Activities of Secretary-General in Ecuador, 7 – 10 November 2003
Secretary-General Kofi Annan arrived in Guayaquil, the largest city and main port of Ecuador, in the early evening of 7 November on a special flight of the aircraft of the President of Chile. He was met at the airport by the Governor of Guayas, Alberto Merchan; the Ecuadorian Permanent Representative at the United Nations in New York, Ambassador Luis Gallegos; the Director of the Ecuadorian Protocol, Ambassador Manuel Pesantes, and the Resident Coordinator of the United Nations system in Ecuador, René Mauricio Valdés.
From the airport, the Secretary-General went to the Governor´s Office where he and Mrs. Annan had a meeting with Vice-President, and Acting President, Alfredo Palacio. Following an exchange of gifts, they moved to a larger meeting room where Vice-President Palacios formally welcomed the Secretary-General in a ceremony attended by local and regional authorities, including the Consular Corps in Guayaquil.
The Secretary-General, Mrs. Annan and his delegation then walked over to the Municipality of Guayaquil (City Hall, where Mayor Jaime Nebot handed him the “Keys of the City”. Through a decision of the Municipal Council, the Secretary-General was also declared “Illustrious Visitor”. At the ceremony, attended by Vice-President Palacios, other Ecuadorian authorities, the Consular Corps and special guests, the Secretary-General delivered a speech. Noting the presence of young people, “the leaders of tomorrow”, he said he hoped they would stay engaged and that the audience would encourage them to do so. These remarks were greeted with applause and cheering.
While noting that Guayaquil was respected “all over the world for its visionary planning, its vibrant economy”, the Secretary-General said that cities were crossroads of ideas and innovation” –- at their best they could serve as models of democracy, diversity and multicultural living. (For text of the Secretary-General’s remarks, see press release SG/SM/8993 of 10 November).
Early in the morning of 8 November, the Secretary-General and Mrs. Annan left for the Galapagos Islands, a World Natural Heritage site since 197, and a Marine Reserve World Natural Heritage since 2001. They were welcomed by the Director of the Galapagos National Park, Edgar Munoz, and the Director of the Charles Darwin Foundation, Fernando Espinoza. Galapagos is considered a “model community”, an example of sustainable development. The United Nations system’s national priorities in Ecuador include the preservation of the unique ecosystems and biodiversity of the Galapagos, while ensuring the living standards of its people.
After landing at the Baltra Island, the Secretary-General and Mrs. Annan sailed on board the “Guadalupe River” sea craft for the Plaza Islands, where they were shown iguanas, sea lions and birds in their natural habitat. From there, they sailed to Point Ayora, where they spent the night.
On Sunday morning, 9 November, they visited the Charles Darwin Foundation and the Galapagos National Park. There they saw a turtle breeding project; the Secretary-General and Mrs. Annan were asked to become the “god parents” of baby turtle number 42. Depending on the gender of the baby turtle, it will be named Kofi or Nane –- the sex of a turtle can be identified only after 25 to 30 years. After that, they were introduced to “Lonesome George”, the last of its species of giant turtles.
The Secretary-General then went to the giant turtles’ area, where he recorded a video message on environmental protection and sustainable development. He said the Galapagos in their uniqueness are a “showcase of interdependence: one of the world’s most renowned ecosystems, a diverse trove for scientists, an unforgettable tourist destination, and an important element in the economic and social development of Ecuador”. The Secretary-General went on to say that the United Nations is trying to help the world move from an unsustainable present to a sustainable future, “from an era of exploitation to an ethic of stewardship”. He concluded his message stating that the one lesson he hoped we learn from the Galapagos is that “it is high time we gave the survival and security of future generations the priority they deserve”. (For text of the Secretary-General’s remarks see press release SG/SM/8996 of 10 November.)
From there, the Secretary-General and Mrs. Annan visited “Los Gemelos”, or “the twins”, two volcanic craters near the top of Santa Cruz.
