8 October 2018

Activities of Secretary-General in India, 1-4 October

United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres arrived in India from New York on Monday afternoon, 1 October.

On arrival in New Delhi, the Secretary-General participated in the opening of the new and revived United Nations House in the Indian capital.

In comments delivered at the ceremony, the Secretary-General noted the strong bond between India and the United Nations.  He told the assembled United Nations staff that the Organization’s work in India cannot be business as usual.  Mr. Guterres said he wanted the Organization united in its approach and to be able to work in the country to fully support India’s Government development plans and India’s leadership in relation to climate change, the Sustainable Development Goals and so many other aspects in which today India is showing a leadership role in our planet.

Also participating in the United Nations House inauguration was Henrietta Fore, the Executive Director of the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF).

On Tuesday, the Secretary-General laid a wreath in honour of Mahatma Ghandi at the Raj Ghat memorial.  This year marks is the 150th anniversary of Ghandi’s birth.

After the ceremony, the Secretary-General told journalists that 2 October is the International Day of Non-Violence, which pays tribute to the greatest soul that ever lived — Mahatma Ghandi.  His example demonstrates that the way to reach objectives is through non-violence.  Mr. Guterres added that he can only hope that all those that have political responsibility in the world are able to be worthy of Mahatma Gandhi and to understand that they should reach their objectives through dialogue, through non-violence, through a strong commitment to truth and the well‑being of their peoples.

He then joined Prime Minister Narendra Modi at the closing session of the Mahatma Gandhi International Sanitation Conference.

The Secretary-General told the participants that hosting an international conference on advocacy and action on sanitation was a fitting way to honour the 150th birthday of Gandhi — someone who defined the right of sanitation for everyone.

If we are to ensure that people have access to safe water and sanitation, Mr. Guterres said, it’s important that we be ready to break taboos and speak when peoples’ lives are at risk.  Ensuring that everyone has access to clean drinking water and people have access to sanitation facilities so as to end the practice of open defecation is urgent if we are to achieve the overarching ambition of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

Mr. Guterres congratulated the Government of India for the enormous progress they have made in this area.  (See Press Release SG/SM/19271.)

The Secretary-General was then hosted by Prime Minister Modi for an official lunch.

Following the lunch, the Secretary-General held a bilateral meeting with Prime Minister Modi.  He thanked the Prime Minister for the strong cooperation between India and the United Nations, especially in the support given to his reform efforts at the United Nations.  The Secretary-General also underscored the leadership role that India played in South-South Cooperation.

The Secretary-General then addressed a group of young people at the India Habitat Centre.  He spoke to them about global challenges and answered their questions on a variety of topics.  He spoke of the challenges facing the international community, including lack of trust, growing attacks on multilateralism and climate change, to mention just a few.

Later in the afternoon, the Secretary-General was hosted for an official meeting by the Speaker of Lok Sabah, Sumitra Mahajan.  The Secretary-General congratulated the Speaker on all of the work Indian parliamentarians were doing to implement the Sustainable Development Goals.

His last activity of the day was to deliver remarks at a meeting of the first General Assembly of the International Solar Alliance.  He told the delegates at this meeting, initiated by India and France, that we still lack the political commitment to make the transformative decisions that lead to meeting the goals set out in the Paris Agreement.

The International Solar Alliance, Mr. Guterres said, is a welcome initiative.  Solar energy, he declared, is at the centre of the renewable energy revolution.  Solar energy, he noted, is competitive with and often cheaper than fossil fuels, even when fossil fuels still benefit from harmful subsidies.  (See Press Release SG/SM/19272.)

On Wednesday, 3 October, in New Delhi, the Secretary-General presented Prime Minister Modi with the 2018 Champions of the Earth Award.  In giving the award, the Secretary-General said that Prime Minister Modi was being honoured as a statesman who recognizes that climate change poses a direct existential threat and understands the enormous benefits of climate action.  This, the Secretary-General said, is the bold environmental leadership the world needs.  (See Press Release SG/SM/19275.)

Afterwards, the Secretary-General met with President Ram Nath Kovind, whom he thanked for his warm welcome.  The Secretary-General lauded the strong bonds between India and the United Nations.

Later in the afternoon, the Secretary-General and his delegation met with Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj over a working lunch.

Mr. Guterres then flew to the Indian city of Amritsar, where he visited the Golden Temple, his last stop in the country before heading back to New York.  He expressed his deep respect for the religion of the Sikh people and the wonderful Golden Temple in which the spirit of peace, tolerance and ecumenism is present.

During his visit to the site, the Secretary-General shared a meal in the Temple’s kitchen, which is the biggest community kitchen in the world, serving thousands of meals a day, 24 hours a day, and open to all.  In addition, no plastic is used in the kitchen; all implements are metal.  (See Press Release SG/SM/19274.)

The Secretary-General’s flight landed in New York early on Thursday morning, 4 October.

For information media. Not an official record.