ACTIVITIES OF THE SECRETARY-GENERAL IN SWEDEN,
STOCKHOLM, 12 –14 DECEMBER 2001
The Secretary-General arrived in Stockholm on Wednesday morning,
12 December, where he met with his fellow 2001 Nobel Prize Laureates at the Nobel Foundation. While the Peace Prize is given in Oslo, Norway, the rest of the Nobel Prizes are awarded in Stockholm.
At midday he went to the Parliament where he was greeted by Speaker Birgitta Dahl. He addressed a session of the Parliament, speaking extemporaneously primarily about Afghanistan and the Middle East. He reiterated his view that talks between the Palestinians and the Israelis should not wait for any period of calm, because it is when people are dying that you need most to hold peace talks. He then took questions from the Parliamentarians.
On the future role of the United Nations, he said he imagined the United Nations as an Organization that would put people at the centre of all it does. “Individuals can make a difference and they have a role to play”, he said. Among the priorities of the Organization, he mentioned the fight against poverty, girls’ education, and the search for a cure for AIDS. People must see that “there is a third party that cares”, an Organization that can give people strength and hope.
In response to a question on the fight against poverty, he stressed the importance of the upcoming conferences on financing for development and sustainable development, and the needs to increase development assistance, improve debt relief, reduce corruption, and strengthen institutions in order to attract foreign investment to developing countries.
He closed by paying tribute to his predecessor Dag Hammarskjöld who had been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize posthumously in 1961. He recalled the day he learned of Hammarskjöld’s death, just a few short months before the Secretary-General began his long United Nations career. “Dag gave a lot to me personally”, he said, “in the sense of being a role model. His courage, sincerity and determination moved me in that direction.”
The Speaker then hosted a luncheon in the Secretary-General’s honour.
In the afternoon, he met with Prime Minister Goran Persson.
After that meeting, the Secretary-General and the Prime Minister gave a press conference. The Prime Minister said they discussed the Middle East, Afghanistan, and the importance of the upcoming United Nations conferences on financing for development and sustainable development for invigorating the
dialogue between rich and poor countries. The Secretary-General added that those conferences must yield concrete results for the poor, repeating his line from the Nobel acceptance speech that the real divisions in the world are between the rich and the poor, the powerful and the powerless, free and fettered, privileged and humiliated. They then took a number of questions.
Asked his view on the possibility of the United States extending its war on terrorism to Iraq, “My position on that has been clear”, the Secretary-General responded, “that I don’t think it would be wise, and I should not advise it”. As a follow-up, he was asked about extending the war to Somalia. He replied that the Security Council resolution calls for the bringing to justice of those responsible for the 11 September attacks on the United States. “So far, all the evidence and indications we have is that they are in Afghanistan and that’s where this military effort has concentrated”, he said. “At this stage, I have no evidence or any reason to support the position that the war should be carried on into other areas. If there is evidence, I don’t have it.”
In the evening the Prime Minister hosted a dinner for the Secretary-General.
On Thursday, 13 December, the Swedish feast of Santa Lucia, the Secretary-General was awakened by a dozen young people, dressed in white robes and carrying candles, who sang traditional songs of the day, a festival of light during the darkest time of the year.
At midday, he and his wife Nane had lunch with Their Majesties The King and Queen of Sweden.
In the afternoon, he spoke with about two dozen representatives of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) at a meeting convened by the United Nations Association of Sweden. Talking to the press afterwards, he was asked his views of the latest violence in the Middle East. He responded, “I’m distressed about what’s going on in the region ... What is happening is serious”, he said, “and we need to continue and redouble our efforts to try and contain it before it gets completely out of hand”. The Secretary-General subsequently issued a statement through his Spokesman (see press release SG/SM/8078).
After that, he met with his Special Representative for Kosovo, Hans Haekkerup.
The Secretary-General returned to New York on Friday, 14 December.