United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, accompanied by Madam Ban Soon‑taek, arrived in Madrid in the morning of Tuesday, 27 January.
His first meeting was with Jacques Diouf (FAO), Josette Sheeran (WFP), Lennart Båge (IFAD), David Nabarro, Coordinator of the Secretary-General's High-Level Task Force on the Global Food Security Crisis, and Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, Managing Director of the World Bank, who briefed him on the ongoing High-Level Meeting on Food Security, taking place at the Palacio de Congresos in Madrid. They all highlighted the positive impact of the meeting in raising awareness and putting food security high on the international agenda in spite of the world economic crisis.
The Secretary-General later met with Prime Minister José Luis Zapatero, with whom he discussed food security, the situation in Gaza and Spain’s 20 year participation in United Nations peacekeeping missions.
The Secretary-General then delivered the concluding remarks at the High-level Meeting on Food Security, and he told the gathered leaders that, although food prices may have come down for the time being, the number of hungry people is set to rise again and the prospects for smallholders remain grim. (See Press Release SG/SM/12067)
He said that the coordination promoted by the United Nations to deal with the food crisis last year resulted in an unprecedented effort to support nations and respond to the impact of the food crisis on the world's most vulnerable people. As food prices rose and brought the number of hungry people close to 1 billion, he noted, we achieved the largest emergency scale-up against hunger and malnutrition in human history.
Now, the Secretary-General said, we will have to work even harder in 2009, this year of recession. In 2008, for example, we were unable to get the seeds and fertilizers to all the smallholders who needed them in two planting seasons. We must do better in 2009, he warned.
Following the conclusion of that meeting, the Secretary-General and Prime Minister Zapatero put out a joint press statement, warning that there are nearly 1 billion hungry people in the world today and the number is rising as a result of the economic crisis. The way forward, they said, is a comprehensive approach that links nutrition, food security, agriculture and trade. (See Press Release SG/2148)
They expressed their gratitude at the response to the meeting from at least 15 countries, which indicated their intention to commit funds, technical assistance and political support for the effort to eliminate hunger. The Secretary-General and the Prime Minister agreed that the United Nations system would establish improved mechanisms to ensure that these funds lead to sustainable benefits and measurable results.
Later, Mr. Ban attended a ceremony in which 29 Spanish peacekeepers who died while serving in United Nations peacekeeping missions were posthumously awarded the Dag Hammarskjöld Medal for their services in “working for a more secure and freer world”. (See Press Release SG/SM/12068)
That evening, the Secretary-General had a private audience with King Juan Carlos I of Spain, at the Palacio de la Zazuela. He also had a working dinner with Foreign Minister Miguel Ángel Moratinos Cuyaubé. There they discussed ways to make the ceasefire in Gaza a sustainable one and longer-term solutions to the situation in the Middle East. They also talked about Western Sahara, Kosovo, Somalia, Darfur, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Spanish participation in peacekeeping missions and the empowerment of women at the United Nations.
The Secretary-General wrapped up his visit to Spain on Wednesday, when he signed an agreement with the Spanish Government on the establishment of a new global telecommunications facility for peacekeeping operations, to be built in Valencia. That facility, he said, would complement the existing United Nations communications infrastructure in Brindisi, Italy, and would reduce the very real risks associated with depending on a single hub. (See Press Release SG/SM/12070)
At the signing ceremony, the Secretary-General said that, for a global organization such as the United Nations, the ability to communicate clearly, quickly and around the clock is crucial. For our peacekeeping operations, communications can be the difference between life and death. He thanked the Government of Spain for its generosity.
He also had a working luncheon with the Global Compact network for Spain, before heading on to Switzerland, where he would attend the World Economic Forum in Davos.