United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, accompanied by Madam Ban Soon-taek, arrived in Doha from Geneva late on Sunday afternoon, 22 April, to open the Seventh Forum on Democracy, Development and Free Trade.
He began the day Monday with a meeting with the President of Finland, Tarja Halonen, who opened the Forum later in the day.
The Secretary-General held talks with Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim bin Jabr al-Thani, Prime Minister and Minister for Foreign Affairs of Qatar, before meeting with the Emir of the State of Qatar, Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani.
Before opening the Forum, he is also met with Jack Straw, the Leader of the House of Commons of the United Kingdom.
On the eve of the Forum, the Secretary-General told reporters travelling with him that democracy, free trade and development are three key issues the United Nations is working for in the region, as well as worldwide.
“There are many countries still in transition to democracy, therefore, holding this conference on democracy in this region means some symbolism, politically,” he said. “We hope that there will be a further promotion of democracy all around the world, including in the Middle East.”
In his speech that opened the Forum, he added that, on free trade, he was frustrated by the level of progress concerning the Doha Round of trade talks. (See Press Release SG/SM/10957.)
“Should this Round of trade talks fail, serious damage will be done to those who can least afford it, to the multilateral trading system and to multilateralism itself. Should this Round of trade talks succeed, Doha will not only become synonymous with free trade, but also indelibly linked to development,” he said.
“Everyone must redouble their efforts in the coming months to ensure success,” he said.
He and Madam Ban stayed for a dinner hosted by the Emir.
The Secretary-General left Doha for Damascus early Tuesday, 24 April.