TRANSCRIPT OF PRESS CONFERENCE BY SECRETARY-GENERAL KOFI ANNAN AT UNITED NATIONS HEADQUARTERS, 21 JULY 2004

21 July 2004
SG/SM/9427

TRANSCRIPT OF PRESS CONFERENCE BY SECRETARY-GENERAL KOFI ANNAN AT UNITED NATIONS HEADQUARTERS, 21 JULY 2004

21/07/2004
Press ReleaseSG/SM/9427

TRANSCRIPT OF PRESS CONFERENCE BY SECRETARY-GENERAL KOFI ANNAN

AT UNITED NATIONS HEADQUARTERS, 21 July 2004

The Secretary-General: Good Morning, Ladies and Gentlemen,

I have just come from the Security Council, where I joined Jan Pronk, my Special Representative, to brief the Council on the situation in Sudan and Darfur.

During my recent visit to some of the camps in Darfur and Chad, the men and women I spoke to told me horrific stories of the terrible violence and suffering that they had endured.  Many are living in subhuman conditions, and they fear for their future.  It is clear that serious crimes have been committed and there has been gross and systematic abuse of human rights.  We, the international community, must intensify our efforts to protect the innocent in Darfur.

During my visit, the Government of Sudan made a number of commitments, which I welcome, including:

-- First, to stop and disarm the Janjaweed and other outlaw armed groups and take steps to protect the IDPs;

-- Second, to suspend visa and travel restrictions on international humanitarian workers and on material and equipment;

-- Third, to allow the deployment of AU human rights monitors; and

-- Fourth, to investigate all allegations of human rights abuses and punish those found responsible.

As we reported to the Council this morning, implementation of these commitments has so far been uneven.  There have been encouraging steps on the humanitarian front.  Access has opened up.  But there has been little progress on human rights, even though human rights monitors are getting in, and I regret to say that there are continuing reports of attacks by the Janjaweed.

I would like to emphasize how essential it is that the Government of Sudan honour its commitments, and stop and disarm the Janjaweed and other armed groups.  The international community must hold the Government to its solemn pledges and insist that they do perform.

But there is more that the international community itself must do.  We need money and more resources for humanitarian efforts.  We need them now, not tomorrow.  Tomorrow may already be too late.  We’ve asked for $349 million for Chad and Darfur, and we’ve got pledges of $145 million.  We are $204 million short.  I appeal to donors to make good on the pledges they have already made, and to increase their assistance.  We particularly need help with equipment -- including 6 helicopters to bring aid to people in remote areas of Darfur now that the rains have begun.

We must also sustain and increase the pressure on all parties for progress on the political front.  Both the Government and the rebels must come to the table without preconditions, and be ready to negotiate in good faith.

But as we focus on Sudan, let’s not forget the fact that a number of other African countries are working to resolve their differences peacefully.

In Addis Ababa, I hosted a mini-summit at which the Presidents of Equatorial Guinea and Gabon became the second set of neighbours to reach agreement through negotiations rather than the use of the gun.  As you know, they’ve had a border dispute on an island with oil resources, and they agreed to exploit it jointly and continue to work on the border problem.  And that, I think, was a good example for others to follow.  This is in addition to Nigeria and Cameroon who have adopted a similar approach for the Bakassi conflict, which they are also working on peacefully.

I hope other African States, including Ethiopia and Eritrea -- and indeed States around the world -- will take inspiration from the example set by these neighbours.

I also hosted mini-summits on the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Côte d’Ivoire, both at critical and difficult junctures in their peace processes.  We must sustain the momentum that was generated there.  Indeed, I intend to join a group of African leaders next week in Accra for a summit on Côte d’Ivoire.

I would like to repeat how encouraged I am by the strong emphasis that African leaders are placing on good governance.  And this was very much at the centre of their discussions at the last summit.  This must be very much at the cornerstone of efforts to meet the monumental challenges facing Africa -- including the fight against HIV/AIDS.

The Bangkok International AIDS Conference helped to raise awareness of HIV/AIDS around the world.  After so many years of misery and suffering, of broken lives and shattered families, the epidemic is finally starting to get the attention it deserves, if not the response and urgency required.

