Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic

16 July 2014

Secretary-General's address to joint session of congress

Muchas gracias por su cálida bienvenida.

Es un privilegio visitar esta bella tierra  ... de bachata ... y béisbol!

Alemania  ganó la Copa Mundial de Futbol. 

Pero ustedes son los campeones del Clásico Mundial de Béisbol.  Felicitaciones!

And you are a top producer of Major League Baseball talent – from Juan Marichal and Pedro Martínez to David Ortiz and Robinson Cano to young players of Dominican heritage like Platinum Glove winner Manny Machado.

The list goes on and on.  But I know Quisqueyanos have made their mark in so many fields around the world.

We hear it in the music of Juan Luis Guerra. 

We read it in the literature of Junot Díaz. 

We see it in the contributions of intellects such as Judge Olga Herrera Carbuccia, as she serves on the International Criminal Court.

And we mark it every year on the 25th of November around the world. 

Thanks to the leadership of the Dominican Republic at the United Nations, the United Nations General Assembly designated this the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women.

It is in tribute to the Mirabal sisters who were so brutally murdered on that day more than half a century ago.

Their memory lives on in our commitment to end all gender-based and sexual violence here and in all corners of the world.

Honorable Members of Congress,

I am especially pleased and honoured to be among you, the distinguished representatives of the people of the Dominican Republic. This is the place where the voices of your people are being heard and reflected in your legislative work. And I thank you. You have my deepest admiration and respect as Parliamentarians of this great country.

As Secretary-General of the United Nations, I reach out to Parliamentarians wherever I go.

I recognize your fundamental role. 

You ratify treaties.  You approve budgets.  You pass legislation that translates international obligations into national commitments. 

You are the critical bridge between the local, national and international. You are the bridge builders between the United Nations and the Dominican Republic and I thank you for your leadership and commitment.

This is an important time for us to come together.

Our world is facing many difficult challenges at this time from security and peace issues, from development and human rights issues. There are many burning fires that we need to put out immediately. A warming planet caused by climate change. Growing inequality between the richest and poorest, and between old and young and among the people. Rising insecurity. Terrible upheaval in the Middle East, the Central African Republic, South Sudan – all these places which are taking the headlines of our news daily.

At the same time, we face a pivotal moment to chart a future of more opportunity, more dignity for human beings and more hope for people and our fragile planet.

The Dominican Republic is helping achieve our collective ambitions across the three pillars of the United Nations Charter. That is peace and security, development and human rights.

Allow me today, ladies and gentlemen, to briefly address these three priorities. 

Let me first begin with the issue of development. 

At the turn of our new century, in 2000, the new millennium, the world leaders gathered at the United Nations and declared their vision for humankind. This is called the Millennium Development Goals – a 15-year global blueprint to fight first of all poverty.

We are now less than 550 days away to meet the targets. The deadline comes December 31 next year.

The world has achieved much – and the Dominican Republic has made important contributions. 

You have cut by half the number of people of poor people in just less than 10 years. And you have lifted a lot of people from hunger and undernourishment.

You have reduced extreme poverty in all parts of your country.

You have lowered HIV rates and moved closer to universal access to antiretroviral treatment.

More girls are in school.  More women are in positions of power, including the Vice-President. And I met a many [women] congress persons here. I would like to see more woman congress persons here. I see that again in many places of your society including this august chamber.

Yesterday, President Danilo Medina asked me for assistance with Dominican efforts to expand education and equal opportunities, create decent jobs and combat exclusion and inequality. The United Nations is ready to work with the Dominican Government and people and with your chambers in these crucially important areas.

As you know, more efforts are needed to take on the difficult challenge of reducing maternal and child mortality.

I salute your investment in the future by dedicating four per cent of the Gross Domestic Product for education. I commend highly the far-sighted vision of President Medina for his wise investment in education. I have initiated the Global Education First initiative together with the UNESCO Director-General and together with Mr. Gordon Brown, former UK Prime Minister, because I believe that education provides a foundation in our own work to achieve and address many global challenges which we are facing. And I am very encouraged that you are investing wisely in education.

I look to your continued leadership in the crucial period ahead as we define the post-2015 development agenda aiming at 2030 and also working together and working hard to reach a global legal agreement on climate change.

This island nation is particularly vulnerable to natural disasters and climate change.
I encourage you to keep showing strong leadership in regional efforts to tackle these development challenges.

I thank you for your resolve, including through the Chamber of Deputies’ Permanent Commission of Human Development – the first such body in a Latin American Parliament. 

