ACTIVITIES OF SECRETARY-GENERAL IN SOUTH AFRICA,
2-4 SEPTEMBER 2002
Secretary-General Kofi Annan arrived in South Africa from Mozambique on Sunday, 1 September.
Upon arrival, the Secretary-General met with the Prime Minister of Denmark, Mr. Anders Fogh Rasmussen, current President of the European Union. They agreed that there was a need for good faith and rapid progress in the talks on Cyprus.
They also discussed the situation in the Middle East and the World Summit on Sustainable Development (WSSD).
The Secretary-General and Mrs. Annan then visited the Sterkfontein Caves, one of the world’s most important prehistoric anthropological sites. They were met by the President of South Africa, Thabo Mbeki, and his wife, on the site where they held a brief talk at which the Secretary-General of the WSSD, Nitin Desai, briefed them on the progress of the Summit. The Secretary-General took the opportunity to thank South Africa for its leading role in the peace agreement signed between the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Rwanda.
After visiting the caves, the Secretary-General was invited to place a footprint in a cement mould. The imprint would be hung on a wall of honours at the site along with a plaque of his message, in which he warns that while our distant ancestors’ footprints on nature were small, “ours have become dangerously large.” See Press Release SG/SM/8356-AFR/466-ENV/DEV/691.
In the afternoon, the Secretary-General attended a “Business Day” organized by Business Action for Sustainable Development. In his remarks at the event, he underscored the vital role that business could play: “Today, there is growing recognition that lasting and effective answers can only be found if business joins in partnership and working together with other actors,” he said. See Press Release SG/SM/8357-AFR/467-ENV/DEV/692.
Later that day, the Secretary-General held a private meeting with heads of United Nations agencies present at the WSSD.
On Sunday evening, he held a one-on-one meeting with the Canadian Prime Minister, Jean Chrétien.
The Summit’s high-level segment was formally opened on Monday morning by South African President, Thabo Mbeki. The Secretary-General addressed the Summit after the President. "Let there be nor more disguising the perilous state of the
earth", the Secretary-General told the gathering of world leaders, "or pretending that conservation is too expensive, when we know that the cost of failure is far greater".
"The model of development we are accustomed to has been fruitful for the few, but flawed for the many", he said in his statement at the opening of the high-level segment of the meeting on sustainable development. "A path to development that ravages the environment and leaves a majority of humankind behind in squalor will soon be a dead-end road for everyone."
He concluded by saying, "It is said that to everything, there is a season. The world needs today to usher in a season of transformation, a season of stewardship. Let it be a season in which we make a long-overdue investment in the survival and security of future generations". See Press Release SG/SM/8358-AFR/468-ENV/DEV/693.
The Secretary-General then met with German Chancellor Gerhard Schröder before he attended a Global Compact High-level Round Table and luncheon with six heads of State. In his opening remarks at the round table, on mobilizing sustainable investment in least developed countries, Mr. Annan stated that growing sustainable business in the world’s least developed countries is arguably the “most promising pathway” in overcoming the poverty trap. See Press Release SG/SM/8359-AFR/469-ENV/DEV/694.
Meanwhile, after attending the Summit opening, Mrs. Nane Annan visited the Water Dome, where she launched a campaign publication for WASH, which calls for Water, Sanitation and Hygiene for all. In her speech, Mrs. Annan quoted women she met recently in northern Ghana who spoke of the importance of water to their village: “Before this water project, we had to walk 12km to the nearest muddy pond for water. The muddy water made our children very sick. Some children and even babies we carried on our backs had guinea worm”, they told her. “This water project has liberated us.” Mrs. Annan also attended two round table events at the Water Dome on the theme of water, sanitation and poverty.
The Secretary-General then travelled to Nasrec to address the Civil Society Forum. “You have that capacity to keep us on our toes, to push the envelope and say and do things we do not dare -– but that are helpful to the cause,” he said to a gathering of several hundred people. See Press Release SG/SM/8360-AFR/470-ENV/DEV/695.
He and Mrs. Annan paid a visit to the Soweto Mountain of Hope, where they were greeted by participants of the Children’s Earth Summit. “Wherever I go in the world, whatever challenges lie ahead”, he said to the 11–17 year-old audience, “it is always my encounters with young people that convince me that there is reason to hope”. See Press Release SG/SM/8361-AFR/471-ENV/DEV/696. The Secretary-General planted a tree on Somoho, a hill made from a former garbage dump.
At this event, Mrs. Annan was awarded honorary membership of the Roots and Shoots Society, a global network of young people inspired by Dr. Jane Goodall, working to improve their world through local hands-on projects.
In the late afternoon, the Secretary-General met with the Prime Minister of Japan, Junichiro Koizumi. They discussed regional issues as well as United Nations reform.
The Secretary-General also met with Britain’s Prime Minister, Tony Blair. They exchanged views on Iraq and Zimbabwe, among other issues.
That evening, the Secretary-General and Mrs. Annan were guests of President Mbeki at a dinner in honour of the heads of State and Government. The Secretary-General, in his toast, commended President Mbeki for demonstrating the kind of “new, dynamic and principled” leadership that Africa needs -– “providing a source of inspiration not only to us Africans, but to people everywhere”. See Press Release SG/SM/8362-AFR/472-ENV/DEV/697.
In the margins of the Summit on Tuesday morning, 3 September, the Secretary-General met with Iraq's Deputy Prime Minister, Tariq Aziz, as part of his ongoing dialogue with the Iraqi authorities aimed at agreeing on the return of United Nations weapons inspectors to the country, which in turn could lead to a lifting of United Nations sanctions against Iraq.
