The governing body of Universidad Europea (UE) recently named António Guterres Doctor Honoris Causa for his contributions in favor of refugees, in recognition of his support to stateless persons, and for safeguarding the rights of those who are forced to leave their countries due to wars, revolutions, or political persecution. The investiture of Guterres was the result of a petition made by the School of Social Sciences and Communication for his leadership as High Commissioner of the UN Refugee Agency, a position he occupied until December 2015, prior to his designation as the new Secretary General of the United Nations for the period of Jan. 1, 2017 to Dec. 31, 2021.
Guterres is recognized as a global leader for his work related to the issue of forced displacement and for his support of humanitarian aid and attention for refugees. His acceptance speech focused on Europe’s current refugee crisis within the context of an “agenda of sovereignty which is gaining ground on the agenda of human rights.”
The recently appointed Secretary General of the UN expressed words of gratitude for Universidad Europea and stated that this distinction “has touched deep into my heart because it comes from a university that is Spanish but at the same time is cosmopolitan,” as we “live in a world where the problems are global.”
In his closing remarks, Guterres emphasized how public opinion has recently generated some fear, specifically “a fear caused more by perceptions than reality, which we must overcome, for all societies will be multiethnic, multicultural, and multireligious.” He continued on to say that, “this diversity is a wealth but it requires a great investment to guarantee social cohesion and harmony in order to avoid confrontation between the different parties of the community.”
Felipe González, former President of the Government of Spain from 1982-1996, led the ceremony to recognize Guterres. During his remarks, he highlighted his friendship with the new Secretary General of the United Nations, who he has known for 25 years and to whom he ascribes “moderation” as one of his principal qualities. He asserted that this moderation is borne from “the strength of his convictions, from his character, tenacity, and determination.”
González highlighted that Guterres’ labor has been dedicated to favoring “the most fragile” and stated that “there are few candidates capable of leading the UN, and he has been well-chosen.”
The ceremony was opened by the General Secretary of UE, Elena de la Fuente, who recounted the reasons why Antonio Guterres has been granted such high honor. After de la Fuente’s speech, Miguel Carmelo, President of UE and CEO of Laureate International Universities Europe, highlighted that “António Guterres is a man who personifies hope, a leader of action who does not promise utopias but works firmly for a better world.” He went on to say, “For us, his career and the impact that his work has on the society we share are great examples to follow. At UE, we work to offer our students an education that is open to the world, with an international vision, where figures such as the Secretary General of the UN play an essential role.”
The ceremony of investiture took place at the Villaviciosa Campus of Universidad Europea and was attended by institutional representatives such as Marina del Corral, General Secretary of Immigration and Emigration; Francesca Friz-Prguda, UNHCR Representative for Spain; Javier García de Viedma, Deputy Director General of the Office of Human Rights; José Leandro Consarnau, Special Ambassador for Migrations; Javier Carbajosa; John de Zulueta, President of the Advisory Council of Universidad Europea; and Antonio Garrigues Walker, Honorary President of the Garrigues Law Firm and Doctor Honoris Causa of Universidad Europea. Also in attendance of the investiture were the Ambassadors of Portugal, Brazil, Colombia, Bolivia, China, Morocco, Sweden, and Cyprus.
The ceremony was presided by Isabel Fernández, Rector, Universidad Europea de Madrid, with the participation of Marta Muñiz, Dean of the School of Social Sciences and Communications. Also attending the ceremony were Douglas L. Becker, Founder, Chairman, and CEO of Laureate Education Inc.; Juan Morote, Rector, Universidad Europea de Valencia; as well as representatives from UE’s faculty and student body.
This article has been translated into English to be shared on the Laureate International Universities website.