Ban Ki-moon visited ESCAP during first tour of Asia-Pacific

The Secretary-General of the United Nations, Ban Ki-moon, visited the Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) on 10 December on his way to the Bali climate change conference. He delivered a keynote address on climate change in which he called on developing countries to do their part in addressing the challenge.

It was Mr. Ban’s first visit to the Asia-Pacific region since becoming Secretary-General almost a year ago. “There can be no better place than Bangkok to begin a visit to Asia’, Mr. Ban told a gathering of about 800 staff members from nearly 30 Bangkok-based UN offices. “This, after all, is the UN’s own home base in Asia. ESCAP is not only one of our most active, most diverse and most important duty stations; it is also the largest UN body serving the Asia-Pacific region.”

He stressed the importance of regional cooperation in inclusive and sustainable development. “ESCAP is well placed to be the regional hub for promoting such inclusive development in Asia and the Pacific”, the Secretary-General said.

Mr. Ban is on an official visit to Thailand before attending the Bali conference. The wide-ranging speech touched upon climate change, UN reform, human rights – 10 December being the Human Rights Day, maintaining ethical standards at the UN, and staff mobility within the world organization.

Mr. Ban delivered a keynote address later in the day at a Dialogue on Climate Change, Green Growth and Inclusive Development, also held at ESCAP. He said that while the industrialized countries should take the lead as they carry the burden of historic responsibility for the climate change problem; this does not mean that developing countries should do nothing. “The credibility of the negotiations that begin in Bali hinges on the participation of major emitters in the developing world’, the Secretary-General told an audience of delegates of ESCAP member states, UN staff members, and representatives of civil society, academia and the press.

Mr. Ban highlighted the important contribution that countries of the Asia-Pacific region could make towards a breakthrough in Bali. “This vast area has many of the countries most vulnerable to climate change, and it already accounts for a third of global greenhouse gas emissions”, he said.

The Secretary-General added that the developing world needed to stop viewing climate change solely as an environmental issue, and begin approaching it as a development concern. He applauded ESCAP’s efforts to promote a Green Growth approach to development. “We all need to bring home the point that there needs not be a trade off between addressing climate change and pursuing development.”

To mark Human Rights Day, the Secretary-General opened an exhibition at the UN compound and unveiled the logo of a year-long campaign to mark the 60th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Mr. Ban also showed his support to the UN country team in Myanmar by joining in its meeting which took place in Bangkok.

Earlier in the day, at a joint press conference after meeting the Prime Minister of Thailand, Mr. Ban seized the occasion of Human Rights Day and urged Myanmar authorities once more to fully respect the principles and rules of the United Nations Charter by engaging with the international community, democratizing and promoting human rights.

The Secretary-General was asked about international action on Myanmar, and he said, “I know that the international community is very impatient, and our patience is running out.” He said that he will continue with the firm commitment to promote further dialogue in Myanmar, and he called the appointment of a liaison minister who is in contact with Aung San Suu Kyi, the opposition leader, “a good beginning”. Mr. Ban said the people of Myanmar had suffered from isolation for such a long time and it was high time they enjoyed genuine democracy and freedom.

The Secretary-General’s meeting with Prime Minister Surayudh Chulanont covered issues of mutual interest, including climate change, UN reform, global public health, the work of the Association of South-East Asian Nations (ASEAN) and the situation in Myanmar.

The Secretary-General and Mrs. Ban also had an hour-long audience with the King and Queen of Thailand.

Besides Bangkok and Bali, Mr. Ban’s first visit to Asia-Pacific will also take him to Dili and Jakarta.