United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and Madam Ban Soon-taek arrived in Panama on Saturday, 2 June.On Sunday morning, the Secretary General visited the Panama Canal, one of the two most strategic artificial waterways in the world, connecting the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans and where more than 14,000 ships transit every year. Accompanied by President Martin Torrijos, the Secretary-General operated personally for an hour, from the control tower, the Canal’s three sets of locks, allowing the passage of two ships through the complex waterway system.
That day, he visited “Ciudad del Saber”, the future seat of the United Nations inter-agency regional hub in Latin America and the Caribbean.He was also presented that day with a joint study by the Economic Commission on Latin America and the Caribbean and the World Food Programme, on the economic and social impact of children’s malnutrition in Central America and the Dominican Republic.
He met with United Nations regional Directors, country team and staff, and held several bilateral meetings -- with the Secretary General of the Organization of American States, Jose Miguel Insulza; the President of the Inter-American Development Bank, Luis Alberto Moreno; the Foreign Minister of Guatemala, Gert Rosenthal Koenigsberger; and other Latin American officials. With the Secretary-General of the Organization of American States, Mr. Ban discussed cooperation between the United Nations and the Organization of American States, democracy and economic growth in Latin America and energy for sustainable development –- the theme of the thirty-seventh session of the Organization of American States General Assembly, which was to open that same evening. The role that regional banks can play in achieving the Millennium Development Goals, debt relief and microfinance for the poor were among the issues discussed with the President of the Inter-American Development Bank. With the Foreign Minister of Guatemala, the Secretary-General discussed the issues of criminal justice and the country’s border dispute with Belize.The Secretary-General also held a bilateral meeting with the First Vice-President and Minister for Foreign Affairs of Panama, Samuel Lewis Navarro. They discussed, inter alia, Panama’s support to the United Nations system’s regional hub and the Panama Canal expansion project.
The Secretary-General also met the First Lady of Panama, Vivian Fernandez de Torrijos, on her initiative for the handicapped in Panama.That evening, he participated in the opening session of the Organization of American States thirty-seventh General Assembly.
Addressing the theme of the Assembly, “Energy for Sustainable Development”, the Secretary-General noted the progress made in the region in the field of biofuels and national energy-efficiency programmes. He stressed the need for partnerships to combat the global threats posed by climate change, with adverse effects already felt in many areas, including energy, food security and human health. (See Press Release SG/SM/11022.)Global warming, he added, could also seriously impair our ability to reach the Millennium Development Goals, and could even reverse achievements in human development.
The Secretary-General departed to Madrid, Spain, on Monday, 4 June.