United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon arrived in Santiago, Chile, in the early afternoon of Friday, 5 March, after an overnight flight.
He was greeted by Chilean Foreign Minister Mariano Fernández and the Executive Secretary of the United Nations Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC), Alicia Bárcena. Soon after landing, he expressed his deep sympathy as well as solidarity with and support for the people and Government of Chile following the 8.8 magnitude earthquake which struck early on Saturday, 27 February.
That afternoon, the Secretary-General visited the headquarters of ECLAC, which had been damaged by the earthquake. He addressed a town hall meeting of ECLAC, telling staff members how much he appreciated their dedication and hard work. Later that afternoon, the Secretary-General met with Chilean President Michelle Bachelet at the Presidential Palace -- La Moneda -- to discuss the country’s immediate and long-term needs. Afterwards, they joined the United Nations delegation and Government ministers and the heads of United Nations agencies in Santiago to further discuss the response to the earthquake.
Following the meeting, the Secretary-General and President Bachelet held a joint press conference where Mr. Ban reiterated the Organization’s support for Chile and announced the release of up to $10 million in United Nations funds to support relief and recovery efforts in Chile and the formation of a joint working group between United Nations agencies and the Chilean Government to define the priority areas in which to allocate the funds that will be released from the Central Emergency Response Fund, particularly in health, emergency shelters, education and water and sanitation. He also praised President Bachelet’s leadership in dealing with the effects of the earthquake.
In the late afternoon, the Secretary-General took part in the launch of “A Roof for Chile Foundation” (in Spanish: Un Techo Para Chile) with President-elect Sebastian Pinera. There, he encouraged the youth who would take part in the Foundation’s programme. The Foundation’s activities centre on youth volunteering to help build sturdy, temporary shelter for people left homeless by the earthquake. On Friday night, the Secretary-General joined President Bachelet in the launch of a 24-hour telethon to raise $30 million for victims of the earthquake.
On Saturday, the Secretary-General travelled on a Chilean Air Force plane to Concepción, the second largest city in Chile, over 300 miles south of Santiago and one of the areas most affected by the earthquake, to see first-hand the destruction it caused. Accompanied by a small group of senior officials from the United Nations and the Chilean Government -- including Foreign Minister Mariano Fernández, Ms. Bárcena, and the United Nations Resident Coordinator in Chile, Enrique Ganuza -- the Secretary-General received a briefing on the earthquake from Chilean army officers at the Joint Headquarters for the Disaster Area in BioBio Region, and then visited parts of Concepción most affected by the earthquake.
In a press encounter at a location known locally as “ground zero” due to the scale of the destruction, the Secretary-General said he had a fuller picture of the extent of the damage and destruction caused by the earthquake, which would help when he reported back to the General Assembly for discussions on how the United Nations could best help.
On his return to Santiago, the Secretary-General met with the heads of the 15 United Nations agencies operating in Chile. He followed that working lunch with a meeting with Chile’s incoming Foreign Minister, Alfredo Moreno; incoming Minister of Finance, Felipe Larrain Bacanun; and Minister for Planning, Felipe Kast Sommerhoff. He also met with the Director-General of the International Labour Organization, Juan Somavia, and former President Ricardo Lagos.
The Secretary-General departed Chile on Saturday night for New York.