Activities of Secretary-General in Colombia, 10-12 June

24 June 2011

Activities of Secretary-General in Colombia, 10-12 June

United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, together with his wife, Madam Ban Soon-taek, arrived in Bogota, Colombia, on the afternoon of Friday, 10 June.  It was his first visit to the country as Secretary-General.

The Secretary-General began his visit by meeting first with the United Nations Country Team, followed by a meeting with civil society representatives.  (See Press Release SG/SM/13633.)

The Secretary-General then attended the signing into law for the Victims’ Rights and Land Restitution Bill.  He told those attending the ceremony that the new Bill is a fundamental step towards resolving the conflict that the Colombian people have endured for so many decades.  (See Press Release SG/SM/13634.)

He also held a bilateral meeting with Maria Emma Mejía, Secretary-General of the Union of South American Nations (UNASUR).  They discussed UNASUR’s plans and possible areas of collaboration.  The Secretary-General thanked Ms. Mejía for UNASUR’s support for Haiti.

The Secretary-General was interviewed by the newspaper El Tiempo before attending an official dinner hosted by Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos Calderón.

The following day, 11 June, the Secretary-General travelled to the city of Cartagena, where he attended the signing ceremony for the “Prosperity Agreement,” intended to re-affirm political will for joint work between the Colombian Government and the United Nations system.

In his remarks at the event, also attended by President Santos, the Secretary-General said that the United Nations is benefiting from Colombia’s help, ranging from the country’s contributions to international peacekeeping missions to currently serving a two-year term as a non-permanent member of the Security Council.  He also voiced hope that Colombia can benefit from the assistance of the United Nations in building a country and a world that is more sustainable and more equitable.  (See Press Release SG/SM/13635.)

The Secretary-General then held a bilateral meeting with President Santos.  The Secretary-General commended the President for promoting stable relations in the region, for supporting progress in Haiti and for being a productive Security Council member.

The meeting was followed by a helicopter flight over areas devastated by flooding.

Upon returning to Cartagena, the Secretary-General and President Santos held a joint press conference.  The Secretary-General told reporters that he was deeply affected by seeing towns, fields and roads ruined by flooding.  “My heart goes out to the 3 million Colombians who have been affected, one third of them in this Caribbean region,” he said.

He then visited two United Nations projects in Cartagena — Cemprende, an entrepreneurship centre, and Caso Afro, a project seeking to end violence against women — and returned to Bogota in the evening.

On the morning of Sunday, 12 June, he inaugurated a United Nations-funded school in the impoverished municipality of Soacha, before concluding his visit to Colombia and travelling to Argentina.

For information media. Not an official record.