United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and Madam Ban Soon-taek arrived in Santiago, Chile, on Thursday, 8 November, 2007.
His first stop was the headquarters of the United Nations Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC). There, he participated in a high-level panel on the Global Partnership for Development, along with Chilean President Michelle Bachelet Jeria and Spanish Prime Minister José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero. Speaking before an audience of diplomats, Chilean senior officials, academics, United Nations staff and representatives of civil society, the Secretary-General said that, despite advances, poverty and hunger continue to pose significant challenges in Latin American and the Caribbean. Noting that the region still had almost 200 million people living in poverty, he stressed that that figure was too high. (See Press Release SG/SM/11268.)
Following the conclusion of the panel event, the Secretary-General and President Zapatero watched as President Bachelet unveiled a plaque honouring Carmelo Soria, a United Nations staff member who was executed by Chile’s National Directorate of Intelligence in 1976. President Bachelet was joined by Soria’s daughter, who expressed the belief that those who killed her father would be found and brought to justice.
The Secretary-General then informally addressed United Nations staff working at ECLAC.
Following that meeting, the Secretary-General met with President Bachelet at La Moneda, the seat of the Chilean Government’s Executive Branch. The Secretary-General and President Bachelet, among other things, discussed Chile’s contributions to peacekeeping operations, notably in Haiti. The Secretary-General praised Chile’s success in meeting the Millennium Development Goals, and expressed appreciation for the President’s efforts to promote South-South cooperation and help developing countries. The Secretary-General also thanked President Bachelet for making possible his upcoming visit to Antarctica, a visit that he was undertaking with the intention of underscoring the effects of global climate change.
The Secretary-General then went to the inaugural ceremony of the Ibero-American Summit, where the theme this year was social cohesion. In his remarks, the Secretary-General said social cohesion was essential to addressing the threat of climate change. He also said, “Our very mission for peace, development and human rights depends on fostering inclusive societies that are stable, just and tolerant -- societies that respect diversity, equality of opportunity and participation of all.” (See Press Release SG/SM/11269.)
That ceremony was held at the Club Hipico de Santiago (Santiago Racing Club).
On Friday, 9 November, the Secretary-General touched down in Punta Arenas, at the southern tip of Chile, before continuing on to Antarctica. He became the first Secretary-General to visit the frozen continent. Landing at Chile’s President Eduardo Frei Air Force Base, he immediately travelled to Collins Glacier on King George’s Island by small plane. Upon landing on the glacier, he was briefed by the two Chilean scientists who had accompanied him: Claudio Bunster, Director of the Centre for Scientific Studies; and Chile’s leading glaciologist, Gino Casassa, a member of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which won this year’s Nobel peace prize for its work on the environment. Returning to the Chilean base, he was then transported to the Uruguayan research base, from where he travelled by inflatable boat to the Republic of Korea’s Sejong research centre. At Sejong, the Secretary-General was briefed by the centre’s chief, Sang Hoon Lee, on a glacier that had retreated by more than 1 kilometre in the last 50 years.
Throughout his Antarctica trip, the Secretary-General was accompanied by Ana Lya Uriarte, Chile’s Minister of the Environment; Alberto van Klaeveren, Chile’s Vice-Minister of Foreign Affairs; and Chile’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations, Heraldo Muñoz.
The Secretary-General issued a statement (see Press Release SG/SM/11270) and spoke to reporters at the Chilean base before returning to Punta Arenas, Chile. During that press encounter, he said he was not in Antarctica as a tourist, but rather as an early warning messenger on climate change. He added that, while what he had seen had been “extraordinarily beautiful”, it had also been disturbing to see melting glaciers. Saying that Antarctica was the world’s common heritage, he stressed that it must be preserved in an environmentally sustainable way.
The next day, Saturday, 10 November, the Secretary-General left Punta Arenas and transited through Puerto Natales, Chile, on his way to Chile’s Torres del Paine National Park. There, he flew by helicopter over Grey Glacier to see first-hand the effects of climate change.
Before he left Torres del Paine, the Secretary-General spoke to reporters. He said that, while flying over the majestic Grey Glacier, he had felt both sad and alarmed when he saw the deep cracks in the glacier and by how quickly the glacier was melting. In fact, the Grey Glacier was melting five times as fast as its counterparts in Antarctica, he had learned. Urgent action and strong political will were needed to fix this, he said.
Following the press encounter, the Secretary-General flew back to Santiago, where he delivered a statement alongside President Bachelet. Speaking at the airport used by Chile’s Air Force, he told gathered reporters that his travels through Chile and Antarctica had been “an eye-opener on many levels”. As a result of those travels, he now believed, more than ever before, that a global calamity awaited us if we did not act. He also noted that, while Chile did not produce much of the greenhouse gases blamed for global warming, it was certainly paying the price. He added that he would discuss all that he had seen and learned in Chile and Antarctica in a few days when he visited Valencia, Spain, on 17 November, to release the latest Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report. (See Press Release SG/SM/11271.)
On Sunday, 11 November, the Secretary-General left Chile for Brazil.