ACTIVITIES OF SECRETARY-GENERAL IN GERMANY, 27 FEBRUARY TO 1 MARCH
The Secretary-General arrived in Berlin on Wednesday afternoon, 27 February, and began his official programme at a signing of a Memorandum of Understanding to establish a new United Nations house in Bonn.
The United Nations facility will be based on a campus containing former government buildings in Bonn which will be renovated to create an international conference centre with office space for the United Nations. The campus complex, which is to be fully renovated at German Government expense, will eventually house the headquarters of United Nations Volunteers, the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification, and the UNEP/Convention on Migratory Species, as well as national offices of other United Nations entities working in Germany.
As the Secretary-General looked on, the agreement was signed by representatives of the Federal government, the State government of North-Rhein Westphalia and the city government of Bonn, who will share the costs. It is expected that the United Nations will be able to begin moving in as early as next year.
Prior to the signing, the Secretary-General met briefly one-on-one with German President Johannes Rau.
In the margins of the ceremony, he sat down with representatives of United Nations agencies working in the country. Sharon Capeling-Alakija, the head of United Nations Volunteers, told the Secretary-General that she had identified
200 Afghans living in Germany who were prepared to return to Afghanistan as United Nations Volunteers. One of them, she said, was a 72-year-old man who indicated he was willing to sweep floors even though he was a former university dean.
While the Secretary-General was at the signing ceremony, his wife Nane met with a group of Afghan women living in Germany for an exchange of views on the role of women in Afghanistan and how the United Nations could support them. They included entrepreneurs, students and academics.
That evening, the Secretary-General and Nane had a private dinner with
President Rau and his wife Christina.
On Thursday morning, the Secretary-General went to the German Bundestag, or parliament, where he met one-on-one with the speaker, Wolfgang Thierse. He then addressed a regular session of the Bundestag on "Building Sustainable Peace", becoming the first Secretary-General and only the fourth non-German to do so.
Sustainable development, he argued, is one of the conditions of lasting peace. "You Germans," he said, "who rebuilt your own country so magnificently after the second World War, with the help of your friends and allies in the international community, are perhaps better placed than any other people to understand what I mean." He went on, "German history could have been very different if the Western allies had pulled out two or three years after 1945, or if they had not assisted you in building your own Federal Republic, as well as rebuilding your economy".
He caused a bit of stir, but eventually drew applause, when he called on Germany to raise its amount of official development assistance as a percentage of gross domestic product. He concluded by calling on Germany to do more for both sustainable development and sustainable peace and said he looks forward to working with the government and the people toward those ends (see Press Release SG/SM/8143).
At the end of the speech, the parliamentarians rose and gave him sustained applause.
He then met in closed session with members of the Bundestag's Committee on Foreign Affairs and was greeted by Committee Chairman Hans-Ulrich Klose. More than a dozen committee members posed questions, on Afghanistan, Iraq, the Middle East, development and other issues.
At midday, he went to the Federal Chancellery, where he was welcomed with military honours by German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder. Over a working lunch, they began by discussing the breakthrough on Kosovo early that morning in which the Secretary-General's Special Representative, Michael Steiner, succeeded in getting the parties to agree on a power sharing formula on the basis of the elections that took place last November. They discussed other Balkan issues, including the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia and Bosnia and Herzegovina. They then turned to Afghanistan, the Middle East and next month's conference on financing for development in Mexico. They also touched on the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and expansion of the European Union.
They then jointly spoke to the press. The Chancellor announced that Germany would not assume the leadership role from the United Kingdom of the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in Afghanistan, but neither would it reduce its military presence there.
On Kosovo, the Secretary-General appealed to the people of Kosovo to stick to the agreement reached that morning, form the government "and get about the business of governing and focusing on the affairs of the people."
"If they can put their differences behind them," he added, "and the interests of the people and the territory first, they should find ways and means of compromising and getting the job done". He also issued a separate statement on the subject (see Press Release SG/SM/8145).
In the afternoon, he went to the Ministry of Defence to meet with Defence Minister Rudolf Scharping, who clarified Germany's position concerning its role within the ISAF in Afghanistan. They reviewed the prospects for establishing long-term security in that country. They then talked about Iraq, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Georgia and NATO expansion.
At a press encounter afterwards, the Secretary-General was asked if he was disappointed that Germany had not agreed to take over from the United Kingdom as lead nation in Afghanistan at the end of April. "Germany has explained to me why they are not in a position to do that," he replied, "so I presume the search will have to go on." Pressed as to whether a German takeover would have been the best solution, he answered, "I would have welcomed it if it were possible."
On Thursday evening, he had a working dinner with Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer. They began by discussing the latest events in the Middle East and the press statement issued by the Secretary-General just a few moments before (see Press Release SG/SM/8142). They talked of the Saudi initiative and the prospects for a return to negotiations, as well as of regional politics, including Iraq and Iran. Their talks also touched on Afghanistan, the Balkans, development and European politics.
The Secretary-General concluded his official visit to Germany on Friday,
1 March, beginning with a meeting with German business and labour leaders and civil society representatives who have an interest in the United Nations Global Compact, an initiative by the Secretary-General to get widespread commitment in the private sector to basic standards of human rights, the environment and core labour guidelines.
Among the participants were representatives of seven German companies already participating in the Global Compact. The Secretary-General said that his objective in proposing the Global Compact was to make globalization sustainable by underpinning the global market with strong social and ethical foundations. He called on those present to go beyond taking a stand on the nine principles and to begin practicing good global citizenship.
After the meeting, he commented to the press that he was encouraged by the progress being made in Germany on the Global Compact. What was also encouraging, he said, was "the fact that the workers of these companies are very, very happy to be working for something positive, something ethical, something that is socially responsible and gives something back to society."
At midday he met with Edmund Stoiber, Minister President of Bavaria, who is challenging Gerhard Schroeder for the Chancellorship in elections later in 2002. They discussed the post September 11th global security environment and current attempts to get United Nations inspectors back into Iraq. They also reviewed efforts to restart the Middle East peace talks.
His last appointment of the visit was with Heidemarie Wieczorek-Zeul, Federal Minister for Economic Cooperation and Development. She laid out Germany's strategy for the United Nations Conference on Financing for Development and
discussed ways to increase levels of official development assistance. Germany's approach to reconstruction aid in Afghanistan, she said, was focused on the first 100 days for maximum impact. She also raised the situation in Iraq.
As he was leaving Germany, the Secretary-General met for about half an hour with Kamal Kharrazi, the Foreign Minister of Iran, who also happened to be at Frankfurt Airport at the same time that the Secretary-General was there en route to his departure to New York. They discussed Afghanistan and the situation in the Middle East.
The Secretary-General returned to New York on Friday evening.
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