Human Rights Council

“The contribution of development to the enjoyment of all human rights”

Europe and Central Asia Seminar


Panel: “How development opportunities for migrants contribute to the enjoyment of all human rights”


Geneva, 2 September 2022

Statement by Portugal

Statement by the Deputy Permanent Representative of Portugal to

the United Nations and other International Organizations in Geneva,

Mário Martins

Speaking time – 10’



Fellow panelists,

Allow me to start by thanking the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights for inviting the Portuguese Mission in Geneva to speak at this panel. Portugal welcomes this opportunity.

Another word of thanks goes to my fellow panelists, the moderator and of course the audience, especially to civil society organizations and human rights defenders.


Let me first address the topic of today’s seminar: the contribution of development to the enjoyment of all human rights.

Indeed, it does seem evident that sustainable development can enhance States’ capacities to better fulfil their obligations of realizing the human rights of all persons living within their territories. To make it concrete, an example: if a given State develops and therefore increases its economic prosperity, it will expand its fiscal space and therefore its revenues as well as its capacity to better ensure, for example, economic, social and cultural rights, such as the human rights to education, health or social security.

Yesterday’s panel on how development strategies can be used to direct economies towards solving the biggest challenges through innovation and investment were very insightful in this sense.

However, we must also turn this pin around and look at it in another way. If States fulfil their obligations under international human rights law and promote all human rights, including economic, social and cultural rights, that in turn will help them develop. To make it again concrete: if a given State is serious about ensuring that all persons enjoy, for example, the rights to health and education, and therefore directs the existing resources to efficient and transparent investments in hospitals and schools, it will end up with a better-qualified and healthier population, which will in turn result in an increase in prosperity. Likewise, if States respect the rights to freedom of thought, expression or to seek and access information and combat discrimination, persons will be more empowered, more capable to influence the political and economic landscape of their countries and thus it will be likelier that they contribute to the country’s development.

So, to be clear, development is not and cannot be portrayed as if it is a pre-condition for the realization of human rights. Respecting human rights is a pre-condition for achieving sustainable and inclusive development, societies cannot prosper when human rights are violated.

Furthermore, we believe that development is also a right and, as such, the right to development is rooted in the universal, indivisible, interrelated, and interdependent nature of all human rights. In this, the main actors and the beneficiaries of the right to development are individuals, and the responsibility falls to the States.

Having said this, Portugal is strongly attached to the implementation of the 2030 Agenda and the Sustainable Development Goals. “Leaving no one behind” is also the guiding principle of our actions and policies, both externally and internally.

In order to achieve the promise of the 2030 Agenda and of sustainable and inclusive development, we place the protection and promotion of all human rights – whether civil, cultural, economic, political or social – at the very heart of our commitments.

Eradicating poverty in all its forms and dimensions, empowering women and girls and addressing the climate emergency are among our top priorities.


Let me turn now to migration.

Portugal is fully committed to ensuring the human rights of all migrants. Indeed, all human beings are born equal in dignity and rights – migrants are no exception. Migrants are both beneficiaries of and contributors to sustainable development and holders of human rights in the exact same terms as non-migrant persons.

My country is a country of migration. We estimate that over 2.6 million Portuguese nationals live abroad, a number that represents around 25% of the population residing within our borders. We also estimate that a little under 700 thousand foreign nationals live in Portugal, a number that has increased almost 45% when compared to 2015.

Migration is therefore a subject to which we attach a great importance. Portugal is proud to be a “champion country” of the Global Compact on Migration, we are actively committed to the UN Migration Network and we remain very supportive of the work carried out by the IOM.

Our approach to migration continues to be devised in three steps: 1) addressing the root causes of migration; 2) promoting legal and safe pathways for migrants while, at the same time, fighting human trafficking; 3) granting protection to migrants in our territory while promoting integration and inclusion.

In this approach, we advocate for multilateral solutions firmly based on the respect for human rights as well as on solidarity. We welcome the adoption by consensus of the Progress Declaration in the first International Migration Review Forum. We also advocate for strengthened cooperation and regular dialogue with countries of origin, transit and destination.

The importance of inclusive and sustainable development in this field is clear. As the IOM puts it, “migration, when well-managed, can be both a development strategy and a development outcome”. Indeed, development in some States can encourage migration from other States but migration can also be a consequence of lack of development. Migration can make an important contribution to development in countries of origin, namely through remittances, but also in countries of destination, namely through innovation, expanded and more diverse labor force, greater fiscal income, among other benefits.

What must States do in this complex network of interrelations? Portugal’s bet is clear: to fulfil our obligations and responsibilities under international human rights law and to make consistent efforts at achieving the promise of the 2030 Agenda. In particular, Portugal aims at facilitating orderly, safe, and responsible migration and mobility of people, including through implementation of planned and well-managed migration policies, in line with target 10.7, as well as through a ‘whole-of-government’ and ‘whole-of-society’ approach.

We have taken concrete measures to attain these goals. With a view to promoting legal and safe pathways, we worked hard towards the approval of a mobility agreement between the members of the Community of Portuguese Speaking Countries. Bilaterally, too, Portugal has celebrated labor mobility agreements, namely with India and Morocco.

Internally, we continue to operationalize our National Implementation Plan of the Global Compact on Migration. Portugal makes consistent efforts to protect, promote and fulfil the human rights of all migrants, including their rights to education, health and work. The High Commission for Migration supports these efforts. In our national and local migrant support centers, we particularly invest in free-of-charge language courses, mentorship and entrepreneurship projects and intercultural mediation.

This is why the last figures from the Migration Integration Policy Index place us in the top ten destination countries. And this ranking was produced before the COVID-19 pandemic, when Portugal decided to regularize all pending residency requests from both migrants and asylum-seekers, a measure which gave them automatic access to the National Health Service, including the Covid-19 vaccination plan, and to Social Security.

Realizing the human rights of all migrants is therefore one of our top priorities and it is why we are increasingly concerned with episodes of violence, hatred and racism and discrimination and prejudice against migrants. Collectively, we need to avoid measures that exacerbate situations of vulnerability, including those based on multiple and intersecting forms of discrimination. All efforts should be directed at ensuring that migrants are not criminalized, punished or discriminated against because of their status.


The last report from Mr. González Morales, Special Rapporteur on the human rights of migrants whose mandate and work we fully support, highlighted multiple human rights violations at international borders.

This report should function as a wake-up call for us all – primarily States but also international organizations and civil society – that we should redouble our efforts to protect, promote, respect and fulfil the human rights of all migrants.

The international community can count on Portugal to contribute to these efforts.

Thank you.

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