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Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon

UN Headquarters

11 November 2008


Opening remarks at monthly press conference

Good morning, ladies and gentlemen.

It is a great pleasure to join you for this month’s press conference. I will make brief remarks, and, as usual, I would be very happy to answer your questions.

First of all, the global financial crisis continues to be foremost in our minds. This coming Saturday, I will attend the G-20 Summit in Washington, D.C. I will be bringing three messages: First, we must do everything we can to alleviate the impact of the crisis on the world’s poorest and most vulnerable people. This is clearly a question of will. The sums being spent to mitigate the crisis are already vastly more than the amounts allocated for ODA (official development assistance). Second, we need to address the systemic roots of the crisis. Third, the crisis is also an opportunity to address climate change. At a time of growing economic hardship, green growth can create millions of jobs.

I will be carrying the same messages to the Financing for Development conference that opens later this month in Doha, Qatar. People around the world will be looking for a signal that aid will flow, and that opportunities will grow.

Let me turn now to [the African Union Regional Summit on] the situation in the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo and the Great Lakes region, which I attended last Friday in Nairobi. The summit issued a statement calling on all armed groups in North Kivu to observe an immediate ceasefire. It also decided to field a team of facilitators, which will report to the AU chair, the regional chair, and the Secretary-General of the United Nations. I left Nairobi somewhat encouraged by these steps. The Heads of State were frank with each other.

Presidents [Paul] Kagame and [Joseph] Kabila joined other regional leaders around the table for the discussions, which touched on some of the most difficult aspects of the situation. I am heartened that Rwanda and the DRC continue to discuss the crisis between themselves.

Everyone has a better sense of what needs to be done at this time. For this reason I welcome the decision by Southern African leaders of SADC (the Southern African Development Community) to provide immediate military and humanitarian aid, as well as their diplomatic initiatives to come up with a regional solution to these urgent military and political problems.

But first and foremost, we must stabilize the situation on the ground and end this needless violence and suffering. UN agencies are delivering food, medicine, fresh water and sanitation supplies to areas where they can operate, most particularly in Goma.

But at least 100,000 refugees are cut off in areas north of the city, chiefly around Rutshuru and East Masisi. Because of the ongoing fighting, these people have received virtually no assistance. Their situation has grown increasingly desperate. I urgently call for an immediate cease-fire in these areas to allow humanitarian assistance to reach many thousands of displaced persons.

We remain caught in a very volatile and dangerous moment for the DRC and for the region. Despite the Nairobi declaration, there are continued reports of sporadic fighting. I am very concerned by reports of targeted killings of civilians, looting and rape. I want to remind all parties that when the laws of war are violated, personal criminal responsibility may ensue, particularly for those in positions of command and control.

Following the Nairobi summit, I chaired a meeting of the Quartet in Sharm el-Sheik. This was the first time that the parties jointly took the initiative to brief the Quartet on progress in their bilateral negotiations.

All of us regret that an agreement is unlikely to be reached by the goal set by the Annapolis process – by the end of this year. However, all Quartet members were impressed by the commitment of the parties to pursue negotiations and remain focused on the goal: a final peace treaty, on all core issues.

We expect negotiations to continue uninterrupted through the coming period of transition. And all parties will be looking to the incoming U.S. Administration to engage early, as a matter of highest priority. The goal remains clear to all: an end of conflict, an end of occupation, a two state solution.

We also agreed on the urgent need to improve the situation on the ground, and to support the work of the Palestinian government to build security and improve living conditions. This requires action on Roadmap commitments, including on settlements, as well as a cessation of actions such as house demolitions that are contrary to international law or alter the status quo, including in East Jerusalem.

We were acutely conscious of the distressing conditions in Gaza. I call for Hamas and all Palestinian factions to respond positively to Egypt's unity efforts. I call for the calm to be respected. And I call on Israel to ease the severe closure of Gaza by allowing sufficient and predictable supplies to reach the population, ensuring access for humanitarian workers, and facilitating stalled UN projects.

Finally, let me offer a word about upcoming events.

I wholeheartedly support the convening of the interfaith meeting that will be held here at Headquarters tomorrow. The values it aims to promote are common to all the world's religions, and can help us fight extremism, prejudice and hatred. King Abdullah, the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques, has made a tremendous effort in bringing this initiative to the General Assembly. The anticipated high-level turnout is testimony to its timeliness and importance.

It will also be an occasion to hold high-level consultations on the upcoming financial summit in Washington. I am going to meet a number of leaders – among them Prime Minister Gordon Brown -- to discuss immediate and long-term strategies for addressing the global crisis.

Later this month I will go to Doha to open the conference on financing for development. World leaders will discuss reform of the international financial system. My chief concern will be to ensure that the interest in well-being of the most vulnerable nations of the world will be fully heard. We cannot allow the financial crisis to become an excuse for not delivering on our commitments to the Millennium Development Goals.

If there is a theme running through all of these efforts, it is that the need for global solidarity is more important than ever. Crisis has brought us to this new multilateral moment. In crisis lies opportunity. From the economy to peace and security, from climate to energy and food, the time has come to take multilateralism to a new, stronger and more inclusive level.

Thank you very much.