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Statement by President Higgins following the 2023 meeting of the Arraiolos Group of non-executive EU Presidents

Date: Fri 6th Oct, 2023 | 20:06

“I was pleased to have had the opportunity to once again gather with my fellow Heads of State to discuss some of the most important shared challenges facing us, both in Europe and in the wider world.

May I offer my thanks to President Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa and to the people of Portugal for hosting this important meeting and for the hospitality which they have extended to us over the past two days.

Our meeting has taken place at a time of intersecting crises. For example – climate change, food security, global poverty and migration are inextricably linked. Each of these challenges have been greatly exacerbated by conflicts and war, including that on our own continent. They lead to increased patterns of involuntary large-scale migration. None of these challenges can be overcome on their own, or without reference to the broader context each of them creates.

If we are to achieve the more equal, more sustainable world we all wish to achieve, it is not sufficient for us to seek short-term narrow, often exclusionary, actions. Rather, we must draw on the scholarship available to us and work together to deliver the structural changes which are required to break this continuous cycle of intersecting crises and to reform our international multilateral architecture in order to make this possible.

This is not beyond us. The international agreements reached in New York and Paris in 2015, on the UN Sustainable Development Goals and the International Climate Change Agreement respectively, got a universal welcome, particularly from young people, and they provide us with a framework from which a real, sustainable future can be built for humanity and for our planet.

As Heads of State, it is vital that we respond to the statements made by United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres, who has, with increasing urgency, spoken of the failure of some of the most powerful nations to meet their commitments made in 2015. Indeed he has gone further, emphasising the immediate, urgent need for action and of ensuring that the architecture of our international multilateral institutions is reformed so that it is capable of addressing the great interlinked challenges to which I have referred.

All of us must respond to the concerned words of those such as the Secretary-General of the United Nations and take the vital steps required to ensure that we hand a viable world on to our succeeding generations.

I welcome the discussions that we have had today on these vital issues and for the prospects of a solidarity which I know can come to exist for the most vulnerable people both in Europe, and on our neighbouring continents to which we owe so much – those impacted by war, by hunger, by poverty, and by the destruction of their environment and ways of life. To achieve this, we must do more to strengthen European cooperation with other regional actors, including those from Africa, South America and Asia at UN level.

Later this month I will travel to Rome, where I will speak once again on the theme of food security in a number of addresses to the World Food Forum. I will also meet with Pope Francis, who in his encyclical Laudate Deum has reflected so many of the concerns which we have discussed and highlighted once more the urgency of taking real and meaningful action.

In concluding, may I thank my fellow Presidents once again for the valuable discussions we have had today and express my hope that when we meet next year we will do so with evidence or real action having been taken over the intervening period to address the strong concerns which we all share regarding these most vital issues.”