United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon arrived in Geneva in the morning of Monday, 3 March, where he delivered a statement at the opening of the seventh session of the Human Rights Council.
“Your institution-building phase is now nearly over,” said the Secretary-General in his statement, referring to the fact that almost two years have passed since the Council was inaugurated. “For the Human Rights Council to fulfil its true promise, you must create an environment of trust. You must foster a climate where best practices thrive. You must spur greater accountability for action on human rights. That was certainly the hope of the framers of this Council, it was the conviction of the world’s Governments when they united behind it, and it was the spirit in which our predecessors drafted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.” (See Press Release SG/SM/11445)
The Secretary-General said that the system of independent special procedures -- “your vanguard mechanisms for early detection of problematic human rights situations and sustained protection” -- was essential to the proper functioning of the Council. Moreover, the Universal Periodic Review mechanism was “a historic undertaking, with significant consequences for people around the globe. It must help ensure… that nations are accountable for progress, stagnation or regression in implementation of human rights standards.”
The Secretary-General addressed the respective roles of the Council and the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, which he said had “all the authority of my Office behind it. […] Together, you can build on the synergies that come from your mutually reinforcing but independent and distinct mandates. I look to you to proceed on this collaborative path, as laid out in the General Assembly resolution which led to the creation of this Council.”
Following his statement to the Human Rights Council, the Secretary-General met with Vuk Jeremič, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Serbia. He then had a luncheon with Bernard Kouchner, Minister for Foreign and European Affairs of France.
In the afternoon, the Secretary-General addressed the forty-third executive session of the Trade and Development Board of the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), which he noted was taking place in the crucial period leading up to the April 2008 UNCTAD-XII Conference in Accra. (See Press Release SG/SM/11449)
He reminded participants that development issues were high on his agenda. “I have asked for 2008 to be the year of the ‘bottom billion’. […] We have to reenergize our efforts towards the Millennium Development Goals. Halfway to our 2015 target, many nations have fallen behind. In fact, not a single country in sub-Saharan Africa is on track to achieve the Goals on time. Now is the time for new ideas and fresh approaches.” The Accra Conference could galvanize support for a more development-friendly global economic, trading and financial system.
The Secretary-General said he was striving to increase the United Nations own effectiveness in advancing development priorities. “I have repeatedly said that we should be measured by our results, not just our rhetoric. Today’s UN cannot simply champion development, it must deliver every day on its promises.”
Following his statement at the Trade and Development Board, the Secretary-General visited the World Council of Churches, where he met with Reverend Samuel Kobia, General Secretary of the Council, and senior staff. They visited a chapel and met with some 100 staff members of the Council.
The Secretary-General then met with Jonas Gahr Store, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Norway.
He met with Micheline Calmy-Rey, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Switzerland in the early evening.
The Secretary-General began the second day of his visit to Geneva with a breakfast meeting with Louise Arbour, High Commissioner for Human Rights, and Kyung-Wha Kang, Deputy High Commissioner for Human Rights.
The Secretary-General then had successive meetings with Dr. Margaret Chan, Director-General of the World Health Organization (WHO) and Sahana Pradham, Foreign Minister of Nepal.
Finally, the Secretary-General met with Kofi Annan, former Secretary-General of the United Nations, who had just returned from his mediation efforts in Kenya, which ended two months of post-election conflict in the country. During a photo opportunity after the meeting, the Secretary-General urged Kenya’s Mwai Kibaki and Raila Odinga to faithfully implement the agreement reached following mediation by his predecessor, Kofi Annan.
The Secretary-General praised Mr. Annan’s leadership. “His role has brought not only peace and stability in Kenya, but also the whole region. He has shown great leadership and demonstrated his initiative in preventing such a potentially dangerous situation. We need to continue to be engaged in the process. I sincerely hope that the Kenyan leadership will faithfully implement what they agreed, mediated by Secretary-General Kofi Annan. The United Nations and myself will fully stand behind his continuous engagement and I am very much grateful again for your great leadership.”
Secretary-General Ban departed Geneva for New York at around noon Geneva time.