23 May 2011

Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Secretary-General, at Commune for Internally Displaced in Abidjan,


Pledges United Nations Solidarity as Côte d’Ivoire Rebuilds


Following are UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s remarks at the Union des Eglises Evangeliques Services et Oeuvres (UEESO) internally displaced persons camp in the Cocody commune of Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire, yesterday, 22 May:

Thank you for giving me this chance to speak with you.

Few things are more precious than normal life — simply being able to live without worry, fear or want.  You have lost that.  Many of you have lost your homes or members of your families.  You have all been witness to terrible things.

For all this I am deeply sorry.  I want you to know that my heart is with you all.  That is why I am here — to express my solidarity with you, to offer help and hope that your lives will soon return to normal.

You know much of what we are already doing.  We are providing camps such as these with water, medicine and food; with shelter, sanitation and other basic services.  This assistance is available to everyone who needs our help — not just in camps, but anywhere.

I also know you want to return to your homes and communities, as soon as possible.  Let me say, however, that no one can force you to do so before you are ready.  This is a fundamental principle of international law.  Again, let me say clearly:  no one should feel that he or she must return home before he or she is ready.  Forced returns are against the law.  If any of you face pressure to do so, please report it to the appropriate officials.  Those officials will then talk to those applying the pressure.

Finally, I know it may be hard to see beyond the day-to-day struggles of life in this camp.  But please do not lose your hope.  Côte d'Ivoire is making a fresh start.  You have a new President — a President who takes office by the will of the people, supported by the entire international community.

The United Nations stood by your side during the recent crisis.  We will continue to stand by you as your country rebuilds.  Côte d’Ivoire is rich — rich in resources, and rich in the spirit of its people.  We will help you build democracy, create jobs and protect the human rights of all Ivorians.  I am confident that Côte d'Ivoire will once again become what it was not long ago — a pillar of strength, prosperity and peace for all of Africa.

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For information media • not an official record