Contact: Betsy Leonard
CHICAGO – (October 13, 2016) — Heartland Alliance Marjorie Kovler Center congratulates António Guterres on his election as the next Secretary General of the United Nations. Mr. Guterres, formerly prime minister of Portugal, headed the UN’s refugee agency, UNHCR, from 2005 to 2015.
As one of the first torture treatment centers established in the United States, and one recognized for its work by the Secretary General-elect in his former role as UN High Commissioner for Refugees, Kovler Center heralds the appointment for its potential to elevate the importance of support and rehabilitation of torture survivors globally.
“Mr. Guterres has witnessed firsthand the devastating consequences that conflict has on individuals, families, and communities,” said Peter Kovler, philanthropist and founder of the Kovler Center. “Last year, I had the privilege of presenting the National Democratic Institute’s highest honor to Mr. Guterres. In conversation after the award presentation, he shared his deep admiration for the expertise and specialized, comprehensive care provided by Kovler Center, which he referred to as one of the great institutions of its kind in the world.”
This perspective was influenced by a 2009 visit to Kovler Center by Mr. Guterres in his capacity as UN High Commissioner for Refugees, At his request, Mr. Guterres met with torture survivors to learn firsthand of the needs and challenges they faced. He also met with staff to discuss plans regarding early identification of torture survivors with a focus on ensuring that survivors are not detained upon entry into the US and are guided to cities where torture treatment programs exist.
These issues are as urgent today as they were during Mr. Guterres’ visit to Kovler Center in 2009. The world is facing the most significant refugee and migration crisis since World War II with over 65 million people displaced worldwide by conflict and persecution. The latest research indicates that the refugee torture prevalence rate may be as high as 44%, thus increasing threefold to 1.3 million the current estimate of torture survivors in the US.
Kovler Center looks forward to working with Mr. Guterres and his team to strengthen efforts across the UN on behalf of torture survivors and other survivors of conflict.
About Heartland Alliance Marjorie Kovler Center
Heartland Alliance Marjorie Kovler Center (Kovler Center) helps transform the lives of those recovering from the complex consequences of politically sponsored torture. Kovler Center was founded in 1987 to respond to the needs of the burgeoning number of individuals arriving in Chicago having fled war and persecution in their home countries. Torture survivors are an underserved group often excluded from mainstream healthcare because of the unique nature of their trauma, lack of resources and legal status. With no other torture treatment program within 300 miles, Kovler Center’s specialized services connect survivors of torture to the care they need to start rebuilding their lives.