United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, accompanied by Madam Ban Soon-taek, arrived in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, on the morning of Thursday, 27 May, after flying overnight from New York to attend the Alliance of Civilizations Forum, which was starting on Friday.
Soon after his arrival, the Secretary-General held a press conference with Brazilian and international media. In his opening remarks, he spoke about the Alliance of Civilizations, underlining the importance of the Rio Forum in bringing together a powerful network of political, corporate and religious leaders, civil society and youth to agree on joint actions, improve relations across cultures, combat prejudice and build conditions for long-term peace.
He also spoke about Brazil’s role in international affairs, describing it as an outstanding Member State of the United Nations, a regional leader and a growing global Power, whose diversity made it a natural host for the Forum. He also spoke about Brazil’s progress in eradicating extreme poverty and achieving the Millennium Development Goals.
Following the press conference and two interviews — with the media outlets TV Brasil and O Estado de Sao Paulo — the Secretary-General met with members of the United Nations country team for discussions on the Organization’s work in Brazil and cooperation with the Brazilian authorities.
In the afternoon, he visited the favela Babilonia, where, after young residents staged a musical performance to welcome him, Mr. Ban took part in a discussion with local youth as well as young people from other favelas around Rio de Janeiro. They described to the Secretary-General the reality of their lives regarding access to services and opportunities, in the context of the Millennium Development Goals.
Addressing the youth, he said world leaders must make greater efforts to listen and learn from young people. He then visited the favela Chapeu Mangueira, where he observed various community-based educational programmes, such as English language and cooking classes. That was followed by a visit to the Brazilian military’s Fort Leme base where — after reviewing an honour guard of 62 Brazilian United Nations peacekeepers representing 62 years of United Nations peacekeeping operations — the Secretary-General met privately with the families of Brazilian peacekeepers killed during the Haiti earthquake of 12 January.
Afterwards, Mr. Ban spoke at a remembrance ceremony for the fallen, and took part in the unveiling of a commemorative plaque for the peacekeepers. He thanked those present as well as the people of Brazil for the sacrifices made in the cause of peace, saying that the peacekeepers killed in Haiti had, through their efforts to help Haitians, turned the flag of the United Nations into a banner of hope. (See Press Release SG/SM/12920)
In the evening, the Secretary-General took part in a working dinner with the Brazilian Foreign Minister, Celso Luiz Nunes Amorim, before holding internal meetings on the Alliance of Civilizations Forum.
On Friday morning, the Secretary-General delivered a speech at the opening of the Alliance of Civilizations Forum, saying that the mission of the Alliance must go deeper still, with its aims among the most important of the twenty-first century. He noted that three quarters of the world’s conflicts had a cultural dimension and that the process of building inclusive societies must itself be inclusive. He also stressed the importance of education and the role and potential of youth, saying that the challenges of globalization had made the work of the Alliance that much more urgent. (See Press Release SG/SM/12923)
Following the opening of the Forum, the Secretary-General met with President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva of Brazil and, separately, held bilateral meetings with other dignitaries — Prime Minister José Socrates of Portugal, Foreign Minister Markos Kyprianou of Cyprus, Jordan's Foreign Minister Nasser Judeh, the United States Assistant Secretary of State for International Organizations, Esther Brimmer, and the Chairperson of the Qatar Foundation for Education, Science and Community, Sheikha Mozah bint Nasser.
The Secretary-General then attended the official luncheon for heads of delegations to the Alliance of Civilizations Forum, before departing by plane for São Paulo, from where he embarked on a flight to South Africa on Friday evening.