Permanent Mission of Portugal to the United Nations

Ministry of Foreign Affairs

Address by His Excellency the President of the Portuguese Republic to the High-level Leaders' Summit on Refugees

New York, 20 September 2016

Your Excellencies,

I am greatly honored to participate in this Summit of World Leaders on behalf of Portugal. Let me start by thanking the co-hosts, and President Barack Obama in particular, for convening this Summit on a most topical issue that warrants our full attention and resources.

The outcome document we adopted yesterday at the High-Level Meeting on Large Scale Movements of Refugees and Migrants enshrines concrete commitments in order to help overcome the plight of refugees and displaced persons.

Today’s Summit provides yet another opportunity to reiterate our shared determination to alleviate the suffering of those who are forced to leave their homeland. Be it through resettlement or other humanitarian admission programs, provision of humanitarian assistance and access to education, including tertiary education, my country stands ready to continue to play its part.

Allow me to share with you the measures Portugal has undertaken so far to ease the suffering of the people affected by this crisis: In the framework of an EU common response, my country has committed to relocate and resettle 4.486 persons. Hundreds of these persons, formerly in Greece, Italy and Turkey have already arrived in Portugal. We have also expressed or willingness to admit an additional 5.800 persons as a sign of solidarity towards our European partners most affected by the migratory influx. Since 2007, we have implemented a National Resettlement Program in close cooperation with UNHCR. We remained determined to successfully pursing this program. Portugal has also pledged to contribute financially to international efforts to overcome the current crisis, including 24.35 million Euros to the Refugee Facility for Turkey and other financial contributions to UNHCR, UNICEF, the EU Regional Trust Fund in Response to the Syrian Crisis (MADAD Fund) and the World Food Program. Bearing in mind the overwhelming dimension of the challenges we have to face with this human drama, Portugal, in a spirit of solidarity, is going to strengthen its contribution to UNHCR with additional two hundred thousand dollars.

Dear Colleagues, Friends,

An important issue that must not be overlooked is the integration of refugees in host countries. As stated in the Secretary-General’s Report, confining refugees and migrants to the margins of the societies in which they live does not serve their human potential and results in economic strain and social tension. Guaranteeing the right to education for those who flee crisis situations empowers, heals trauma, and strengthens resilience. And yet, the human right to education ranks among the first to be violated in situations of conflict. It also continues to be neglected, overlooked and forgotten in the provision of humanitarian assistance. Access to quality education, including higher education, is about expanding choices and a matter of personal as well as collective recovery from trauma. It is the precondition for post-conflict rebuilding and sustainable peace. Currently only 1% of refugees have access to tertiary education. Portugal is firmly committed to supporting a paradigm shift in this regard. In this regard allow me to stress the importance of Portuguese Former President Jorge Sampaio’s Global Platform for Syrian Students initiative. So far, it has allowed dozens of students to resume their university studies. I urge countries that have not yet done so join this initiative. Portugal also supports the creation of a Rapid Response Mechanism for Higher Education in Emergencies that can effectively contribute to increasing the number of forcibly displaced students that receive tertiary education. Translating the rhetoric of human dignity into reality - this should be our common goal as Leaders. This Summit is another step towards achieving that ultimate goal.

Thank you.

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