United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and Madam Ban Soon-taek arrived in Rome on Tuesday evening, 6 May. The Secretary-General had spent the day in Juba, South Sudan.
On Wednesday morning, the Secretary-General met with Pietro Grasso, the President of the Italian Senate. The President and the Secretary-General spoke at length about the situation in Ukraine and expressed hope that the European Union, United States, Russian Federation and Ukraine would soon sit down together again to de-escalate the situation and come up with a lasting solution to the unrest in the country.
President Grasso and the Secretary-General also spoke of the many refugees trying to reach Italy from Syria and North Africa, with the Secretary-General urging that their human rights and well-being are properly looked after. The Secretary-General also drew attention to the threat of climate change, and the need to reduce the emission of greenhouse gasses by 40 per cent by the year 2030. President Grasso informed the Secretary-General of the preparations for Expo 2015, which would be held in Milan.
Later in the day, the Secretary-General, accompanied by Madam Ban, attended a working luncheon at the Food and Agricultural Organization’s (FAO) headquarters just ahead of a meeting of the World Committee on Food Security. Also attending the lunch were Kanayo Nwanze, President of the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD); Ertharin Cousin, Executive-Director of the World Food Programme (WFP); Daniel Gustafson, Deputy Director General for Operations of FAO; Maria Helena Semedo, Deputy Director-General for Natural Resources of FAO; Eduardo Rojas, Assistant Director General of FAO for Forestry and United Nations Commissioner General for Expo 2015; Gerda Verburg, Chair of the World Committee on Food Security; and David Nabarro, Secretary General’s Special Representative for Food Security and Nutrition.
In his speech to the Committee, the Secretary-General told of his trip to South Sudan and the immediate and very real threat of famine that the country is facing. “I wanted to talk to you today not only about South Sudan,” he said, but also “about what we can do together anywhere that hunger needlessly stalks the human family.”
Mr. Ban said that the United Nations “Zero Hunger Challenge” was launched to show that eliminating hunger and improving food security required an integrated approach across many sectors.
The Secretary-General also stressed the importance of empowering women so that they can boost the productivity of small holder agriculture. He went on to tell the participants that more needs to be done to help farmers adapt to climate change. “That’s why I’m encouraged by the progress to establish a global alliance for climate-smart agriculture,” he added.
He concluded by saying, we will not eliminate extreme poverty or achieve sustainable development without adequate food and nutrition for all. “We cannot know peace or security if one in eight people are hungry,” Mr. Ban said. (See Press Release SG/SM/15827.)
The Secretary-General then went to the Palazzo Chigi, the office of the Italian Prime Minister. He and Prime Minister Matteo Renzi had a wide-ranging discussion. Among the many topics they covered was the situation in Ukraine. The Secretary-General expressed his concern that the current events in Ukraine are overshadowing the crises in Syria, Central African Republic and Libya. The Secretary-General briefed the Prime Minister on the United Nations political, humanitarian and non-proliferation efforts in Syria, and he thanked the Prime Minister for making Italian ports available to ships carrying Syria’s chemical weapons stockpile.
The Secretary-General said that he hoped Italy’s forthcoming Presidency of the European Union would support the Union’s 2020 Vision on Climate Change and encourage bold commitments at the United Nations Climate Summit this September.
Mr. Ban also thanked the Prime Minister for Italy’s work in supporting the current Libyan Government and also its efforts to protect the lives of people trying to cross the Mediterranean Sea to seek refuge in Italy. The Secretary-General hoped that all efforts in support of refugees would be made with respect to the human rights and dignity of refugees. The Secretary-General commended Italy for its exemplary contribution to United Nations peacekeeping operations.
From the Prime Minister’s office, the Secretary-General attended a meeting of the High-Level Committee of the United Nations Global Education First Initiative.
He then met with Giorgio Napolitano, President of Italy, at the Palazzo del Quirinale. The Secretary-General thanked President Napolitano for Italy’s contribution to the United Nations, its hosting of three UN organizations in Rome and its troop and police contributions to United Nations peacekeeping, which are the largest of any Western nation.
The Secretary-General and the President discussed the growing number of refugees trying to reach Italy across the Mediterranean Sea, and the dangers they face in doing so.
The Secretary-General informed the President of the situation in South Sudan, where he had just been the day before and witnessed first-hand the deteriorating situation of internally displaced persons. Both leaders expressed concern about the security situation in Libya, as well as the ever growing unrest in Ukraine. They agreed that negotiation between the European Union, United States, Russian Federation and Ukraine is the only viable way forward for the country.
Following the bilateral meeting, President Napolitano hosted a reception for all the heads of United Nations agencies gathered in Rome for meeting of the Chief Executives Board.
That evening, a dinner was hosted by Expo 2015 in honour of the Secretary-General, Madam Ban and principals of the United Nations Chief Executives Board, with Foreign Minister Federica Mogherini also in attendance.
On Thursday, the Secretary-General spent the day meeting with the Principals of the Chief Executives Board at the headquarters of the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD). He also met with IFAD staff.
The Secretary-General and the members of the Chief Executives Board had an audience with Pope Francis at the Vatican in Rome on Friday morning, during which the Secretary-General expressed his concern about recent intolerance among peoples and faiths. He noted the tensions in the Central African Republic, South Sudan, Syria and Ukraine and said that, across the United Nations agenda, he sees the need for calm, compassion, cooperation and courage.
The Secretary-General said that he deeply appreciated Pope Francis’ personal commitment to eradicating poverty and promoting sustainable development. And he said that he counts on the Catholic Church, under the Pope’s leadership, to continue to work closely with the United Nations to promote a life of dignity for all. (See Press Release SG/SM/15832.)
The Secretary-General also had a bilateral meeting with the Mayor of Rome, Ignazio Marino. During the meeting, the Secretary-General stressed the importance of cities and the leadership of mayors in adapting cities to tackle the climate change challenge. The Mayor hosted a working lunch for the UN delegation at the Musei Capitolini.
He continued to chair the meetings of the Chief Executives Board in Rome and returned to New York on Saturday, 10 May.