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Development, drugs focus of talks between Ban Ki-moon and Colombian leader

Development, drugs focus of talks between Ban Ki-moon and Colombian leader

President Alvaro Uribe Vélez briefs journalists
Marking the first official meeting with a head of State at United Nations Headquarters in New York since taking office on 1 January, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon held talks with Colombian President Alvaro Uribe today.

In recounting the “very constructive meeting” with Mr. Ban to reporters, Mr. Uribe said, “we have expressed our support for the steps he wishes to take for the reform of the United Nations.”

He also reaffirmed Colombia’s commitment to the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), a set of goals to slash global ills such as poverty and illiteracy, and said that his country was on track to meet its targets before 2015.

The President also expressed his gratitude to various UN agencies for their support in his country. In particular, he and Mr. Ban agreed to extend the presence of the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) in Colombia.

Colombia’s ongoing challenge to eliminate illicit drugs was among the topics discussed, and Mr. Uribe asked for the world body’s continued support in the country’s “ambitious project” to eradicate them. He mentioned several steps being taken, such as spraying herbicides on drug crops to stem drug trafficking. Another initiative is a subsidy for 50,000 families farming in the rainforest to refrain from planting drugs which has the added benefit of curbing deforestation of the Amazon.

The meeting coincides with today’s appeal by the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) to all armed groups in Colombia to desist from attacking civilians caught in the crossfire of a four-decade-long conflict between Government, leftist rebels and right-wing paramilitaries that has displaced approximately 3 million people.

More than 170,000 have been forced from their homes in the past year, according to the Colombian Government, and internally displaced persons (IDPs) comprise 8 per cent of the country’s total population.

Last Friday, the agency joined forces with more than 130 national and international organizations and the Government to launch the 2007 Campaign for the Rights of Displaced People in Colombia.

Despite declining numbers of people fleeing their homes yearly, “we still have displacement and we ought to undertake every possible effort so that Colombia will finally be able to say to the world that we have put an end to displacement,” Mr. Uribe said. He pointed to a tenfold increase in funds to combat this problem as a positive step forward.