Speech during the North-South Prize Ceremony
Lisbon, Wednesday 2 December 2020

Mr Speaker,
Distinguished laureates,
Honourable guests, ladies and gentlemen,

The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe joins the mourning of Eduardo Lourenço. Europe and Portugal’s place in Europe appear again, again and again in Lourenço’s words and “o labirinto da saudade” is a formidable example of the critical discourse about the images that we ourselves have forged. Although from 1978 - that’s over 40 years ago - we can see how incredibly pertinent and timeless this work is still today.

Mr Speaker,
Ladies and gentlemen,

It is an honour to participate in the Award Ceremony of the North-South Prize.

For 25 years, the North-South Prize has been recognising women and men who make an outstanding contribution to promoting North-South solidarity, to upholding human rights and developing dialogue between cultures and societies.

Human rights and fundamental freedoms are universal, indivisible, interdependent and interrelated. Therefore, in times of the COVID-19 pandemic, solidarity, including between North and South, acquires a special importance.

Because in the global and interconnected world we live in, the COVID-19 public health emergency affects each and every one of us. Every individual must enjoy dignity and equal fundamental rights and freedoms. This is the basic principle on which a humane and human rights-based society can thrive.

If there is one lesson that we have learnt from the pandemic it is the importance of multilateralism and international co-operation.

Unilateral action does not bring sustainable, effective or sufficient solutions. Again, unilateral action does not. Multilateral action does.

Solidarity and fundamental values – these two notions should guide our action in response to the crisis.

  • Solidarity – because no one can cope with the crisis alone and it is our duty to help each other in these difficult times.
  • Fundamental values – because democracy, human rights and the rule of law cannot be allowed to become the collateral damage of the pandemic.
  • Isolationism or “reduced rights” should not become a new “normal”.
  • Respect for fundamental rights and fundamental freedoms, as well as the legal safeguards of the rule of law are the absolute “red lines” not to be crossed even in times of emergency.

Ladies and gentlemen,

Our commitment to solidarity and human dignity can be best demonstrated through individual action where it is most needed, which basically illustrates the importance of awarding the North-South Prize to our laureates.

I would like to praise Ms Nabila Hamza, present here, for her tireless efforts to combat inequalities, to uphold gender equality and to promote sustainable development, in particular by advocating against climate change.

Madame, your commitment and your efforts to address the environmental challenge are particularly dear to my heart. Because, in my view, Environment is a fundamental Human Right.

Your outstanding contribution to upholding gender equality also deserves our deepest appreciation. This is especially true when we are marking the Days of Activism against Violence against Women. We must stay united to combat this scourge.

Let me now congratulate Mr Leoluca Orlando, the Mayor of Palermo.

If we were to think about an example of a challenge which requires North-South solidarity the most, migration comes first to our mind. And when we think about migration, we think, among others, about Turkey, Greece, Malta, Italy, Spain, Portugal – countries that are on the frontline of managing mixed migratory flows which are rapidly growing, including due to climate change.

Palermo is an outstanding example of successful integration of migrants. Thanks to Mr Orlando’s efforts, the city of Palermo has given a voice to migrants by associating them – through the "Council of Cultures" – to the management of the affairs of the city. This, in my view, is a great example of North-South dialogue and solidarity and an initiative that deserves to be replicated!

Mr Speaker,
Honourable guests,

Solidarity, human dignity and fundamental rights and freedoms, as well as multilateral co-operation: these are the notions that are at the heart of the North-South process.

The commitment of our laureates is a great example of how individual action can help uphold universal, indivisible interdependent and interrelated human rights and fundamental freedoms.

Rightfully so we pay tribute to their efforts by awarding them the North-South Prize. Above all, I would like to thank both laureates for the very valuable contribution to human rights, fundamental freedoms, democracy and the Rule of Law, which are at the core of the work of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe.

Once again, congratulations!