26 February 2015

Address to National Congress of Paraguay

Ban Ki-moon

Buenos días, es un honor estar con ustedes durante mi primera visita a su hermoso país.

Me siento profundamente honrado de ser el primer Secretario General de las Naciones Unidas que visita el Paraguay en más de 50 años. Y estoy orgulloso de hacerlo durante el 70o aniversario de las Naciones Unidas.

Llego con ansias de saber más sobre su gran país … de oír los sonidos de los arpistas paraguayos, famosos en el mundo entero… ¡y, por supuesto, de disfrutar de una chipa recién hecha y de un tereré frío!

Much has changed in Paraguay since the visit of my predecessor Secretary-General Dag Hammarskjold in 1959.

The military dictatorships of the past are now history.

Democracy has come into force. Civil society is growing ever stronger. And you are reaching out to the world.

Paraguay is a leader in promoting regional integration and the ideals that are at the heart of the United Nations Charter.

MERCOSUR was established through the Treaty of Asunción.

Last year, Paraguay hosted the General Assembly of the Organization of American States.

And, of course, your commitment to regional integration is clear through your leadership in a vital issue that unites all the people of South America – football!

Paraguay is the host of the Headquarters of the South American Football Confederation, CONMEBOL.

Our world has also changed much since the last visit of a Secretary-General.

We are a younger world – with half of the population under the age of 25. We are a mobile and technologically connected world. We are an increasingly urban world.

We face multiple crises – continuing bloodshed in Syria, tumult in Ukraine, Ebola disease in Africa. Intolerance is growing. And violent extremism is rising.

No country or organization can defeat terrorism and extremism on its own. All countries -- along with regional and international organizations as well as political, religious, academic and civil society leaders -- should join hands together to forge a multi-faceted response that respects international human rights and humanitarian law.

In the coming months, I will bring together faith leaders to the United Nations to reaffirm the importance of solidarity, tolerance and understanding.

We are increasingly seeing terrorism, drug trafficking and transnational crime grow in intensity and feed off each other.

We know that transnational organized crime networks fuel violence, spread corruption and undermine democratic institutions and the rule of law.

Here in Paraguay, the United Nations is working with you to combat organized crime and illicit trafficking; and enhance justice and transparency.

I welcome your Parliament’s efforts to counter illicit drug production and trafficking and efforts to revise the antinarcotics law.

I know that your country will also play an active role as the world prepares for next year’s General Assembly Special Session on the world drug problem.

I am especially honoured to address you from this Chamber because parliamentarians are central to building a stronger Paraguay and a better world.

Congress is a vital forum for dialogue and inclusive solutions.

Congress has the power to approve legislation and ratify treaties that translate international norms into national commitments.

Congress gives voice to the aspirations and needs of your people. They count on their legislators to ensure their right to enjoy democracy, respect of the rule of law and the full respect of their human rights and fundamental freedoms.

The United Nations counts on Paraguay, as well.

Paraguay is a founding member of our Organisation. Seventy years later, you are making a difference across the range of our work.

Brave Paraguayans are serving as UN peacekeepers in eight places of need around the world.

I am particularly grateful for the outstanding performance of Paraguayan troops serving with MINUSTAH, in Haiti.

When Haiti was hit with its worst earthquake in centuries, Paraguayan engineers played a life-saving role in clearing away rubble and despair.

Paraguay has served as a member of the Security Council and the Economic and Social Council.

This year, Paraguay began its three-year term on the Human Rights Council. I am encouraged that your country will focus on advancing the rights of women and children.

Paraguay has shown exceptional global leadership in another crucial area of international development – the special challenges of landlocked countries, such as remoteness from major markets and high transport costs.

The great Paraguayan writer Augusto Roa Bastos described Paraguay as “an island surrounded by land”.

But being locked in land should not mean being locked out of opportunity.

You have made good progress in expanding opportunities and reducing poverty for more of your people, as recognized by the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean.

Maternal and child care has improved. More Paraguayans have access to clean water and primary health care.

Big global challenges remain – to address inequality and insecurity, deepen democracy, enhance the quality of education, and respect and protect the rights of all regardless of gender, ethnicity, culture, religion or sexual orientation.

Now is our moment to take on these challenges.

The year 2015 presents a once-in-a-generation opportunity for people and our planet.

In this pivotal year, we will reach the target date of the Millennium Development Goals – and we can adopt a new generation of sustainable development goals in September, and approve a meaningful, universal climate agreement in Paris in December.

We are the first generation that can end poverty. We are the last generation that can avoid the worst effects of climate change.

Earlier today, I visited the impressive ITAIPU Hydroelectric dam. I know Paraguay is leading by example. You are a champion of sustainable energy. All of your electricity comes from hydropower.

But you are also feeling the effects of climate change – from more flooding to longer droughts. We need your continued leadership in this crucial area and other vital development issues.

As Paraguay has often reminded the regional and global community – we need “Development with Social Inclusion”.

That means ensuring that indigenous communities have the chance to fully develop, including through access to land.

The United Nations Special Rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples recently visited this country. We stand ready to assist you in acting upon those recommendations.

Development with social inclusion means empowering women.

From Paraguay, I will go to Chile to take part in an international conference on the importance of women in power.

We need more women at the decision-making table in all spheres of life – in business, in politics, and, yes, in Parliament.

I thank you for your strong support for international conventions to end discrimination and violence against women. Your national laws promote and protect women’s rights.

But here in Paraguay – as it is throughout the world -- gaps between law and practice remain. Those gaps must be closed. No country, no society, can make the most of its potential if half of its people are held back.

We must also do our utmost to fully engage young people who represent well over half of Paraguay’s population.

Allow me to conclude by recognizing one other very special contribution Paraguay has given to the global community.

It started almost 60 years ago, with a visionary man and a simple but profound idea.

He said there is there is something far stronger than the forces of animosity and hatred in our world – and that is the power of the human spirit – the power of friendship.

He knew that just as friendship builds bridges between people – it can inspire peace around the world.

And so he launched the International Friendship Crusade in 1958.

Today, that visionary son of Paraguay is with us. Thank you, Dr. Ramón Bracho!

I am proud that during my tenure as Secretary-General – and with Paraguay’s leadership -- the United Nations General Assembly approved Dr. Brachos’ idea.

And now on July 30 each year, the International Day of Friendship is commemorated around the globe.

What a remarkable way for Paraguay to share your spirit with the world.

I am so proud to be here to convey my deepest thanks for all of your support and solidarity.

I say this as United Nations Secretary-General – and even more as a friend.

Muchas gracias, Paraguay.