United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, accompanied by Madam Ban Soon-taek, arrived in Brussels from New York early on Tuesday morning, 1 April.
That morning, at the Palais d’Egmont, he delivered a keynote address at the International Conference on the Prevention of Genocide. The Secretary-General spoke of the “Rights up front” exercise, the UN’s most recent initiative to prevent atrocity crimes. He said that what is needed is “more protection, not less; a greater sense of responsibility to act, not less; and ultimately earlier action, well before situations spin out of control”. (See Press Release SG/SM/15740.)
The Conference was organized by the Belgian Royal Institute for International Relations and the Belgian Federal Public Service Foreign Affairs, Foreign Trade and Development Cooperation. Participants included representatives of international organizations, Government officials, academics and other experts on the issue of genocide.
In the afternoon, the Secretary-General held a joint press encounter with Didier Reynders, Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister of Belgium, before being hosted to luncheon by Mr. Reynders.
The Secretary-General held a number of bilateral meetings with senior officials of European institutions and the Belgian Government. These included Thorbjørn Jagland, Secretary-General of the Council of Europe; Elio Di Rupo, Prime Minister of Belgian, and Herman Van Rompuy, President of the European Council.
The Secretary-General also attended a gathering to mark the tenth anniversary of the creation of the United Nations Regional Information Centre.
The Secretary-General met that evening with a delegation from South Sudan, led by Awan Guol Riak, Minister in the Office of the President, and Barnaba Marial Benjamin, Minister for Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation.
He later attended a private dinner with King Philippe and Queen Mathilde of Belgium.
On Wednesday, 2 April, the Secretary-General had a working breakfast with European Union Commission President José Manuel Barroso, after which he spoke briefly to the press, saying how much he appreciated the indispensable partnership between the United Nations and the European Union.
He told journalists that he and President Barroso had discussed the situation in Central Africa and the Sahel, as well as other issues, including climate change.
Regarding the Central African Republic, he stressed the very real need of the people on the ground in the face of a very dire humanitarian situation. He added that he hoped the Security Council would approve his recommendations for a United Nations peacekeeping force.
The Secretary-General said the world needed the European Union’s leadership on the issue of climate change and said he hoped that the European Union would bring ambitious goals to this September’s summit in New York.
Immediately afterwards, the Secretary-General met with Andris Piebalgs, European Union Commissioner for Development, and Janez Potočnik, European Union Commissioner for the Environment. They discussed climate change and the post-2015 development agenda.
The Secretary-General also raised the issue of migration. While thanking the European Union for establishing a task force for the Mediterranean, he stressed the need to ensure the protection of migrants and prevent any further tragedies, such as Lampedusa, from happening.
The Secretary-General attended a preview of the International Millennium Documentary Film Festival on the Millennium Development Goals. He told the audience that films have a certain magic ability to capture people’s hearts. “By portraying real people and their struggles, you help to unite the global public and mobilize action for the Goals,” he added.
He then held a town hall with United Nations staff in Brussels.
Before attending the European Union-Africa Summit, the Secretary-General had a meeting with Egyptian Foreign Minister Nabil Fahmy.
They discussed the strengthening of African peacekeeping, nuclear non-proliferation, the worrying situation in Libya, the need to keep the Middle East peace process on track, and the importance of resolving Nile water issues through dialogue.
The Secretary-General also conveyed to the Minister his strong concerns regarding the mass death-penalty sentences announced recently, as well as the detention of journalists.
At the special high-level meeting on the Central African Republic, the Secretary-General told the participants that the world has a collective responsibility to respond to the grave security, humanitarian and human rights situation in the country.
He stressed that reinforcements were needed for the current African Union and French forces on the ground, and that the transitional Government needs help in restoring Government authority. On the ongoing violence, the Secretary-General said that “the people of the [ Central African Republic] must see that accountability applies to all — that the rule of law matters no matter who they are or what they believe, from leaders to individual combatants”. (See Press Release SG/SM/15742.)
The Secretary-General then addressed the opening ceremony of the Fourth European Union-Africa summit. (See Press Release SG/SM/15743.)
He also spoke at a working session on “Peace and Security”. (See Press Release SG/SM/15744.)
He held bilateral meetings that evening with, in order: Baroness Catherine Ashton, High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy and Vice-President of the European Commission; Idriss Deby Itno, President of Chad; Denis Sassou Nguesso, President of Congo; Matteo Renzi, President of the Council of Ministers of Italy; Pierre Nkurunziza, President of Burundi; Nicos Anastasiades, President of Cyprus; and Jakaya Mrisho Kikwete, President of the United Republic of Tanzania.
On his last day in Brussels, the Secretary-General attended a breakfast hosted by the Roll Back Malaria campaign. After being given a bed net by the Roll Back Malaria Goodwill Ambassador, Yvonne Chaka Chaka, the Secretary-General told the participants that the success of Roll Back Malaria proves that the fight against the deadly and preventable disease is a good investment that saves lives and speeds up economic progress. He added that health is the greatest wealth. (See Press Release SG/SM/15747.)
The Secretary-General also continued to hold a number of bilateral meetings with African leaders also present in Brussels for the European Union-Africa Summit, including Catherine Samba-Panza, Head of State of the Transition in the Central African Republic, and Sam Kutesa, Foreign Minister of Uganda.
He also gave a lecture on climate change at the historical Bibliothèque Solvay in Brussels to the Friends of Europe, in which he said that climate change is an overarching challenge with implications for the United Nations entire agenda, and that Europe’s leadership on the issue will be crucial.
The Secretary-General visited the European Parliament offices in Brussels and met with the Parliament’s President, Martin Schulz, and they spoke to the press afterwards.
Prior to leaving Brussels for Prague, the Secretary-General attended a reception hosted by King Philippe in honour of participants in the European Union-Africa Summit.