United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres arrived in Geneva on Sunday, 25 February, in the evening. On Monday, 26 February, he participated in the opening of the thirty-seventh session of the Human Rights Council, together with the President of the Human Rights Council, Ambassador Vojislav Šuc of Slovenia; President of the General Assembly, Miroslav Lajčák; Federal Councillor and Head of the Federal Department of Foreign Affairs of Switzerland, Ignazio Cassis; and United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Ra’ad al Hussein.
The Secretary-General started his speech with an impromptu message on the situation in Syria, stating that Security Council resolutions were only meaningful if effectively implemented, and asking for “the resolution to be immediately implemented and sustained, particularly to ensure the immediate, safe, unimpeded and sustained delivery of humanitarian aid and services, the evacuation of the critically sick and the wounded and the alleviation of the suffering of the Syrian people”. And he reminded all delegates that “the United Nations stands ready to do its part”. He went on to denounce human rights violations in many countries, with particular reference to the Rohingya who, he said, were one of the most discriminated against populations in the world — and that was even before the crisis of the past year. The Secretary-General called on the Myanmar Government to ensure unfettered humanitarian access in Rakhine State, and he appealed to the international community to support those who had fled to Bangladesh. (See Press Release SG/SM/18912.)
Mr. Guterres held a number of bilateral meetings that day: with President Alexander van der Bellen of Austria; Chairman of the Presidency of Bosnia‑Herzegovina, Dragan Cović; and President Filipe Jacinto Nyusi of Mozambique. He also met with the Vice-Prime Minister and Minister for Foreign Affairs of Georgia, Mikheil Janelidze; Chief Executive of Afghanistan, Abdullah Abdullah; Ministers for Foreign Affairs of Switzerland, Ignazio Cassis, and Venezuela, Jorge Arreaza; Governor-General of Australia, Peter Cosgrove; and the Ambassadors of Germany, Guatemala and Switzerland.
The Secretary-General continued his visit by attending the High-level segment of the Conference on Disarmament, where he was welcomed by the President of the Conference on Disarmament, Ambassador Veronika Bard of Sweden. In his speech, he congratulated delegates to the Conference for their recent decision to take forward their substantive work, and he announced the preparation of his new initiative aimed at giving greater impetus and direction to the global disarmament agenda. “This initiative is aimed at restoring the role of disarmament as an integral component of our work to maintain international peace and security,” he said. “I believe we can build a new vision for disarmament to address today’s priorities: conflict prevention, upholding humanitarian principles, promoting sustainable development and dealing with future threats.” (See Press Release SG/SM/18913.)
The Secretary-General left Switzerland to return to New York on Monday afternoon.