SecretaryGeneral journeys to San Francisco site of first overseas visit

“I’m very touched to be able to visit this place, my second home,” he told journalists following the meeting. “I stayed eight days in this home with love and affection.”Asked about her impression of Mr. Ban, Mrs. Patterson told the UN News Service, “He’s as sincere now as he was at 18.”As a teenager, Ban Ki-moon scored top points on a nationwide English-writing exam as part of the competitive process to win a coveted chance to go to the United States in a trip sponsored by the Red Cross.From his rural hometown of Eumseong in the North Chungcheong Province, Republic of Korea, the young Ban Ki-moon took an unpaved road to the capital, Seoul, where he was selected to participate in the Red Cross’ VISTA programme (Visit of International Students to America) which would take 41 students representing 25 countries to different cities throughout the United States.Writing about the trip in Junior Red Cross, a Korean-language publication, Mr. Ban said, “I was so excited I felt I could grab the stars from the sky, but also concerned about how I should present myself to this new world.” He reminded himself to be “careful not to prejudge” the people he would encounter along the way. The first stop was San Francisco, where the eager foreign student crossed the Golden Gate Bridge to Marin County’s town of Novato along Highway 101. The fog resting over the span “is still in my eyes” Mr. Ban wrote in describing his trip to meet the Patterson family, which would host him during his short stay in the western state.Having difficulty with English, Ban Ki-moon asked the family to speak more slowly. The shared communication that ensued would continue over the decades to come. Mr. Ban’s meeting today with Mrs. Patterson was not a reunion of long-lost friends; the two were together last in 2006 before he became Secretary-General, maintaining a relationship that has taken each to the other side of the Pacific Ocean over the years. The 1962 visit included what Mr. Ban called in his Junior Red Cross essay the “great honour to meet with President Kennedy.” Meeting the President in person would have been “unimaginable,” wrote Mr. Ban, who had only seen the US leader in pictures and on television.The President greeted a few students, and Mr. Ban thought of saluting him but did not because there was no time. “I wished that could have happened,” he wrote, “but in vain.” Although he did not make any formal gesture at the time, Mr. Ban “was inspired to pursue his diplomatic career” during the meeting, his spokesperson, Choi Soung-ah, told the UN News Service. 26 July 2007The United Nations Secretary-General today met in San Francisco with the woman who, in 1962, hosted the young Ban Ki-moon when he was a student on the first stop in what would eventually develop into a life of international travel as part of his diplomatic career. read more

Yemen needs Security Council support to continue political transition UN envoy says

“The situation in Yemen remains fragile and many tasks lie ahead for the transition to succeed, and the risk for the violence to be averted. We must remain attentive to the continued attempt to obstruct the transition,” the UN Special Envoy for Yemen, Jamal Benomar, told journalists yesterday following a closed-door briefing to the Council.“While progress has been made and the transition remains largely on track, it is clear that there has been active resistance to the transition,” Mr. Benomar said, adding that “it is clear to whom these are attributable to.”The Council’s visit to Yemen last month, led by Ambassadors Mark Lyall Grant of the United Kingdom and Mohammed Loulichki of Morocco, was aimed at assessing progress in the political transition, and included talks with high-level political and military officials, as well as the UN Country Team.Yemen has been undergoing a democratic transition, with a Government of National Unity under the leadership of President Abdrabuh Mansour Hadi, who came to power in an election in February 2012 following protests that led to the resignation of former President Ali Abdullah Saleh.As part of the transition, Yemen is due to hold an all-inclusive national dialogue that will feed into a constitution-making progress, and pave the way for general elections to be held in 2014. Since the Council visit, Mr. Hadi announced that the dialogue would begin on 18 March.In his briefing, Mr. Benomar – who has made 18 visits to Yemen – reiterated that in addition to the political challenges, Yemenis face a humanitarian crisis. “I told the Council that while the bleeding has stopped on the economic contraction, Yemenis are still waiting to see tangible improvements in their daily lives. The Government needs to accelerate the establishment of a mechanism to absorb donor-funded programmes and the donors in return need to fulfil their commitments,” he said. The 2013 Yemen Humanitarian Response Plan urgently requires $716 million in order to provide emergency and early recovery assistance to 7.7 million of the country’s most needy – a 22 per cent increase in funding requirements compared with the 2012 response plan.The Council’s visit came as a ship containing weapons was seized in Yemeni waters. The Yemeni Government has requested the UN sanctions committee to investigate.“What I told the Council is that Yemen is awash with arms, light weapons, heavy weapons are available to private citizens and groups, and it is in this context that I talked about the ship and the shipment of arms,” Mr. Benomar said in response to journalists’ questions about the matter.“The Government made a request to the sanctions committee for a full investigation and this has been discussed by members of the Council, they will establish the facts on what happened, where the shipment came from, etc.” read more