United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon arrived in Mexico City on the afternoon of Tuesday, 8 September. The primary purpose of his trip was to open the sixty-second annual Department of Public Information/Non-Governmental Organizations (DPI/NGO) Conference. The Conference’s theme this year was “For Peace and Development: Disarm Now!”.
Soon after his arrival, the Secretary-General headed to Los Pinos, the official residence and offices of the President of Mexico. There, the Secretary-General met with Mexican President Felipe Calderón. The two discussed the upcoming United Nations climate change summit, the forthcoming Security Council summit on disarmament, Mexico’s influenza response, and the idea of providing support to the United Nations so that it can ensure that all who need vaccines are able to get them.
Following the meeting, President Calderón invited the Secretary-General to accompany him by helicopter on an unannounced visit of Mexico City’s Valle Dorado suburb, which had just been hit by severe rains and floods. Seeing the recent devastation firsthand, which included destroyed homes and damaged public works, the Secretary-General personally consoled survivors. Also accompanying the Secretary-General and the Mexican President was the Governor of the State of Mexico, Enrique Peña Nieto.
Later that evening, the Secretary-General headed to City Hall, where Mexico City Mayor Marcelo Ebrard presented him with the Keys to the City, as well as a medal and scroll, which reads: “The Government of Mexico City declares Mr. Ban Ki-moon, Secretary-General of the United Nations, a distinguished guest of Mexico City”. Addressing ceremony participants, the Secretary-General referred to his just-concluded interactions with flood survivors in Valle Dorado, saying that the experience had left him “so sad”. (See Press Release SG/SM/12443).
That night, the Secretary-General visited the Ministry of Education, where he was shown murals by the world-famous Mexican artist Diego Rivera. He also attended a dinner there hosted by Public Education Secretary Alonso Lujambio Irazábal.
The following day, on Wednesday, 9 September, the Secretary-General opened the DPI/NGO Conference. Noting that global military spending is now well over $1 trillion and rising every day, he called for ridding the world of nuclear weapons, exhorting civil society groups in particular to continue to speak out against the scourge. “The world is over-armed and peace is under-funded,” the Secretary-General warned in his opening remarks. (See Press Release SG/SM/12445).
Later, in a press conference that same day, the Secretary-General said: “Peace, security, and economic and social development are indivisible. And to achieve these, the world must disarm”. He also said: “The more people know about the true costs of weapons of mass destruction and conventional arms, the better chance we will have of advancing the disarmament and non-proliferation agenda”.
In connection with the DPI/NGO Conference, the Secretary-General attended two side events. During the first, which took place at the “Museo Mural Diego Rivera”, the Secretary-General spoke informally to representatives from non-governmental organizations and young people from Latin America. The topic was his “WMD-We Must Disarm” campaign for the 100 days leading up to the International Day of Peace on 21 September. The Secretary-General appealed to the audience to let their voices be heard on the issue of nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation by joining the campaign through its online platforms ‑‑ Facebook, MySpace and Twitter ‑‑ and by submitting their own “reasons to disarm” via the United Nations International Day of Peace 2009 website. The Secretary-General also sat at a computer in the museum to send out a tweet on Twitter to symbolically launch the campaign in Latin America.
At the second side event, which took place at the “Museo de Arte Popular”, the Secretary-General met members of the DPI/NGO Conference’s Youth Subcommittee, who were working to build a papier-mâché sculpture, featuring a plant growing out of a broken grenade. Interacting informally with the young people, the Secretary-General helped them paint and attach a piece made to look like a green leaf, thereby completing the sculpture.
In addition to his activities related to the DPI/NGO Conference, the Secretary-General met with Hiroshima MayorTadatoshiAkiba, with whom he discussed the importance of nuclear disarmament and the “Mayors for Peace” initiative. He also held a brief encounter with Mexico’s Secretary of the Navy, Admiral Mariano Francisco Saynez.
Before leaving Mexico City, the Secretary-General had lunch at the Mexican Foreign Ministry with Mexican Foreign Secretary Patricia Espinosa. In a bilateral meeting with her earlier in the day, the Secretary-General had spoken of the importance of protecting human rights.
The Secretary-General arrived back in New York on the evening of Wednesday, 9 September.