From the Galapagos, the Secretary-General and Mrs. Annan flew to Quito, the Ecuadorian capital. They were received at the Air Force Base with military honours and met by the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Ambassador Patricio Zuquilanda. That same evening the Annans drove through “old Quito”, which was declared a Cultural Patrimony of Mankind by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) in 1978. They visited the Iglesia de la Compania, a church built by the Jesuits in the beginning of the XVII century, and which is considered by many as the best example of Jesuit baroque in Latin America. The church, with the support of UNESCO, is under repair, following damage suffered in an earthquake in 1987 and a fire later on.
The Secretary-General and Mrs. Annan also visited the “Capilla del Hombre” -– Chapel of Man –- conceived by world renowned Ecuadorian painter Osvaldo Guayasamin. “Far from religious,” as Guayasamin described it, the “Capilla” aims at being “a gathering center, a place where it will be possible to think over the trail of mankind in this continent, from thousands of years back to our days”. After visiting this most impressive modern building, which includes Guayasamin paintings, the Secretary-General called it, in the message he wrote in the visitors´ book, “a visionary enterprise”.
The Secretary-General’s last day in Ecuador, 10 November, began with a meeting with all Heads of United Nations agencies in Ecuador. The Secretary-General was briefed on the work of the United Nations with the Ecuadorian government, which covers three areas of cooperation: poverty reduction, environmental sustainability and democratic governance. Twelve United Nations agencies are present in Ecuador.
Following that, the Secretary-General went to the City Museum Chapel at the Municipality of Quito, where he was declared “Illustrious Visitor” by Mayor Paco Moncayo. In thanking the Mayor, the Secretary-General said that he had a feeling of familiarity of Quito, which came from the renown the city enjoys around the world, and also from the close relationship between “this city and the UN family”. After noting the very important contributions to the United Nations from Ecuadorian nationals, and Quito’s achievements in the field of development, particularly clean water and sewage, the Secretary-General said: “Citizens of Quito, you have made me proud by honouring me today, but it is you who should draw pride from the achievements of your city.” (For text of the Secretary-General’s remarks see press release SG/SM/8997 of 11 November.)
Late that morning, the Secretary-General met with President Lucio Gutiérrez Borbúa. They talked about developments in Ecuador and in the region. The two leaders also discussed the situation of the indigenous people in the country, who represent close to 50 per cent of Ecuador’s population, and also labour rights, environmental issues and human rights.
Following the meeting with the President, the Secretary-General held a press conference at the Presidential Palace.
Separately, Mrs. Annan met Ecuadorian women leaders from diverse backgrounds, including indigenous and Afro-descent women, and those of low-income and grassroots organizations. The meeting, organized by the United Nations Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM), covered critical issues affecting women, such as sexual and domestic violence, poverty, political participation, exclusion and discrimination.
In the afternoon, Mrs. Annan visited a water and sanitation project in a poor neighbourhood of Quito, where the municipal authority has worked closely with the community in the concept, design and construction of the project.
Early in the afternoon, the Secretary-General was bestowed with the highest Ecuadorian decoration -- the Order of San Lorenzo –- by President Gutierrez Borbua. Following that, the President hosted an official lunch in honour of the Secretary-General at the Presidential Palace.
Later in the afternoon, the Secretary-General addressed the National Congress, where he was awarded the “General Eloy Alfaro” decoration by the President of the Ecuadorian Congress, Guillermo Landazuri. (For text of the Secretary-General’s remarks see press release SG/SM/8998 of 11 November.)
After that, the Secretary-General inaugurated the United Nations House where also met staff of the United Nations family in Ecuador. (For text of Secretary-General’s remarks see press release SG/SM/9000 of today’s date.)
Also at the United Nations House, the Secretary-General met with representatives of Ecuadorian civil society. From there, the Secretary-General and his delegation went to the airport, from where they flew to Lima, Peru, onboard a special flight of the Peruvian presidential plane.
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