One of the things I love about Timor-Leste – apart from its beautiful mountains and seas – is the way Timorese value their independence and freedom. Recently, Timorese celebrated 18 years since the restoration of their independence. Today on the Fourth of July, Americans celebrate 244 years of our independence. These historic moments are distant in both time and space, but our love for freedom and independence unites both our nations. The U.S. Declaration of Independence created a “government of the people, by the people and for the people.” This is a very important principle: that the people do not exist to serve the government, but the government is made up of and exists to serve its citizens.
Our founding documents guarantee the inherent rights of all people and the government’s role to protect those rights. In recent weeks the world has seen how citizens in a free and open democracy hold their government accountable and insist on the respect for the rights of all citizens. Civil society in the United States has reminded us of the challenges that still exist in our society in order to form the “more perfect union” that the U.S. Constitution envisions. We are proud to have partners in Timor-Leste that share these ideals, and that is why the United States is a major supporter and partner of Timor-Leste’s democratic institutions.
Here there is a vibrant civil society – and we are committed to helping it develop and thrive. As we celebrate America’s Independence today, I am pleased to announce that over the next five years the United States, through USAID, will invest close to ten million dollars in Timor-Leste’s civil society and its ability to serve. In this program ten Timorese NGOs will gain tools to help them advocate for the people they serve and diversify their funding sources.
Thank you for your support for the United States of America as we celebrate our Independence Day, an anniversary that remains a source of hope for those who love freedom everywhere.