United Nations Secretary-General takes in WHO work in the South Pacific

News release

AUCKLAND, New Zealand, 8 September 2011—United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon today completed a four-nation visit to the South Pacific in support of his top priority—sustainable development.

"The Secretary-General focused on the impact of climate change, gender empowerment, and the health of women and children," said Dr Shin Young-soo, WHO Regional Director for the Western Pacific, who served as a senior adviser on health during the trip.

The visit of the Secretary-General and his 17-member team included not only meetings with heads of government, parliamentary leaders and members of the political opposition, but also with United Nations agencies and development partners in Australia, Solomon Islands, Kiribati and New Zealand.

In addition, the United Nations chief visited communities and villages to get a first-hand look at the potential impact of climate change on the lives of those most likely to be affected by global warming and a rise in sea levels, such as the people of Kiribati, where the highest point of land is only a few metres above sea level.

Mr Ban and Dr Shin also took an aerial tour of Solomon Islands to get a better sense of the devastating toll warmer water has exacted on the surrounding coral reef.

The Secretary-General also advocated for the empowerment of women and the health of women and children—all issues that are key elements of sustainable development.

"The Secretary-General was able to familiarize himself with the excellent work of WHO in the Western Pacific Region," said Dr Shin. "He learned first-hand about the progress WHO and our Member States are making towards achievement of the Millennium Development Goals and our work with neglected diseases and with women and children's health."

The inclusion of Dr Shin as a member of the Secretary-General's team also helped raise the profile the WHO Regional Office for the Western Pacific within the United Nations family and with the national leaders Mr Ban met.

Mr Ban was the first United Nations Secretary-General to attend the annual meeting of the Pacific Islands Forum, held this year in Auckland. He urged leaders of the Forum to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, emphasizing that climate change remains one of the greatest threats to the security, well-being and livelihoods of people in the Region.

Mr Ban also called for urgent action to combat the rising tide of noncommunicable diseases—cancer, cardio vascular diseases, chronic respiratory aliments and diabetes—responsible for four out of every five deaths in the Western Pacific Region.

The Secretary-General will host world leaders in New York later this month at a United Nations General Assembly summit on noncommunicable diseases.

"Visiting these countries and meeting with Pacific leaders also helps ensure that the Western Pacific perspective is reflected during the summit," said Dr Shin.