7 March 1996

Press Release


19960307 Following is the text, translated from the Spanish, of the statement made by the Chief of the Federal District Department, Oscar Espinosa Villareal, at the ceremony to present the keys to Mexico City and a certificate of honorary citizenship to Secretary-General Boutros Boutros- Ghali, on 5 March:

The Government of Mexico City is honoured to receive, here in the City Council Chamber, a man of his time who has steered the United Nations on a wise and steady course in this era of globalization, as new actors are playing a significant role on the international scene.

We welcome you, your wife, and your entourage with the hospitable and heartfelt warmth of a people which understands the virtues of consensus- building through dialogue and which has done its utmost to contribute to the Organization's efforts to attain the goal of a world free from the scourge of war, in which international cooperation becomes the standard mechanism for strengthening well-rounded development in order to eradicate poverty and promote a better quality of life.

This year, which the United Nations has declared the International Year for the Eradication of Poverty, is one which we in Mexico have taken especially to heart.

The Government of President Zedillo has made a clear commitment to the country's marginalized population in carrying out a social policy that fosters and expands opportunities for individual and community betterment, in accordance with the principles of equity and justice.

To join in this national effort, the government of Mexico City designed and implemented a comprehensive social policy geared towards devising actions and programmes that have a direct impact on social well-being, in the fields of education, health, nutrition, culture and recreation, sports, welfare and urban improvement.

We believe that the eradication of poverty on a global scale will be achievable only if cooperation for development in this area is intensified and deepened. I am very pleased to inform you that the government of this, our

capital city, participates fully in the mechanisms instituted by Mexico's Ministry of Foreign Affairs to cooperate with equally developed and relatively less developed countries. One such mechanism is the programme of cooperation between Mexico City and the Central American capital cities, announced in mid-February by President Zedillo.

On the other hand, we are also recipients of cooperation. The government of Mexico City has received technical support from a number of specialized agencies of the United Nations system, with which it has worked on common concerns.

Notable in this regard are the various studies and actions concerning children which have been carried out with support from the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) and which have placed special emphasis on the problem of street children. We have also collaborated with the World Health Organization (WHO), the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) on issues related to drinking water, the restoration of our historic district and the Xochimilco project.

We have also received support from the World Bank to strengthen the actions being taken by Mexico City's government in the fields of transport and improvement of air quality in the Mexico City metropolitan area.

We are certain that, together, we will discover new topics and issues through which we can deepen and diversify our relations in the United Nations system, particularly in this year of the United Nations Conference on Human Settlements (Habitat II), which you have fittingly called the "City Summit" and at which participants will discuss issues of primary importance for the future of mankind, such as:

-- The need to make the world's urban areas healthy, safe, just and sustainable;

-- Improving the living conditions of populations through new and more effective investments in urban development and housing; and

-- Increasing awareness of the role played by cities, especially large and medium-sized ones.

I know that we agree, Mr. Secretary-General, that these issues are crucial for humankind, since it is well known that, today, nearly half of the world's population lives in cities, while it is projected that over two thirds of all people will live in urban areas by the year 2025.

Mexico City will, of course, play the role incumbent on it at this Summit meeting. To that end, we have participated actively in two of the four

- 3 - Press Release SG/SM/5916 7 March 1996

organizations that make up the "4 Plus" group, which was established in 1994 to raise awareness of the role played by local governments in planning and managing human settlements.

Our participation in international associations of major cities has enabled us to learn how other cities tackle the problems common to all large agglomerations. Conversely, it has also allowed us to give other metropolises and megalopolises the benefit of our experience, thereby setting up a constructive dialogue that revolves around the need to work together to improve the living conditions of city dwellers.

The Federal District, which covers nearly 1,500 square kilometres, forms part of a metropolitan area comprising over 3,000 square kilometres of built- up area. It has a population of over 8 million inhabitants, while the metropolitan area, as a whole, has a population approaching 16 million.

According to the United Nations, by the year 2015 the Mexico City metropolitan area will occupy tenth place among the world's largest cities, with 19 million inhabitants. So, we have a responsibility to work to solve the immediate problems while remaining fully aware that our goals have to take into account what this city may become in the new millennium.

With the establishment of our urban development programme for the Federal District, which, at this very time, is the subject of public consultations, we want to lay the foundations for the recovery of growth and development to ensure full enjoyment for those who will inhabit this magnificent site in the twenty-first century. Meanwhile, we are under pressure to meet our citizens' basic needs: the supply of 35 cubic metres of water per second, the collection of 11,000 tons of refuse every day and the maintenance of 137 kilometres of underground sewers and 9,000 kilometres of roads, as well as our 343,000 street lights.

It has not been an easy task to begin the reorganization of transportation in a city in which our metro alone, with its 10 lines and 154 stations, transports nearly 5 million passengers every day; this system is surpassed in size only by the underground railway systems of London, New York, Paris, Moscow and Sydney. In terms of the number of passengers carried, we rank third among the world's 87 metro systems.

In addition, we are facing the challenge of becoming a competitive city after long decades of protectionism. All the sectors which make up this great city have joined efforts to consolidate the transformation of its economic activities. We are, in fact, a predominantly service-oriented city, in which manufacturing and industry take second place and have to respect the environmental restrictions of the valley of Mexico.

- 4 - Press Release SG/SM/5916 7 March 1996

I am pleased to note that the rate of social and economic marginalization in the Federal District is the lowest in Mexico. Even so, much remains to be done to attain the situation of equality and social justice to which we all aspire.

We are continuing to build housing for the neediest families, and we are striving to encourage and promote the creation of jobs and to train the unemployed. We empathize with the difficult situation of many families in our city, but we are convinced that positive macroeconomic indicators will soon be reflected in the household economy, which has been so adversely affected by the crisis.

We want to strengthen ourselves as a viable city, worthy of being lived in and enjoyed. In order to achieve this aspiration, we are pushing ahead with laws on such sensitive issues as the lack of safety that is currently afflicting our inhabitants. We are aware that this is perhaps our biggest challenge in the short term.

The challenges confronted every day by this great city are formidable. We know, however, that we can count on the United Nations and its specialized agencies to work together on common concerns.

In order to underscore this link, which will undoubtedly be strengthened and consolidated with the passage of time, I am pleased to take this opportunity to make official the decision taken by the authorities of Mexico City to name one of its public areas "United Nations Square".

Mr. Secretary-General of the United Nations, in the distinguished presence of the legislative and judicial authorities of Mexico City, allow me to present you with a scroll in which we declare you a Distinguished Guest, as well as with the key and medallion of the city. They are a token that your visit will remain engraved in our memories.

Mr. and Mrs. Boutros-Ghali, we hope that you will carry away with you in your hearts the warmth and affection of the Mexican people, especially those who inhabit this city which has been so honoured during these days by your illustrious and distinguished presence.

* *** *

For information media. Not an official record.