United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, accompanied by Madam Ban Soon-taek, arrived late on Thursday, 12 June, in Santa Cruz de la Sierra directly from São Paolo, Brazil, where he attended the opening game of the 2014 Football World Cup at Itaquera Stadium. He travelled to Bolivia with President Evo Morales Ayma, who had also witnessed the opening match.
While in São Paolo, the Secretary-General met with President Dilma Rousseff of Brazil, President Michelle Bachelet Jeria of Chile, President José Eduardo dos Santos of Angola, and the President of Fédération Internationale de Football Association, Sepp Blatter. He also attended a luncheon hosted by President Rousseff.
Upon arrival at Viru Viru airport, the Secretary-General told journalists that he was pleased to be in Bolivia to attend the fiftieth anniversary summit of the “Group of 77” developing countries and China. He noted that this summit comes at a time when the Member States are focusing on three important issues: the deadline for the Millennium Development Goals, the finalization of the post-2015 development agenda and a meaningful global climate agreement.
“We need a strong partnership between the G77 and China, and the rest of the UN Member States to achieve these ends,” the Secretary-General added.
Early on Friday morning, 13 June, the Secretary-General joined President Morales to visit Santa Rita, a community about 200 kilometres away from Santa Cruz. In Santa Rita, the Secretary-General and the President were greeted by the municipal authorities and chiefs representing the Chiquitanos, Guarani and Ayoreos indigenous peoples.
At a formal arrival ceremony, the Secretary-General attended a traditional Chiriguano musical performance by a children’s symphony orchestra. The Secretary-General was also serenaded for his birthday by a group of children. He was given traditional gifts, including a blanket woven by a woman from the community, a straw hat and a traditional chief’s stick, passed on from generation to generation.
The Secretary-General was given the keys to the city of Santa Rita, and appointed “distinguished guest”. He was also presented with a wood-carved portrait depicting him and President Evo Morales.
The Mayor of San Javier, a community next to Santa Rita, gave the Secretary-General a traditional Chiquitana cotton shirt. Before leaving, the Secretary-General visited the artisan textile workshops and tasted local food.
From there, the Secretary-General and President Morales went on to El Torno municipality, a small town on the outskirts of Santa Cruz.
In a separate programme, Madam Ban travelled to the community of Jorori on the outskirts of Santa Cruz to visit a local community school founded by the Fondacion Alegria Solidaria. The school, created in 1985 by a group of friends, focuses on ensuring that the children of the local indigenous community, which has a high rate of poverty and illiteracy, can have access to quality education. The classes have a strong focus on reading and writing. Madam Ban visited the facilities and attended a reading of original poetry written by the students. She rejoined the Secretary-General in El Torno.
The Secretary-General and the President inaugurated the newly built coliseum, which was named after the Secretary-General. In a colourful and emotional ceremony, the Secretary-General’s birthday was celebrated with the more than 4,000 community members who had filled the coliseum. They serenaded the Secretary-General with traditional dances and music.
In his remarks to the attendees, Mr. Ban said that he could not express “any suitable word either in English, Spanish or even Korean to say how much I moved by you and your welcome.” The Secretary-General also saluted the wisdom of the Bolivian people who have lived thousands and thousands of years harmoniously with Mother Nature. He especially singled out the heritage of the indigenous peoples. “I appreciate the wisdom and perseverance and resilience of our distinguished indigenous people,” he added. (See Press Release SG/SM/15942.)
Also attending the ceremonies was the Vice-President of Bolivia, Alvaro Garcia Linera, as well many Government ministers and legislators.
The Mayor of El Torno granted the Secretary-General a certificate of “honorary guest” of the city. He was also awarded the medal of “Marcelo Quiroga Santa Cruz” by the Deputies of the Plurinational Assembly, as well as the “Fatherland Symbol” medal by the Bolivian Senate. Immediately after the ceremony, the Secretary-General was hosted to lunch in a nearby restaurant by President Morales and members of his Government.
On Saturday morning, 14 June, the Secretary-General hosted a breakfast for the representatives of United Nations agencies in Bolivia. They briefed him on the current political and development situation in the country.
In the morning, the Secretary-General participated in a press round table with local journalists.
He then hosted a luncheon for Rebecca Grynspan, the Secretary-General of the Ibero-American Conference; Juan Somavia, the Secretary-General’s Special Adviser on Interregional Policy Cooperation; and Alicia Barcena, the Executive Secretary of the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC).
Early in the afternoon, the Secretary-General met with the First Vice-President of the Islamic Republic of Iran, Eshaq Jahangiri. They discussed development issues and the Secretary-General commended Iran for progress made on the Millennium Development Goals.
The Secretary-General and the First Vice-President discussed the Iranian nuclear issue, and the Secretary-General expressed the hope that the parties could show sufficient flexibility to meet the 20 July deadline. The Secretary-General and the First Vice-President also exchanged views on the current situations in Iraq and Syria, in particular the role that Iran could play in helping to restore stability in Iraq and supporting international efforts on Syria. The Secretary-General added that he looked forward to Iran’s positive involvement on climate change and said he very much hoped that President Rouhani would attend the Climate Summit in New York in September.
Later in the day, the Secretary-General joined President Morales and several other heads of states at a cultural event held at Pahuichi Aguilera stadium in Santa Cruz. The colourful event, attended by close to 50,000 people, featured many traditional Bolivian cultures.
In the evening, the Secretary-General attended the official opening of the Group of 77 and China Summit at the FEXPOCRUZ convention centre in Santa Cruz. In his remarks to the Summit, the Secretary-General recognized the importance of the Group of 77 and China within the United Nations and how it has enabled the global South to speak with one voice. (See Press Release SG/SM/15947.)
Mr. Ban underscored the critical importance of the next 18 months which would encompass the last push to achieve the Millennium Development Goals, the establishment of a global climate change agreement and, lastly, the creation of a transformative post-2015 development agenda. This period, he said, would offer a “historical opportunity to overcome traditional North-South distinctions and embrace a truly universal agenda”.
“Your membership”, the Secretary-General went on to add, “encompasses all the world’s challenges and you can also bring all the world’s solutions.”
The Secretary-General also talked about the need to base sustainable development on strong institutions. “Countries cannot achieve sustainable development while conflict rages”, he declared, “while human rights are breached, while good governance and the rule of law are neglected, and while inequality and injustice feed the fires of instability”.
He told the gathered Heads of States and Governments that now was the time for world leaders to live up to their promises and agree on a legally binding global climate change agreement. “Our planet earth […] is sending signals that this planet earth is sick,” Mr. Ban said. “We have to listen to the call before it is too late.”
After the opening session, the Secretary-General attended an official dinner hosted by President Morales for heads of delegations.
Much later that evening, the Secretary-General met with President Ollanta Humala of Peru.
Specifically, the Secretary-General asked President Humala to exercise his leadership to garner commitment for the drafting of a strong agreement. President Humala reaffirmed his personal commitment to ensuring the success of the Communication on Progress and the readiness of Peru to support the United Nations on climate change.
The Secretary-General briefed the President on the preparations of the forthcoming Climate Summit on 23 September in New York. He stressed that he expected world leaders to come to New York ready to announce bold actions and ambitious goals.
On Sunday, 15 June, the Secretary-General returned to the FEXPOCRUZ convention to attend the first plenary session of the G77 and China summit. On the margins of the meeting the Secretary-General held a number of bilateral meetings, including with Nicolás Maduro, President of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela and with Raúl Castro Ruz, President of Cuba.
He left for Geneva later in the afternoon, flying via Lima and Madrid.