communication has changed all that," Dr Ramos-Horta said.

The Nobel Peace Laureate made the comments during a public address to mark the 20th anniversary of the Diplomacy Training Program (DTP) at UNSW this week.

The DTP - an independent NGO affiliated with the UNSW Law Faculty - was founded by Dr Ramos-Horta in 1989, inspired by his experience seeking international support for East Timor's struggle for independence. The program works to develop the knowledge and skills of human rights defenders and community advocates from the Asia-Pacific region. More than 1,400 participants from over 30 countries have graduated from the program.

Dr Ramos-Horta, who remains patron of the DTP, thanked the University for its support over the past 20 years and for helping to make the DTP idea a reality.

"When we developed the concept of the DTP it was never going to be just an academic theoretical program," Dr Ramos Horta said.

"The question 20 years ago ... was how to translate what we knew about the universality of human rights and all the existing [legal] instruments, [into ways] to make use of the UN system and to affect policies of the powers that be.

"And today we have this gift from those who concocted these extraordinary means of modern communications, which make it far more difficult for a regime anywhere in the world to commit barbarities against its own people and expect to get away with it."

Dean of the Faculty of Law Professor David Dixon described the DTP as "one of the jewels in the crown" of the Faculty and urged colleagues across UNSW to forge closer ties with East Timor.

Also attending the DTP anniversary celebrations were UNSW Chancellor David Gonski, former High Court Justice Michael Kirby, Emeritus Professors Garth Nettheim and Paul Redmond, Louise Sylvan and Pat Dodson.

For the podcast of Dr Ramos-Horta's speech click here.For a video excerpt of the speech click here.

To make a donation, become a friend of the DTP, or for more information, visit the website.

*photos: Prudence Upton

Media contact: Steve Offner | 02 9385 8107 |