Activities of Secretary-General in Bosnia and Herzegovina, 25-26 July

2 August 2012

Activities of Secretary-General in Bosnia and Herzegovina, 25-26 July

United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and his wife, Madam Ban Soon-taek, arrived in Sarajevo, the capital of Bosnia and Herzegovina, from the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia on the afternoon of Wednesday, 25 July.

His first appointment was a meeting with the Members of the country’s Presidency:  Bakir Izetbegović, Chairman of the Presidency; Nebojša Radmanović, Member of the Presidency; and Željko Komšić, Member of the Presidency.

This was followed by joint statements to the press by the Secretary-General and Mr. Izetbegović, in the presence of Mr. Radmanović and Mr. Komšić.

The Secretary-General told reporters that Bosnia and Herzegovina is entering a new and important chapter. “Keeping a firm focus on a shared future is essential to building a functioning, effective state that would ensure greater prosperity, stability and progress,” he said.

The Secretary-General addressed the Parliament, saying that democratic transitions are difficult in the best of times and that challenges grow exponentially in the aftermath of war.

“Yet you have much to draw from,” he said, noting that Bosnia and Herzegovina is a “nation of talented people, emerging and dynamic leaders, women and men who have the skills and know-how to move this country forward.”

On the massacre at Srebrenica in 1995, the Secretary-General said that “the United Nations did not live up to its responsibility.  The international community failed in preventing the genocide that unfolded.”

He added that Srebrenica “gave birth to a new international resolve for justice, accountability, for a responsibility to protect civilians.”

The United Nations, together with Member States, is doing more to prevent atrocities, the Secretary-General said.  “Quite simply, we must do better in seeing atrocities coming and telling it like it is.  We cannot take refuge behind strong words and weak action.”  (See Press Release SG/SM/14431.)

The Secretary-General then met separately with Vjekoslav Bevanda, Chairman of the Council of Ministers of Bosnia and Herzegovina, and with Zlatko Lagumdžija, Vice-Chairman of the Council of Ministers and Minister of Foreign Affairs of Bosnia and Herzegovina.

This was followed by a meeting hosted by Renzo Daviddi, Deputy Head of Delegation of the European Union and European Union Delegation to Bosnia and Herzegovina, with the leaders of political parties in the country.

The Secretary-General’s last meeting of the day was with representatives of the diplomatic corps and international community, hosted by Valentin Inzko, High Representative for Bosnia and Herzegovina.

The Secretary-General and his wife attended a dinner hosted by Mr. and Mrs. Izetbegovic, and the evening ended with a tour of the Old City of Sarajevo.

Early the following morning, Thursday, 26 July, the Secretary-General took a symbolic run at the Asim Ferhatović Hase Stadium, which was used for the 1984 Olympic Games.

He held a town hall meeting with United Nations staff members in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

The Secretary-General then flew by helicopter to Srebrenica, where he visited the Potočari Memorial Center, commemorating the victims of the 1995 massacre.

While there, the Secretary-General and Bakir Izetbegović, Chairman of the Presidency of Bosnia and Herzegovina, together with their wives, laid a wreath at the Memorial Stone and observed a minute of silence.

They then toured the Memorial Centre, including walking around the Memory Wall, where the names of the victims of Srebrenica are engraved.  They also visited the Museum of Genocide, where the Secretary-General met with representatives of the Srebrenica Women’s Association, a group of victims’ mothers.

The Secretary-General signed the visitors’ book at the museum before he and Mr. Izetbegović addressed the press.

“There is perhaps nowhere in the world more difficult, more painful, than here for the United Nations Secretary-General to visit,” he told reporters.  “We must learn from the lessons of Srebrenica,” the Secretary-General said.  “The United Nations is doing, will continue to do all that we can to prevent this [so that] Srebrenica will not happen anytime, anywhere, to anyone.”

He returned by helicopter to Sarajevo, where he held a press conference at the airport to wrap up his visit to South-Eastern Europe, which he called a “remarkable journey”. 

The Secretary-General said he was leaving with a deeper understanding of the region — and a greater appreciation for its challenges and its potential.  He said that his visit focused on the future and that the United Nations stands ready to help the region build on its progress and overcome its challenges for shared progress and prosperity for all.

The Secretary-General departed Sarajevo for London at noon.

For information media. Not an official record.