Their Majesties King Harald V and Queen Sonja visited Geneva 4 April, prior to the official State visit to Switzerland 5-6 April. King Harald and Queen Sonja visited WHO, UNCHR and CERN during their stay. At the WHO they were briefed by Director General Dr Lee about avian flu and other health related issues. They also had talks with Dr Peter Piot, Excecutive Director of UNAIDS; Dr Richard Feachem, Executive Director of the Global Fund, and Mr Mark Hofstetter from GAVI. At the UNCHR they were briefed by HC Guterres about the situation in Darfur, Chad and DRC. They also met Jacques Forster, vice-president of the ICRC and Ms Yvette Stevens, Head of OCHA's Geneva-office. The visit to CERN included briefings by DG Aymar and Prof. Steinar Stapnes, as well as a visit to the ATLAS-project.
King Harald's address at the luncheon to the heads and representatives of the multilateral agencies in Geneva, Norwegian consuls in la Suisse Romande and and Norwegian business representatives, focused on Geneva's role as a humanitarian capital and a centre for health, human rights and trade issues.
Ladies and gentlemen,
It gives me great pleasure to be here to day. In recent years I have had the privilege to visit this country several times for winter- and ski enjoyment. Thus I have been able to enjoy the country’s splendid hospitality, its magnificent scenery, the commitment to the protection of nature and the pride with which the country preserves the traditions and the national identity.
Geneva itself is also a city of extraordinary charm, history and culture. The city captivates the visitor and is blessed with the most beautiful geographical surroundings. The city’s hospitality, generosity and wisdom have made Geneva a centre of the world.
In many ways Geneva is the humanitarian capital of today’s world, housing a variety of UN institutions and organisations. The city is also the home of the International Red Cross movement. These are important partners in the implementation of Norwegian humanitarian policies.
As the capital of the World Health Organization and a number of other health agencies Geneva plays an important role in providing hope and better life expectations for millions of people all over the world. Norway certainly appreciates all the work that is being done in tackling global health hazards, like the avian flu we now are experiencing.
By addressing issues ranging from health, human rights and labour standards to trade, telecommunications and meteorology you contribute to bringing hope to the entire world. Politically and historically this city has served as a meeting place and mediator in Europe. When the cold war was at its coldest Geneva was the haven where the East and West could meet and try to agree on mutual solutions. Needless to say, this was of particular importance to smaller countries like my own.
Geneva is also a centre of science and technology. The European Centre for Nuclear Research has provided the world with impressive scientific results. A large number of Norwegian scientists have participated in this work and we will continue to be a partner for the Centre whose activities are of great importance, not least for the health sectors of our societies.
Norway, as a strong advocate for multilateral action, takes special interest in the characteristic features of Geneva. Our humanitarian tradition has deep roots in Norwegian society, symbolized by for instance Fridtjof Nansen, the first High Commissioner for Refugees.
I have earlier today had the opportunity to meet several representatives of the multilateral institutions here in Geneva. I’m happy to see many of you here again around these tables.
I must admit that I am impressed by the devotion, competence and enthusiasm I have met throughout the day. My impression is that the backbone of the different organizations’ action is the rank and file in the field; - namely the protection officers, the nurses, the medical doctors, the camp administrators and the support staff. I take this opportunity to convey my greetings to all these relief and development workers in the field. I admire the efforts, which sometimes take place under risky and dangerous circumstances.
Six years ago I had the pleasure of participating in the Millennium Summit in New York. The international community then agreed on the Millennium Development Goals to reduce poverty and human suffering by 2015. There is no doubt that we must perform better to achieve these goals. The challenge is to act in a mutually reinforcing manner, not to use the lack of progress in one area as an excuse for not moving forward in another. We need to reinforce our commitments, and to intensify the efforts needed to reach the goals. Your contribution, both today and in the years to come, is essential in obtaining this.
Thank you again for this opportunity to meet you. Through contact and exchange of ideas the understanding of each other deepens and one’s own values are put into perspective. I appreciate this encounter and I wish you all the best in your future challenges.