United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon arrived in Washington, D.C., from Haiti in the afternoon of Tuesday, 10 March.
He held a wide-ranging and very productive meeting with United States President Barack Obama at the White House that afternoon, covering a broad range of issues confronting the international community. (See Press Release SG/SM/12131)
Among other things, they discussed the international economic crisis and emphasized the need to ensure that the world’s poor and most vulnerable people are not left behind. Both called for redoubling efforts to achieve the Millennium Development Goals and ensure food security around the world. They agreed that progress could be made on this front even during difficult economic times. And they both strongly emphasized the need for an international agreement on climate change, both to save the planet and ensure a sustainable economic recovery.
The Secretary-General and the President discussed at length the situation in Sudan, particularly the acute humanitarian situation caused by the Government’s decision to expel 13 international non-governmental organizations, and emphasized the need for a peaceful resolution of the situation. Other topics included the need for strengthening civilian support for Afghanistan, facilitating cooperation between Afghanistan and Pakistan, actively pursuing peace in the Middle East, supporting reconstruction in Haiti and working together to support Iraq in a period of transition. They also discussed disarmament and non-proliferation issues, including the situation in the Democratic Peoples Republic of Korea.
The Secretary-General welcomed President Obama’s statement that the United Nations is an extraordinarily constructive partner for bringing peace and security to the world. “We look forward,” the Secretary-General said, “to working together to turn this ‘make-or-break’ year full of crises into a ‘make-it-work’ year full of solutions.”
In comments to the press afterwards, the Secretary-General said that leaders of the Group of 20 (G-20) “should not lose sight of the challenges and plight of hundreds of millions of the poorest people in the developing countries who have been impacted by this economic crisis”.
On Wednesday the Secretary-General continued his meetings with key congressional leaders. He participated in a working breakfast with the House Foreign Relations Committee after meeting with its Chairman, Representative Howard Berman. The Secretary-General spoke about United Nations reform, in particular the restructuring of peacekeeping support; developments in Afghanistan, Haiti and Sudan; and the upcoming G-20 meeting on the economic crisis. The Secretary-General noted that the United States continues to owe about $1 billion to the United Nations, and he told the Committee that, while the United States generously supports the work of the United Nations, “We cannot do the work you ask us to do without the resources to get the job done.” They also discussed Gaza and the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), Somalia, Sudan, the Durban Review Conference, climate change and the Human Rights Council.
The Secretary-General also met with Senator John Kerry, Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, before meeting with several members of that Committee. They discussed climate change, violence against women, nuclear issues and the Millennium Development Goals, as well as Sudan, Afghanistan, Pakistan, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Somalia, Haiti and United States arrears to the United Nations.
He also met that afternoon with members of the House Subcommittee on Energy and Commerce to discuss climate change and its impact on the poorest, nuclear energy and the importance of green growth in the context of the existing financial crisis.
The Secretary-General returned to New York that afternoon.