10 September 2021
The Socialist International is deeply saddened to learn of the passing of Jorge Sampaio, former President of Portugal and former Secretary General of SI member the Socialist Party, PS, of Portugal, a genuine social democrat who committed his life to advancing and strengthening our shared values of freedoms and rights not only for Portugal but internationally.
Graduating in law, Jorge Sampaio became involved with politics as a student in the early 1960s opposing authoritarianism in Portugal and becoming a prominent figure in resistance movements. Sampaio dedicated his early years as a lawyer to the defense of political prisoners and, after the 1974 Carnation Revolution, he founded the Movimento de Esquerda Socialista, MES. The party participated in parliamentary elections in Portugal in 1975 and 1976 and during this time, Sampaio gained a position in the IV Provisional Government as Deputy Minister for External Co-operation.
In 1978 Jorge Sampaio joined the Socialist Party, becoming a member of the party’s National Secretariat the following year. He gained a seat in the Portuguese parliament, which he retained in the 1980, 85, 87 and 91 elections.
His contribution to defending rights within the principles of the European Convention were significant during his time as a member of the European Commission on Human Rights, between 1979 and 1984. In 1986 he became head of the PS’s international department, and later Chairman of their parliamentary group. In 1989 he was elected Secretary General of the PS and in the same year ran successfully as Mayor of Lisbon. Sampaio accomplished substantial achievements as Mayor, introducing new concepts and methods of planning, management and urban development, and he was subsequently re-elected for a second term in 1993.
His achievements generated widespread support and in 1995 he ran for the presidency of Portugal. He won the 1996 election on the first ballot and was sworn in on 9 March, succeeding former PS leader and SI Honorary president, Mario Soares. He was re-elected for a further five-year term in 2001.
Jorge Sampaio was very active within the International and was a genuine friend and comrade to all those in our global family. As well as participating in many SI meetings, Sampaio chaired the Socialist International Study Group on Africa and in 1990 hosted a meeting of the Study Group in Lisbon.
Deeply committed to freedoms and rights both at home and internationally, he continued working well into his later life, and held a great number of awards recognising his numerous efforts. He was selected by United Nation’s Secretary General Kofi Annan to be his Special Envoy to Stop Tuberculosis in 2006 and later, in 2007, Ban Ki Moon appointed him as High Representative for the United Nations Alliance of Civilizations, a post he held until 2013. In 2008, along with Rania Al-Abdillah, Queen of Jordan, Jorge Sampaio won the North-South prize in recognition of work on protection of human rights and strengthening North-South relations. Notably, in 2013 he supported Syrian students coming to Portugal after the war to complete their studies, known as the Global Platform for Syrian Students. In August 2021 Sampaio announced the platform would run an emergency scholarship program and academic opportunities for young Afghan girls, in light of the Taliban’s impending power in Afghanistan. This endeavour is another example of his unrelenting commitment to human rights and the duty we should carry out in ensuring those rights are met for all, a fundamental remit that he worked so tirelessly for.
The Socialist International conveys its deepest sympathy to Jorge Sampaio’s family, to the PS of Portugal and the Portuguese people at this time of mourning; his legacy will be long remembered within our International.