ACTIVITIES OF SECRETARY-GENERAL IN SWITZERLAND, 30 OCTOBER – 3 NOVEMBER 2001
Secretary-General Kofi Annan departed New York for Switzerland on Tuesday, 30 October.
Upon arrival in Geneva on Wednesday, he participated in two videoconferences with New York -– the first with his principal advisers on Afghanistan, and then he participated in the Security Council’s closed consultations on East Timor.
On Thursday morning he opened the International Labour Organization’s (ILO) “Global Employment Forum” called to address the policy challenges posed by the projection that a half billion more workers will be added to the labour forces of the developing countries over the coming decade.
The 11 September attacks on the United States, he said, have had an impact not only on the global security situation, but also on the global economy, and poor economies will pay the highest price. The ILO estimates that 24 million more people, most from the developing world, will become unemployed as a result of the current crisis.
Unemployment, the Secretary-General observed, takes a heavy and enduring toll on an individual and contributes to social instability. He made a special appeal for employment of youth, which he called “our most valuable asset”, and for women, “the largest sector of unemployed, under-employed and underpaid people in the world” (see Press Release SG/SM/8009).
At a press encounter after the speech, the Secretary-General said that the United Nations and its agencies were working more closely together, as well as in partnership with others, to deal with the unemployment problem. The United Nations was monitoring governments, he said, to assess their compliance with employment targets set for themselves last year.
The Secretary-General had a number of bilateral meetings that day, starting with a working breakfast with the Prime Minister of Denmark, Poul Nyrup Rasmussen. They discussed current events, mainly the Middle East and Afghanistan. As Denmark would assume the presidency of the European Union on 1 June 2002, the Prime Minister was eager to coordinate closely with the United Nations on preparations for the World Summit on Sustainable Development scheduled for later that year.
After a press conference at noon, the Secretary-General had a lunch with ILO Director-General Juan Somavia and other principals from the Forum.
On Thursday afternoon, he met with his Special Representative for Bosnia and Herzegovina, Jacques Klein. He then saw Vladimir Petrovsky, Director-General of
the United Nations Office at Geneva, and finally with Carlo Lamprecht, the President of the Republic and Canton of Geneva.
He then conferred with his New York colleagues by videoconference in the daily meeting on Afghanistan.
On Friday, the Secretary-General addressed the staff at United Nations headquarters in Geneva, assuring them that in the wake of the 11 September attacks in the United States their safety was his constant concern.
The conferring of the Nobel Peace Prize was an honour for the whole United Nations, he said. As the de facto centre of humanitarian affairs, Geneva has a particular claim to this award, especially staff who are on the front lines in the field.
He then responded to about a half-dozen question from staff members.
On the need to tackle terrorism by solving economic problems, the Secretary-General agreed heartily. “We need to fight [terrorism] on many fronts”, he said, “not just sending in police or intelligence people or military, but we have to make conditions that dissuade people from getting engaged in these sorts of activities in the first place.”
Asked whether those responsible for 11 September should be tried in an international court, the Secretary-General said that an international tribunal could be set up, as was done for Yugoslavia and Rwanda, or they could be tried in a credible national court. “Putting them on trial or finding a court will not be a major problem”, he said. “But we first have to get them.”
Prior to the meeting with all the staff, the Secretary-General had a private meeting with the leaders of the staff association.
The Secretary-General then went to the headquarters of the World Health Organization (WHO), where he was greeted in the lobby by Director-General Gro Harlem Brundtland and about 1,000 WHO staff. He reminded them that he had started his United Nations career as a junior-most professional at the WHO almost 40 years ago. “What my experience proves”, he said, “is that this place prepares you for everything and anything.”
After a short address, he met privately with Dr. Brundtland for a review of progress in setting up the Global AIDS and Health Fund, which the Secretary-General had called for earlier this year. They also discussed bio-terrorism, including smallpox and anthrax, as well as the situation in Afghanistan.
Over a working lunch, the Secretary-General and United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees Ruud Lubbers talked of the problems of providing assistance to Afghan refugees, as both Pakistan and Iran continued to close their borders to them.
His afternoon appointments were all bilateral or internal meetings, starting with a farewell call by Danuta Hubner, who just stepped down as head of the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe to return to national service.
His other appointments included Brazilian Ambassador Celso Amorim; International Court of Justice Judge Nabil Elaraby; the United Nations Special Representative for Information and Communication Technology, Jose Maria Figueres Olsen; and the Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food, Jean Ziegler.
The Secretary-General also had his regular mid-afternoon teleconference on Afghanistan with his senior staff in New York.
The Secretary-General returned to New York on Saturday, 3 November.
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