ACTIVITIES OF SECRETARY-GENERAL IN CHILE, 4 - 7 NOVEMBER
Secretary-General Kofi Annan departed New York for Chile in the evening of Tuesday, 4 November, and arrived the following morning in Santiago, on the first leg of a four-nation visit to Latin America.
He and Nane Annan were met at the airport by Ambassador Heraldo Muñoz, the Permanent Representative of Chile to the United Nations in New York. The Secretary–General reviewed a military guard in his honour.
Later that day, the Secretary-General was briefed by Alicia Barcena, the Deputy Executive Secretary of the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC), and the heads of the United Nations agencies in Chile.
That evening, he attended an informal dinner hosted by the Chilean Foreign Minister, Maria-Soledad Alvear, at the Andreas Bello Diplomatic Academy.
The Secretary-General started his day on Thursday by laying a wreath at the Monument of General Bernardo O’Higgins, national hero of Chilean independence. At the end of the ceremony, he had a conversation for a few moments with Francisco Vidal, the Acting Defence Minister, and with eight former Chilean United Nations peacekeepers who served in missions from Bosnia and Herzegovina to East Timor, and from Kosovo to the Pakistan-Indian border.
At mid-morning, the Secretary-General went to the La Moneda Presidential Palace where he had a private meeting with President Ricardo Lagos Escobar. After some 45 minutes, they were joined by their delegations. During the discussion, they reviewed regional developments and discussed the question of poverty, as well as social, economic and financial reforms. They also talked about the recent World Trade Organization’s ministerial meeting in Cancun and the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation meeting in Bangkok. They also talked about democratization and respect for human rights.
The Secretary-General and President Lagos then had a joint press encounter. The President said that Chile was willing to cooperate with the United Nations, under the Secretary-General’s leadership, to address some of the outstanding issues in the region and “share our experiences with our fellow Latin Americans”. Mr. Lagos also expressed his concern about globalization, saying that globalization without clear rules affects us all and, “thus, the role of the United Nations is as, or more, important today than in 1945”.
In his opening remarks, the Secretary-General noted the important contributions made by Chile at the United Nations. He noted that elected members of the Security Council have an important role to play. The veto is a negative power; those countries who have it can block a resolution, but “they
cannot make it happen, so the elected members, like Chile, have an important role to play and I hope they will continue to play that role”.
Answering a question on why he was visiting the region, the Secretary-General said that one tends to focus so much attention on countries having serious problems that “we do not have time for the good ones”, and that it is important to visit countries like Chile “to send out messages that there are countries where things are going well, that there are lessons we can all learn”.
When talking about Iraq, the Secretary-General said that “no one can afford to see a destabilized Iraq in the middle of a turbulent region” and that “we need to find a way of pooling our efforts and working together to pacify Iraq”.
As the President and the Secretary-General were leaving the Presidential Palace, they were stopped by a number of children from a nearby school who wanted to shake hands with both leaders. The Secretary-General greeted the children back by saying “mucho gusto”.
Following a meeting with the President of the Chilean Senate, Andres Zaldivar Larrain, and the President of the Chamber of Deputies, Isabel Allende Bussi, the Secretary-General delivered an address at the Chamber of Deputies to parliamentarians, as well as to the diplomatic community. The Secretary-General noted that Chile went through a peaceful process of transition from dictatorship to democracy and that, notwithstanding financial difficulties in the region, Chile achieved “notable social and economic success”. The Secretary-General also said that, while Chile already met the Millennium Development Goal of halving extreme poverty, he was sure that Chile would not rest until poverty was eradicated and inequality reduced.
“Just as democratic governance is crucial to peace and development at home, so is multilateral cooperation crucial to building peace and promoting development internationally”, the Secretary-General said, adding that “cooperation is vital if globalization is to empower and enrich people, not marginalize and impoverish them.” (See Press Release SG/SM/8991.)
The President of the Senate and the President of the Chamber of Deputies then hosted a working luncheon attended by a number of parliamentarians, as well as the Secretary-General and his delegation.
Late in the afternoon, the Secretary-General met with the Directors of ECLAC, who briefed him on the challenges and achievements in the region. They also outlined ECLAC’s priorities and work plan. Some of the topics discussed by the ECLAC senior staff and the Secretary-General included technical cooperation, women’s’ issues, public policies and their relationship to society, and international migration.
Following that, the Secretary-General went to the main ECLAC plenary hall for a meeting with staff of the United Nations family in Chile. Upon entering the hall, the Secretary-General received a standing ovation from some 700 United Nations personnel. He was greeted by Juan Mediano, President of the United Nations Staff Association. In his remarks, the Secretary-General said that “as UN staff we need to keep working to advance the economic and social agenda, highlighting what the needs are, and ensuring that we are maximizing our impact
on the ground”. He also said that we are all affected by an immediate and personally felt issue -– the challenge of the new security environment in which the United Nations is operating in some parts of the world. He mentioned the work of the independent panel on security in Iraq, chaired by the former President of Finland, Martti Ahtisaari, and said that its findings “cause me grave concern”, adding that “we obviously must do our utmost to ensure that such failures are not repeated in Iraq or elsewhere”. The meeting finished with a presentation by the ECLAC Choir singing the “Hymn for Peace” by a young Chilean composer.
At ECLAC, the Secretary-General was joined by Nane Annan, who had had a separate programme visiting a centre providing food, shelter and counselling for women and child victims of domestic violence in Valparaiso, a port-city west of Santiago. Mrs. Annan toured the centre and its pre-school and spoke with some of the women and children. In thanking the centre, Mrs. Annan said: “the children gave me a paper bird and I think that all children and all women should be free to fly using their own wings”.
The visit of the Secretary-General to Chile coincided with the visit of the President of Finland, Tarja Halonen. On Thursday evening, he attended a reception hosted by President Halonen in honour of President Lagos. That same evening, the Secretary-General was the guest of honour at a dinner hosted by the President of Chile. At a toast during the dinner, the Secretary-General said that Chile was the first of four countries he was visiting on this trip and that the region embodied nearly all the potential, and all the challenges, that we find globally. “I am keen to ensure that its problems receive the attention they deserve”, the Secretary-General stated.
Friday, 7 November, was the last day of the official visit to Chile. In the morning, the Secretary-General, President Lagos and President Halonen participated in a high-level round-table discussion “The global context and the renewal of the United Nations”. After making remarks on the theme, the three leaders answered questions from a large audience, which included organizations of civil society, diplomats, government officials and United Nations personnel.
The Secretary-General said that the cold war had severely constrained the United Nations and that a divided, bipolar world had been replaced by a world which some characterize as unipolar and others see as multipolar. He noted the real issue is not whether the power distribution today is unipolar or multipolar. “The real issue is whether power will be exercised separately or collectively”, he said. (See Press Release SG/SM/8994.)
Early in the afternoon, the Secretary-General and the delegation left Santiago for Guayaquil to begin an official visit to Ecuador.
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