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March 17, 11

NEWS / UN chief allocates funds to support peacebuilding efforts in Guatemala

17 March 2011 – Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has announced a $10 million contribution from the United Nations Peacebuilding Fund to support efforts to entrench the respect of human rights and strengthen the security and justice systems in Guatemala.

“Durable peace, in Guatemala and elsewhere, depends not only on a formal end to military hostilities. It often requires fundamental structural transformations that address the tensions that give rise to conflict in the first place,” Mr. Ban said at the launch of the UN Peacebuilding Fund’s engagement in Guatemala City late yesterday.

The Fund was set up in 2006 to support efforts to augment peace and stability in countries emerging from conflict.

“We are all aware of how hard Guatemala has worked in pursuit of lasting peace and full implementation of the Peace Accords signed 15 years ago,” said Mr. Ban. “We are here today to seize this momentum and bolster the country’s peacebuilding efforts,” he said, adding that the country’s civil society must be an active participant in the process.

The Secretary-General said he looked forward to working closely with the people of Guatemala to fulfil their aspirations for peace, development and dignity.

At a separate function, Mr. Ban inaugurated a memorial in honour of Guatemalan soldiers who have died while serving in UN peacekeeping missions.

“This is a day for their loved ones, the wives and mothers, the other family members and friends who still live with the sadness. This is a day for Guatemala, to mourn these heroes but also to be proud of their lasting contribution to peace,” Mr. Ban said of the 11 soldiers honoured yesterday.

He said the courageous Guatemalans were also members of the UN family. “We mourn along with you,” he said, adding that the departed had shown what the UN stood for.

“Let us remember their courage, their sacrifice, and their dedication to the ideals of the United Nations Charter,” said the Secretary-General.

Eight of the men died in an ambush in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). Mr. Ban urged Congolese authorities to bring the perpetrators of the “outrageous and cowardly attack to justice.”

“In that incident and so many others, we see the grave risks that accompany United Nations peacekeeping. But there are also enormous rewards. Peacekeepers protect civilians. They take streets back from gangs. They move whole societies from chaos to calm,” he added.

More than 300 Guatemalan peacekeepers are currently deployed in six UN peacekeeping missions, with large contingents in serving in Haiti and DRC.

Mr. Ban also met with the leaders of many Central American States – Costa Rica, Belize, El Salvador, Panama, the Dominican Republic and Honduras – while in Guatemala, during which he briefed them on the unfolding events in the Middle East and North Africa, especially Libya.

“Arab leaders must heed the voices of their people. There is no place for violence. Excessive force against non-combatants, the civilian population, is a crime against humanity under international law. Those responsible will be held accountable,” the Secretary-General told a news conference in Guatemala City.

Mr. Ban announced that he will today travel to Tunisia and Egypt, where political changes are under way after the people took to the streets and forced long-serving rulers out of power.

“Tunisia’s new leaders have worked with their people in a spirit of dialogue and cooperation. Together, they have agreed on a road-map to a common democratic future. Egypt, too, is moving forward in a similar spirit. For each of these brave peoples, the road ahead will be hard,” the Secretary-General said.

On Japan, Mr. Ban said the UN was closely following the aftermath of the apocalyptic earthquake, especially the state of emergency at the country’s nuclear power plants. He said he spoke with the Prime Minister of Japan yesterday who assured him that the country was making efforts to bring the situation at the stricken nuclear plant under control.

“With all of these natural disasters, which we have seen, starting with Haiti and Chile and Pakistan, now in Japan, the leaders of the world should pay more attention and give priority in their policies in making disaster risk reduction preparations,” Mr. Ban said.

His discussions with the region leaders also touched on the situation in Haiti where, he said, the recovery and reconstruction efforts, initiated in the aftermath of the last year’s massive earthquake, are gathering momentum. The cholera epidemic is being brought under control, he added.

“I also expressed the hope and expectation that the run-off presidential and legislative elections [in Haiti] will proceed smoothly in a credible, objective and democratic way. We all want to assist in reconstruction and development in Haiti. For that, the country needs a stable and effective government,” the Secretary-General told reporters.

The meeting between Mr. Ban and the regional leaders also dwelt at length on how Central American governments are working to consolidate democracy and the challenges of tackling organized crime and impunity.

He said the UN initiative against impunity in Guatemala had generated considerable interest from other countries which are considering adopting the model.

They also discussed the challenges of poverty and inequality, and touched on how fiscal reform and increased investment in State services can help improve people’s standard of living.

The issue of climate change and sustainable development also came up, with the Secretary-General stressing that each country needs national prevention and preparedness strategies to cope with the inevitable impact, taking into account the region’s vulnerability to hurricanes.

“The United Nations stands ready to continue to assist [on] all these issues – peace, justice and human rights; poverty reduction; education; food and nutrition security; women’s and children’s health; and increasing resilience to economic shocks and natural disasters,” Mr. Ban said.

The Secretary-General held bilateral meetings with the President of Honduras, Porfirio Lobo; the Vice-President of the Dominican Republic, Rafael Alburquerque de Castro; the Prime Minister of Belize, Dean Barrow; and the Foreign Minister of El Salvador, Hugo Martínez Bonilla.




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