Secretary-General's remarks during visit to Ciudad del Saber
Panama, 3 June 2007Senor Presidente [Martín Torrijos Espino], Senor Samuel Lewis Navarro, [First Vice-president and Minister of Foreign Affairs,] Senora Maria Roquebert, [Minister of Social Development,] Senor Jorge Arosemena, [Executive Director of the City of Knowledge,]Amigos y colegas, Senoras y senores, Amigos de la prensa
Buenos días. Gracias por la calidad de la bienvenida.
I am delighted to be in Panama on my first visit to Latin America and my first visit to Panama in my capacity as Secretary-General of the United Nations. I am very grateful and honoured by the warm reception this morning knowing that today is Sunday.
I was also pleased to visit Ciudad del Saber, the UN System's fast growing Regional Hub. This morning I had a very unique experience, I participated in the very effective operation of the Panama Canal. In its last 93 years of operation since 1914, the Panama Canal has been contributing a great deal to the world economy and trade and also movement of people, tourism and goods? As President Torrijos just mentioned I could feel all this dynamism and the heartbeat of the world economy moving. I was very much honoured to operate one or two ships. I hope when I retire, I will be able to have my job as a Canal operator for which I have a certificate already.
Ladies and gentlemen, Mr. President, in the five years since the first regional office of the UN system opened in Panama, this city has attracted the entire spectrum of UN agencies, from the United Nations Development Programme and the Pan-American Health Organization to the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, the Office of the High Commission for Human Rights and UNICEF.
Our presence in Panama is blossoming for many reasons. But its leading driver remains the vision and commitment of all the political leaders of Panama. They have helped provide excellent facilities and infrastructure for our operations, and ensured commendable working conditions for all UN staff.
That is why, last December, the UN designated Ciudad del Saber as its Regional Hub for all of Latin America and the Caribbean. This is an exciting development for our Organization. At the same time, I know it is a source of pride for the citizens of Panama as well. After all, as the former headquarters of the U.S. Southern Command, this building and its surrounding areas were for many years off-limits to the Panamanian people and public. Now, however, the citizens of Panama have thrown it open to the whole world.
This generous gesture reflects Panama's broad and deep commitment to the United Nations and its mission. Panama serves on the Security Council. It is a supporter of multilateralism. And it is actively engaged in a wide range of development issues with the UN System.
Let me use this opportunity to thank His Excellency President Torrijos and the Government and people of Panama for their friendship and their generosity and hospitality.
I look forward to working with them in the months and years ahead to further cement these ties, and to build a better world for all the peoples of the Latin American and Caribbean region.
And last but not least, I was satisfied to learn of the very ambitious and grand project of having a third (waterway for the) Panama Canal by the year 2014, celebrating one centennial of the operation of the Panama Canal.
Thank you very much.
Off-the-Cuff on 3 June 2007