8 August 2008


United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and his wife, Ban Soon-taek, arrived in Mexico City on Sunday, 3 August.

That same evening, the Secretary-General addressed the opening of the Seventeenth International AIDS Conference, which was held for the first time in Latin America.  He called on all countries to live up to their commitments to enact or enforce legislation outlawing discrimination against people living with HIV and members of vulnerable groups -– including women, men who have sex with men, sex workers, [injecting] drug users and ethnic minorities.  He also asked for schools to teach respect, for religious leaders to preach tolerance, and for the media to condemn prejudice in all its forms.  (See Press Release SG/SM/11727.)

Right before he spoke, Keren Jamina Dunaway-Gonzalez, an HIV-positive 12-year-old from Honduras, addressed the Conference.  After discussing the problems she faces as a young girl with HIV, she greeted the Secretary-General, whom she had met earlier this year in Jackson, Wyoming, and gave him a kiss.

Prior to the AIDS Conference, the Secretary-General met with the United Nations country team in Mexico, who surprised him with a mariachi band during a town hall meeting.  The Secretary-General sang along as the band played Bésame mucho and Canta y no llores.

The following day, on Monday, 4 August, the Secretary-General started his morning with a bilateral meeting with Spain’s First Vice President, María Teresa Fernández de la Vega, and a working breakfast with the Global Compact’s Mexico network.

He later addressed an extraordinary session of the Agency for the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons in Latin America and the Caribbean, known by its Spanish acronym, OPANAL.  At the Mexican Ministry of Foreign Affairs, where the session was held, the Secretary-General said that international efforts to prevent nuclear proliferation and achieve nuclear disarmament continued to face significant challenges.  He also noted that it had been almost 40 years since his predecessor, U Thant, attended the first session of OPANAL’s General Conference.  In that regard, he was deeply honoured to be the second Secretary-General to address OPANAL, he said.  Before leaving the Ministry, the Secretary-General viewed a travelling exhibit, designed by the United Nations Information Centre in Mexico, which illustrated the United Nations work in Mexico.  (See Press Release SG/SM/11728.)

The Secretary-General’s next stop was Los Pinos, the official residence and offices of the President of Mexico.  There he held bilateral meetings with Foreign Secretary Patricia Espinosa and President Felipe Calderón.  He also held a working meeting on the Millennium Development Goals and climate change with President Calderón.

Following the working meeting, the Secretary-General and President Calderón held a joint outdoor press encounter.  In his remarks to the press, the Secretary-General praised the progress Mexico had made in setting up several new, ambitious targets, which went beyond the original Millennium Development Goals, and commended Mexico for providing regional leadership in the response to the AIDS pandemic.  He added that, during their meeting, he and the President had also discussed Haiti, where recent unrest and political instability had shown the fragility of the stabilization process.

The Secretary-General later spoke to a Joint Session of the Mexican Senate and Chamber of Deputies, telling them that the world faces three critical challenges on which their engagement is essential:  a climate crisis, a food crisis, and an emerging development emergency.  Each by itself is a formidable threat, yet they are deeply intertwined and require a truly global response, he added.  Before his speech, the Secretary-General laid a wreath before a statue of Belisario Domínguez, a Mexican physician and politician who served as a senator and was murdered in 1913 after speaking out against dictatorship.  (See Press Release SG/SM/11730.)

After a bilateral meeting with former United States President William Jefferson Clinton, which focused on climate change and AIDS, the Secretary-General headed to the Global Village, a site for side events of the International AIDS Conference.  Together with his wife, the Secretary-General saw a performance by “Dance for Life”, a group dedicated to raising awareness and funds for HIV/AIDS care, prevention and education while promoting the art of dance.  The Secretary-General also heard from people who were infected with HIV in an interactive discussion.  In remarks at the Global Village, the Secretary-General emphasized that the people he had met were at the heart of the AIDS response, and he told them, “I profoundly admire your courage and commitment.”  He called for renewed leadership in eradicating stigma and discrimination associated with HIV.  (See Press Release SG/SM/11731.)

The Secretary-General and his wife departed Mexico City for New York on Tuesday, 5 August.

For information media. Not an official record.