ACTIVITIES OF SECRETARY-GENERAL IN MEXICO, 19 - 22 MARCH
The Secretary-General arrived in Mexico City in the afternoon of Tuesday, 19 March. He and his party were met at the airport by Mexican Foreign Minister Jorge Castañeda Gutman.
Later that afternoon, the Secretary-General met with President Vicente Fox and the Foreign Minster for about three quarters of an hour. They primarily discussed the Conference on Financing for Development, just begun in Monterrey, Mexico. But they also touched on regional issues such as Colombia and Argentina, the HIV/AIDS epidemic, and the pending ratification of the Statute of the International Criminal Court.
The Secretary-General and the President then gave a brief press conference. Asked whether the Monterrey Conference would be mostly good intentions, the Secretary-General replied that he did not expect to achieve all the objectives in one day. “We don’t have two worlds”, he said. “We have only one world. And we cannot have a situation where you have immense wealth and extreme poverty living side by side and not try to do anything about it.”
He then went to the Mexican Congress at San Lazaro Legislative Palace, where he addressed a solemn session. He told the legislators that the Statute of the International Criminal Court was just five ratifications away from coming into force. “I hope you will now ratify the Statute”, he said, “so that Mexico can be present when the Assembly of States Party gathers for the first time -– probably by September of this year.” (See Press Release SG/SM/8171.)
On Tuesday evening, he was the guest of honour at a dinner hosted by the President.
On Wednesday morning, the Secretary-General visited the United Nations office in Mexico City and addressed the staff there, before flying to Monterrey to attend the International Conference on Financing for Development, which was to open at the head of State level the next day.
In the afternoon, he attended a meeting on investment in least developed countries, hosted by the International Chamber of Commerce and the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development, which jointly set up an Investment Advisory Council made up of representatives of government and the private sector.
“We are here to find ways of promoting long-term, productive investment in the world’s least developed countries”, the Secretary-General said in his statement. “Without such investment”, he went on, “our hopes for conquering
poverty ... will remain unfulfilled, leaving all of us at greater risk of suffering and violence.”
The Secretary-General then went to the conference centre to confer with his senior advisers on how the event had progressed since Monday and plans for the final two days. At this meeting were his Special Envoys Michel Camdessus and Trevor Manuel, his Special Envoy for the Conference on Sustainable Development Jan Pronk, Administrator of the United Nations Development Programme Mark Malloch Brown, Deputy-Secretary-General Louise Fréchette and Secretary-General of the Conference Nitin Desai.
Meanwhile, Nane Annan visited an AIDS clinic in the Metropolitan Hospital, where she met with staff and volunteers. She was accompanied by the Mexican Minister of Health, Julio Frenk Mora, and other high-level government officials.
The Secretary-General then began a series of bilateral meetings, starting with the Finance Minister of China, Xiang Huaicheng. They discussed progress at the Conference thus far and China’s level of official development assistance.
With the Foreign Minister of Tunisia, Habib Ben Yahia, he discussed the prospects for the Middle East in the lead up to the Arab Summit in Beirut later this month. They also touched on Iraq and Western Sahara.
He then met with the Director-General of the World Health Organization, Dr. Gro Harlem Brundtland, for a review of the status of the Global AIDS Fund.
His next meeting was with President Omar Bongo of Gabon. Their talks focused on peace efforts in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and the situation in Burundi.
Returning to his hotel, he had his last meeting of the day with the Foreign Minister of Spain, Josep Pique. They spoke principally about the Middle East, but also touched on Western Sahara and rising levels of official development assistance.
On Thursday, the Secretary-General addressed the opening of the heads of State and government session of the International Conference on Financing for Development. He was introduced by Vicente Fox, the President of Mexico, who said that the meeting marked the beginning of a new era of development. “Let us build bridges”, he said, “let this be the spirit of Monterrey.”
The Secretary-General opened his remarks saying “we are here to discuss the fate of people ... all of them eager to improve their own lives by making their own choices; and all of them able to do so, only if they are given a little chance”. Those people, he went on, are asking for a chance to make their voices heard, for a chance to trade their way out of poverty and to get relief from an unsustainable burden of debt.
He called for a doubling of official aid to $100 billion a year. To those who are not convinced that aid works, he said, “look at the record, there is abundant evidence that aid does work”. But aid is not the whole story, he argued. “Development is a complex process, in which many different actors have to work together.” He welcomed the presence of finance ministers, development ministers, as well as business people, and paid tribute to the World Trade Organization (WTO) and the Bretton Woods institutions for working with the United Nations as never before.
He concluded by saying “the Monterrey Consensus” is not a weak document, as some have claimed. It will only be weak, “if we fail to implement it”. (See Press Release SG/SM/8170/Rev.1.)
After the plenary session, the Conference broke down into two round tables. The Secretary-General was to divide his time between the two.
At midday, the Secretary-General was joined by World Bank President Jim Wolfensohn, International Monetary Fund Managing Director Horst Köhler and WTO Director-General Mike Moore for a press conference. “I have made clear this morning”, he said, referring to his speech at the Conference, “that we can no longer continue to give with one hand and take with the other. We must work together in a coherent fashion if we want to achieve our goal.” He said he was, therefore, pleased to share the platform with the heads of the Bretton Woods institutions and the WTO, who have worked together with him in an unprecedented way.
Each of the four principals responded to various questions. The Secretary-General, asked about good governance, said that that was something than could not be imposed by outside forces. It was “in the interest of every country, in the interest of the people and, above all, in the interest of the poor,” he said, adding, “it is the foundation on which you build sustainable development”.
After the press conference, the Secretary-General began a series of bilateral meetings in the margins of the Conference. He first met jointly with Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo and South African President Thabo Mbeki.
Cuban President Fidel Castro then came by to see him before a luncheon hosted by the Governor of Nuevo León and Mrs. Canales.
After lunch, he met with the President of Argentina, Eduardo Duhalde, for a review of the political and economic situation in that country.
Meanwhile, Nane Annan inaugurated the Mexican “UN Works” exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum with the Mayor of Monterrey, Felipe de Jesús Cantú.
The Secretary-General’s next appointment was with the King of Jordan, Abdullah II, with whom he assessed the prospects for the Arab Summit at the end of March, efforts to move the Palestinians and the Israelis back to the negotiating table and chances for the return of United Nations weapons inspectors to Iraq.
With the Foreign Minister of Switzerland, Joseph Deiss, he talked of the recent referendum in which Swiss voters opted for full membership in the United Nations. They also discussed the Middle East.
He then met with the President of Finland, Tarja Halonen. She gave him her assessment of the Financing for Development Conference and shared her thoughts on the forthcoming meeting in Geneva of the World Commission on the Social Dimensions of Globalization, which she co-chairs. She also discussed a policy of prevention as it applies to conflict, as well as to economic crises.
His last appointment of the day was with Ernesto Zedillo, the former President of Mexico, who chaired a high-level commission on financing for development appointed by the Secretary-General. In the evening, he attended a dinner in honour of heads of State and government, as well as ministers, hosted by Mexico’s President Vicente Fox.
On Friday morning, the Secretary-General attended the plenary session of the International Conference on Financing for Development, which was in its final day. In the margins of that session, he also met briefly with President Stepan Mesic of Croatia. He later met with French President Jacques Chirac. He then participated in a retreat for heads of State and government that was hosted by President Fox.
The Secretary-General returned to New York later that day. At the airport in Monterrey, he had the opportunity to chat with the President of Colombia, Andrés Pastrana Orango.
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