Cristiano da Costa, a representative from Timor Leste, was a very important voice on the perspective of international relations for smaller island countries. In a recent seminar, da Costa indicated that as a small country, Timor Leste has limited power and therefore has to create and maintain diplomatic relationships very carefully. He described the trans-national framework that he helped to develop, which has allowed Timor Leste to be forward thinking for globalization. This framework is a significant and essential development for Timor Leste due to its size, its import and export partnerships, and its GDP. Da Costa further went on to describe how Timor Leste’s “history shapes our foreign policy,” and “history shapes diplomacy.” These ideas are integral to the survival of Timor Leste, as its relationships with other countries are based on its history with them. Being in a significant political and geographic location between Asia and the Pacific creates significant negative consequences for Timor Leste, which is still waiting to join many trade and political organizations and partnerships to survive, including ASEAN. Da Costa finished his talk by discussing the current pressing issues of Chinese submarines in Timor Leste and how this impacts Timor Leste’s relationship within the Western world.
Overall, the seminar was very important in understanding how small island nations survive in this time of general international upheaval. However, the part I found the most enjoyable and inspiring was da Costa’s personal story of his rise to power. Like the late Nelson Mandela, da Costa was an activist from a young age. At 15 he started an independence strike and spent four years fighting for his cause. I would have liked this to be further discussed, instead of the lecture finishing significantly earlier than anticipated. Da Costa’s overall demeanour showed that he was fighting for the people, their rights, and their ideals rather than those of the government. Da Costa’s talk helped to illustrate the diplomatic and political challenges that an ambassador faces, particularly in a small country like Timor Leste.