[Dateline: Vientiane | Author: UN in Lao PDR/iSeek]
Secretary-General BAN Ki-moon last weekend made a historic visit to Vientiane, capital of Lao People's Democratic Republic, where he inaugurated a new UN House and addressed staff members on a wide range of issues, including UN Reform.
His visit was the first by a UN Secretary-General in almost 25 years.
More than 200 staff members from all UN agencies in Lao PDR gathered at the central open-air courtyard of the new UN House to hear the Secretary-General share his vision on UN Reform and cooperative working.
In response to questions during the staff forum, he encouraged collaboration among UN agencies in the spirit of UN Reform, saying it was the most effective means of promoting development.
The UN House in Vientiane, funded by the Lao Government, will house nine UN agencies.
The Secretary-General said the gesture “embodies the long history of cooperation and trust between the Lao Government and the United Nations — a relationship nurtured over more than half a century.”
On Saturday, Mr. BAN joined in the launching of the latest Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) Progress Report on Lao PDR's progress toward meeting the 2015 target, during which he addressed a gathering of government ministers, development partners and UN staff at the UN House.
The Secretary-General praised the Government for its commitment to achieving the MDGs, and the steady progress it had made in improving health, education and living standards. However, he stressed the scale of the challenges to be addressed. “There is a great deal to celebrate – but there is also cause for concern,” he said, highlighting high rates of child malnutrition and maternal mortality, and poverty rates in rural areas.
He described the new MDG report as a valuable tool for the Government and its development partners, and urged “greater investments in human development, the social sector and environmental sustainability,” to achieve the progress still required in several areas.
Mr. BAN also visited a centre providing health and other services to young people, and interacted with youth involved in peer-to-peer education on reproductive health, HIV/AIDS and other traditionally sensitive issues.
He expressed his delight to be in Lao PDR, and the continuing commitment of the UN to work with the Government and the people of that country towards achieving the MDGs.