5 March, 2010: Secretary-General meets with ECLAC staff in Santiago
[New York | Author: Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean ]
Shortly after arriving in Santiago, Chile on Friday, Secretary-General BAN Ki-moon visited the Headquarters of the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) to meet with staff members and check the premises, which were partially damaged after the 8.8 magnitude earthquake that struck the country on 27 February.
Speaking at a town hall meeting before hundreds of ECLAC staff and consultants, BAN Ki-moon said he was pleased to find everyone “safe and sound, but my heart is very heavy because of the many victims of the earthquake.”
The Secretary-General said this was a critical and challenging moment for the Chilean people, and he was in Santiago to express the United Nations’ strong support and offer his condolences and sympathies to the families of those who lost their lives.
He asked for a minute of silence for those who perished during the earthquake and thanked ECLAC Executive Secretary Alicia Bárcena and UN Resident Coordinator Enrique Ganuza as well as all Commission staff “for your strong commitment and hard work in a moment of difficulty.”
“I have come here,” he told ECLAC staff, “to see more clearly and get a fuller picture of the damage and destruction in order to take this information back to UN Member States.”
“Chile has expressed solidarity in many ways and showed extraordinary solidarity when Haiti was hit with an earthquake. Now the United Nations and the international community stand by the government and people of Chile in its time of need,” he remarked.
BAN Ki-moon commended President Michelle Bachelet’s leadership in reacting to the emergency as well as her government’s efforts to coordinate the response with President-elect Sebastián Piñera.
“It is a great example that shows that people can unite in times of difficulties,” he stated.
The Secretary-General then outlined the seven priority areas of the United Nations for 2010: the Millennium Development Goals, climate change, gender empowerment and ending violence against women, nuclear disarmament, peaceful resolution of conflicts in Africa and the Middle East, United Nations reform and promoting and protecting human rights.
The Secretary-General met on Friday afternoon with President Bachelet. Later in the evening, he is to attend a ceremony with young volunteers from a Catholic NGO that are set to go south to work in the devastated areas, and hold a bilateral meeting with President-elect Piñera.
On Friday night, he joins President Bachelet in the launching of a 24-hour telethon to be broadcast on national television to help raise US$30 million for earthquake victims.
Early on Saturday, the Secretary-General travels to Concepción, the second largest city in Chile over 300 miles south of Santiago, and the adjacent port of Talcahuano, two of the most devastated areas close to the epicenter, to see the extent of the damages there and meet with rescue workers and communities affected by the earthquake.
Before leaving Chile on Saturday evening, Secretary-General BAN Ki-moon will meet with the heads of the 15 United Nations agencies operating in Chile.