United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, accompanied by Madam Ban Soon-taek, arrived in Oslo, Norway, late in the evening of Sunday, 30 August, on his way to the Polar Ice Rim.
The following morning, he met with Norway’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, Jonas Gahr Støre, over breakfast. They discussed Sri Lanka, Afghanistan, the Middle East and Myanmar, as well as sexual violence in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
The Secretary-General then met with Norwegian Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg. Their discussions focused mainly on climate change issues, including the need to mobilize political will and create confidence-building measures between the developed and developing countries.
After that meeting, the Secretary-General and the Norwegian Prime Minister held a joint press conference. The Secretary-General said he was very much encouraged by Norway’s strong support for the United Nations and by the Prime Minister’s promise that morning that Norway would be able to reach 1.1 per cent of its gross domestic product to meet the targets of the Millennium Development Goals.
Later, the Secretary-General attended a wreath-laying ceremony at the Memorial Monument of the first Secretary-General of the United Nations, Trygve Lie. He then met with members of Norway’s Parliament, discussing with them climate change, including carbon trading, United Nations reform, Sri Lanka, Myanmar and the situation of Iranian refugees in Iraq. Before leaving Oslo, the Secretary-General had a luncheon hosted by King Harald V and Queen Sonja.
The Secretary-General, accompanied by the Minister of the Environment, Erik Solheim, left Oslo for Longyearbyen, on the Svalbard archipelago. There, he boarded the Coast Guard ice-breaker KV Svalbard for an overnight trip to Ny-Alesund, north of the archipelago.
On Tuesday morning, after arriving in Ny-Alesund, the Secretary-General visited the Korean Polar Research Institute’s station in this Norwegian settlement. He then went on to visit the Norwegian Zeppelin station.
The Secretary-General then made his way further north to the Polar Ice Rim, on board the KV Svalbard. As he stood on the ice, he urged world leaders to take action against climate change. “The Arctic is ground zero for analysing the impact of climate change. In the Arctic, climate change is accelerating much faster than in any other region in the world,” he said. “We do not have any time to lose,” added the Secretary-General at the Polar Ice Rim. “The time is short. We must seal the deal in Copenhagen in December, a deal which will be comprehensive, equitable and balanced, so that both industrialized and developing countries, and all citizens of the world can live in an environmentally sustainable way.”
On Wednesday morning, the Secretary-General travelled back to Longyearbyen. He visited the Global Seed Vault, which contains seeds from around the world, with the Norwegian Minister for Food and Agriculture, Lars Peder Brekk. Noting that the seeds stored in the Vault came from virtually every country in the world, he said they contained the essential characteristics that plant breeders and farmers would need to ensure that crops become climate-ready and even more productive. “Sustainable food production may not begin in this cold Arctic environment, but it does begin by conserving crop diversity,” he added. (See Press Release SG/SM/12432.)
The Secretary-General then held a press conference during his visit to the Polar Ice Rim, at the Svalbard Science Centre. He said his trip allowed him to see for himself “just how much damage this fragile environment, particularly in the Arctic, has suffered, because of climate change”. Calling for leaders to seal a deal in Copenhagen, he said: “We have to act. We have to pool all resources and demonstrate our will.”
The Secretary-General also participated in a mini-seminar at the University Centre in Svalbard with Erik Solheim, Norwegian Minister of Environment, Sheila Watt-Cloutier, Former Chair of the Inuit Circumpolar Council, and Rolph Payet, environment adviser to the President of Seychelles.
Later that afternoon, the Secretary-General left Longyearbyen for Geneva, Switzerland.