During their 20-minute talks, they touched base on the present situation regarding Iraq’s relations with the Security Council, in particular on the issue of the return of inspectors.
Later, during an interview with CNN, when asked if he would expect the inspectors to go back soon, the Secretary-General said: “At this stage, I cannot say that they have taken a decision to allow the inspectors. I mean, they have questions. He [Mr. Aziz] has indicated that given the history with inspectors, they would want to have an assurance that things will be different this time and also, because there is a threat of military action, he is not sure what difference allowing these inspectors will make.”
When responding to a question on his position on a possible attack on Iraq, the Secretary-General said: “I have indicated that if one is going to take action against Iraq, I believe it would be appropriate for the Security Council to discuss it. After all, the Security Council has resolutions.”
The Secretary-General spent most of his third day at the Summit holding bilateral meetings with government officials.
He met with Brazilian President Fernando Henrique Cardoso. They discussed regional issues, in particular the financial crisis in Latin America.
The following meeting was with Cameroon Foreign Minister Francois-Xavier Ngoubeyou, who delivered a personal message from President Paul Biya. The Foreign Minister thanked the Secretary-General for his efforts in maintaining peace in Africa.
Then the Secretary-General met with the Prime Minister of the Netherlands, Dr. Jan Peter Balkenende. They discussed the International Criminal Court (ICC), and agreed that while they noted the concern of the United States Government over the issue, the integrity of the ICC should not be compromised. They also discussed the situation in Iraq and the Middle East.
The Secretary-General then met with the Foreign Minister of Israel, Shimon Peres. Mr. Annan expressed his concern about the humanitarian situation in the occupied areas. Mr. Peres briefed the Secretary-General on the measures that Israel would be taking to ease that crisis.
The Secretary-General then met with the President of Zimbabwe, Robert Mugabe. They first discussed the humanitarian and food situation in Zimbabwe. The Secretary-General talked about his Special Envoy James Morris’ upcoming trip to the subregion. Mr. Mugabe explained the process of land distribution and Mr. Annan reiterated his position that the land reform should be carried out according to the rule of law and should be implemented in a phased way.
The Secretary-General also met that day with former South African President Nelson Mandela and with the President of Turkey, Ahmet Necdet Sezer, and the Irish Prime Minister, Bertie Ahern.
Early on Tuesday evening the Secretary-General spoke at the High-level round table on the future of multilateralism, chaired by President Mbeki, which included President Vicente Fox of Mexico, James Wolfensohn, President of the World Bank, and Supachai Panitchpakdi, Director-General of the World Trade Organization, amongst others. See Press Release SG/SM/8363-AFR/473-ENV/DEV/698.
At a press conference on Wednesday, the Secretary-General’s last day in Johannesburg, he said that the World Summit on Sustainable Development, which concluded that afternoon, “will put us on a path that reduces poverty while protecting the environment, a path that works for all peoples, rich and poor, today and tomorrow”.
He said that governments attending the Summit had agreed on an impressive range of concrete commitments, in particular in the five priority areas -– water, energy, health, agriculture and biodiversity –- that he had identified. He added that the Summit marked “a major leap forward” in the development of partnerships between governments, civil society, businesses and other key actors.
In response to a question, he acknowledged that there were people disappointed that not everything that was expected to take place in Johannesburg was achieved, but said he was satisfied with the results. He said, “I think we have to be careful not to expect conferences like this to produce miracles, but we do expect conferences like this to generate political commitment, momentum and energy for the attainment of goals”.
On Iraq, he said he had told Deputy Prime Minister Tariq Aziz that United Nations inspectors should go in and that Iraq should comply with United Nations resolutions, adding that other leaders around the world are also asking Iraq to comply.
On Zimbabwe, he said he had been in touch with President Robert Mugabe, and had raised with him press reports that the distribution of food in that country was being politicized. President Mugabe, he added, had assured him that that was not the case.
The Secretary-General held several bilateral meetings on the margins of that day’s proceedings, beginning with a morning meeting with Finnish President Tarja Halonen, with whom he discussed the Summit.
After a brief one-on-one meeting with Food and Agriculture Organization Director Jacques Diouf, he met with the Greek Foreign Minister, George Papandreou, with whom he discussed Iraq and Cyprus.
The Secretary-General then met with United States Secretary of State Colin Powell, and briefed him on the meeting he had the previous day with Tariq Aziz, and relayed to the Secretary of State Iraq’s concerns about re-admitting United Nations weapons inspectors.
They also discussed the Middle East, including the humanitarian plight of the Palestinian people and the meeting of the Quartet -– comprising the United Nations, the United States, the European Union and Russia -– that would take place in New York later in September.
The Secretary-General and Powell also discussed Sudan, Angola, the international peacekeeping presence in Afghanistan and the situation between Nigeria and Cameroon, among other topics.
Later in the afternoon, the Secretary-General met with King Mohammed VI of Morocco and with the President of the European Union, Romano Prodi.
Before they departed Johannesburg, the Secretary-General and Nane Annan participated in an episode of South Africa’s production of “Sesame Street”, in which an HIV-positive muppet was introduced.
In addition to participating in the taping of the “Sesame Street” segment, Nane Annan opened one of the events on the sidelines of the Summit, on women and water, organized by the Water Supply and Sanitation Collaborative Council.
In her remarks, she related her recent experiences and discussions on water with women she met in rural Ghana and on the outskirts of Maputo in Mozambique. “The provision of safe water and sanitation reduces waterborne diseases and frees girls to go to school and women for income-generating activities”, she said.
On Wednesday evening, the Secretary-General left Johannesburg for Paris, France.
* *** *