Honorable Members of Congress,

As we work to advance development, we must renew our shared promise to protect human rights, to promote human dignity of all the people around the world. This is our second priority.

Juan Pablo Duarte, the great founder of your country, put it best. 

He said:  “Sed justos lo primero, si quereis ser felices”. “Be just, first of all, if you want to be happy.” This is what he said.

We have a common responsibility to establish the conditions for  justice and respect for international law.

I commend this Congress for adopting legislation that seeks to address the human problem facing thousands of Dominican-born persons of foreign descent.

I recognize the personal dedication and leadership of President Danilo Medina in the promotion of this new legislation. 

This represents an important step toward the recognition of the Dominican nationality of these individuals.

I know there is more work ahead and it is not easy.  It requires commitment and heavy consultation.  It requires your compassion as a human being and as a leader of this country.

Please continue your hard work to reach consensus to resolve statelessness, protect the rights of all affected persons and prevent the deprivation of nationality.

Honorable Members of Congress,

Third, maintaining peace and stability is a central purpose of the United Nations.

I have just come from a moving visit to Haiti, your neighbour country.

I thank the Dominican Republic, Government and people, for your major contributions to your neighbor, particularly since the 2010 tragic earthquake in Haiti. 

I deeply appreciate your support to the United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti, MINUSTAH.

The United Nations will remain fully committed to Haiti and to regional stability.

In the coming months, I will present my own recommendations to the Security Council on the United Nations future presence in Haiti.

We will do our utmost to preserve the gains in peace and stability.

I count on the continued support of the Dominican State for these efforts.

Strong bilateral relations between Haiti and the Dominican Republic are critical to mutual prosperity and economic development.

The potential economic gains from trade, investment and economic relations for both countries are enormous –as the CODEVI industrial development programme along the border has shown.

I commend the leaders of the Dominican Republic and Haiti for launching a high-level initiative to bolster bilateral relations and a bi-national dialogue.

The United Nations is honoured to serve as an observer.

This process has yielded progress across a range of complex issues – including trade, cooperation against organized crime, and customs matters.

I encourage both countries to keep strengthening dialogue and promoting closer political and economic ties.

Immigration is also fundamental.  I know you are working to improve the lives of migrants.

I also salute the support of partners to help accelerate this process and ease the burden for the most vulnerable people.

Let us work to make sure that all the men, women and children of Hispaniola have the chance to live a life of dignity.

Honorable Members of Congress,

I have just mentioned the 3 pillars -- development, peace and security and human rights. Some may wonder which is more important over the other. There have been constant questions whether human rights come first before development or political stability. But these are all interconnected. Without peace and security, you cannot promote economic development. Without human rights and human dignity, you can never claim that you are living in a harmonious and peaceful society. Therefore, all these three pillars of the United Nations Charter must be promoted and addressed comprehensively and all together. This is the firm vision of the United Nations.

I firmly believe that the power of a country is not measured by the size of its population or its economy or by the size of the territory.

It is measured by the heart of its people and the strength of its commitment to build a better future. When you have a broad and big heart, you can solve all these problems. Through your compassionate leadership, through your passion and compassion, we will really make this world better for all.

That heart beats strong in this country, in this great country. I am very much grateful for your compassionate leadership.

I have seen it on my visit – and I have seen it over many years on my job.

Four years ago, I went to a park along the river –East River -- just across from the United Nations. 

I met an amazing man four years ago. That year, I proposed to convene a world summit meeting on the Millennium Development Goals.

His name – he is [from] the Dominican Republic -- is Marcos Diaz.  You might know him by his other name -- the “Dominican Dolphin”!

That day, Marcos swam from the Statue of Liberty to the United Nations headquarters. 

That is an impressive feat in itself.  But it was only the final leg of a remarkable journey of swimming between five continents around the world.  He swam five continents.

He swam from Papua New Guinea to Indonesia; from Jordan to Egypt; from Morocco to Spain; from Russia to Alaska.

He did it for one reason:  to inspire the world to take action to fight poverty and meet the Millennium Development Goals.

In the process, the “Dominican Dolphin” helped show how small our world really is and how closely connected we are.

Let us take that strength from his example. 

One person with determination and imagination can make a difference.  One country with dedication and solidarity can move the whole world.

I expect the Dominican Republic and your people [to] show such strong dedication and solidarity in addressing the seemingly impossible challenges that we have.

Together, we can make change happen – and as Marcos told me “We have to make the change happen soon.”

Let that be our motto.

“A lo que vinimo” …  a trabajar!

Muchas gracias.