United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon flew to Atlanta, Georgia, on the evening of Wednesday, 7 May, as part of his ongoing efforts to reach out to major American cities and citizens, and also to make progress on global health, one of his top priorities for 2008 and beyond.
On the morning of Thursday, 8 May, the Secretary-General joined Atlanta Mayor Shirley Franklin in viewing the Martin Luther King Jr. Papers Collection at the Robert W. Woodruff Library. He viewed documents underlining the deep relationship between Dr. King and the United Nations -- including correspondence between the civil rights leader and former United Nations Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs Ralph Bunche. He also saw a collection of Dr. King’s personal books, the majority of which dealt with Gandhian and Indian philosophy.
In remarks at the Library, the Secretary-General said Dr. King remains an unsurpassed advocate of all the United Nations stands for: peace, economic and social justice, and human rights He said we can be inspired by him as we pursue our overriding mission today to build a better world in the twenty-first century. (See Press Release SG/SM/11557)
The next stop for the Secretary-General was the Governor’s Mansion, where he met with Georgia Governor Sonny Perdue and participated in a joint press conference with him. In his remarks to reporters, the Secretary-General said he applauded Georgia’s efforts to conserve water, save energy, safeguard lands, prevent litter and promote recycling. Before leaving the Governor’s Mansion, the Secretary-General attended a luncheon, where he was served traditional Georgian foods, including grilled quail salad, pecan-crusted catfish and cheese grits.
Because a major focus of this trip was global health, the Secretary-General then visited the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), where he was able to tour the Emergency Operations Center with CDC’s Director, Dr. Julie Gerberding. Addressing CDC staffers, he said CDC’s expertise was needed, among other things, to tackle neglected tropical diseases, which affect 1 billion of the world’s poorest people.
That same day, the Secretary-General visited CIFAL Atlanta, a not-for-profit organization affiliated with the United Nations Institute for Training and Research (UNITAR). CIFAL is a French acronym that stands for International Training Centre for Local Authorities/Actors. Each CIFAL centre is a hub for capacity-building and knowledge-sharing between local authorities, national Governments, international organizations, the private sector and civil society. There are only 12 CIFAL centres throughout the world, including the one in Atlanta.
Later that afternoon, the Secretary-General met with the editorial board of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution before returning to his global health focus at a working dinner at the Carter Center. The dinner was in advance of a major meeting on global health, to be held the following day.
On Friday, 8 May, the Secretary-General convened global health leaders from United Nations agencies, foundations, the private sector and civil society, along with researchers and academics, at the Carter Center, to discuss strategies to improve the health and protect the well-being of the world’s poorest and most vulnerable. He called the meeting together with the Elders, a group of world leaders whose goal is to contribute their wisdom, independent leadership and integrity in tackling some of the world’s toughest problems. The meeting’s discussions focused on health systems, women’s health and neglected tropical diseases.
Before leaving the Carter Center, the Secretary-General participated in a press conference with two of the Elders -- former United States President Jimmy Carter and former Norwegian Prime Minister Gro Harlem Brundtland -- and Dr. Margaret Chan, Director-General of the World Health Organization. In his opening remarks, the Secretary-General noted that new actors and resources are pouring into the global health space as never before. The Secretary-General said he welcomed this attention and activity. He added, however, that this would not amount to much if we did not ensure coherent and decisive action. He said we were halfway to the deadline for achieving the Millennium Development Goals -- the targets to lift people out of poverty by 2015. But we are not on track to achieving them, including critical health goals, he stated.
The Secretary-General’s last stop in Atlanta was the corporate headquarters of the Coca-Cola Company, where he attended a luncheon with the Atlanta business community. Speaking to the assembled business leaders, he stressed the importance of partnerships between the United Nations and the private sector in solving such global problems as rising numbers of refugees, potentially explosive shortages of food and water, and devastating disasters linked to climate change.
The Secretary-General left Atlanta and returned to New York on the evening of Friday, 9 May.