The report recently released by UNAIDS shows just how urgent this crisis is:

-- 38 million people are infected worldwide.  25 million of them live in sub-Saharan Africa, and 57 per cent of that number are women;

-- 10 million young people are infected worldwide.  6.2 million of them live in sub-Saharan Africa, and 75 per cent of that number are young women;

-- There were over 1 million new infections last year in Asia.  Today, India has over 5 million infected citizens;

-- In Eastern and Central Europe, 1.3 million are living with HIV.  In Latin America, the number is 1.6 million.  Nearly 1 million people in the United States are living with HIV.  Nearly 600,000 are infected in Western Europe.

-- To top it all, we’ve lost 20 million people to this disease in 20 years.  5 and a half million people have been killed in the last 3 years alone.

This is a global problem without frontiers of any kind.  It’s everyone’s problem.  And it’s urgent.  The futures of entire societies hang in the balance.

While there has been a real increase in global funding, we need much, much more.  We need to spend about $12 billion next year.  On current estimates, we’ll have far less than half that amount.

Once again, let me insist that leaders around the world, whether their countries are developed or developing, rich or poor, must take a stand against the epidemic.  They must speak out, and they must put many more resources, much, much more into the fight.  This is a fight we have to win.

I am sure you have plenty of questions on these and other issues, so I think I’ll stop lecturing and open the floor.

Question:  Mr. Secretary-General, welcome to this briefing.  Thank you very much on behalf of the UN Correspondents Association.  On Sudan, on the basis of what you have now said and what other information has come out over the past few weeks, what is your new evaluation of the role of the Government of Sudan in arming and supporting the Janjaweed?

The Secretary-General:  There are conflicting reports, and, of course, the Government has its own view, that it did not arm and control the Janjaweed, as is generally asserted.  But be that as it may, what is important is that, as a Government, it has the sacred responsibility to protect its population.  That responsibility cannot be passed on, and if it cannot do it, it should ask for help, maybe from the international community to do it.  But that responsibility is theirs.

When I was there, they did indicate to me that they are going to take measures to protect the population and that they were going to deploy 6,000 troops -- 6,000 policemen, sorry -- to the region of Darfur to protect the people.  I think that would be a good start.  They should deploy those police people and ensure that the people in Darfur feel secure and have a sense of protection, and can eventually get back to their villages.  But, once you have deployed the police and begin to stabilize, you then move on to disarm the Janjaweed and the other outlaw groups.  But it is a responsibility that the international community must insist that the Government of Sudan lives up to.

Question: How long have you agreed, or realistically expect the Sudanese Government to take in disarming Janjaweed?  My other question is about the Middle East, the recent events in the Palestinian territories.  Have you been in touch with President Arafat or Mr. Qurei?  When was the last time you contacted Mr. Arafat, or have you boycotted him, like the rest of the world has done?

The Secretary-General: On your first question:  we did not set a time limit, but I think we should be able to judge, given that we have set up a monitoring mechanism, which met last week under the chairmanship of [Jan] Pronk and the Foreign Minister of Sudan.  We should be able to make a judgement if they are fulfilling their commitments and if they are doing it seriously, and that the international community should work with them or come to a judgement at some point that it is not working and that they are not fulfilling the obligations they have made.  Then, of course, the Council would be free to take other measures and scale up the pressure on the Government.

But I think what is important is that we not only insist that they do it, but that the monitoring mechanism works effectively.  In fact, Pronk has indicated that they are sending a field mission to Darfur to assess on the ground what is actually happening in the various locations where either attacks have taken place or Janjaweed have been spotted, in order to be able to feed back into the mechanism in Sudan.  So we did not agree on a time frame as such, but they were to start immediately implementing it; the situation was urgent, and they had to move forward.

As I said, there has been some progress on humanitarian access, but that is not enough.  People need security.  They need security to be able to return to their villages; they need security to be able to continue their lives and not feel threatened and unsettled.  And the Government has to take steps to provide them with at least that.

On your second question:  I did speak to Chairman Arafat; I think the last time we spoke was about six weeks or two months ago.  I have not spoken to him during the current crisis, but I have a Representative on the ground who has been in touch with all parties, even though he is, for the moment, on holidays.  I think we are the only member of the Quartet that has a permanent presence in the region, in the form of Terje Roed-Larsen.  So that is the answer to your question.

Question: But he is away, and there is a crisis.  What are you doing about it?

The Secretary-General: He has deputies and he is in daily touch with the people, and he is given daily reports.

Question: I’m going to follow up on the Sudan question.  If there is no time frame, I think the outside world, and there are more deaths accumulated, you are going to have a Rwanda situation, and you are going to personally be taking the blame.  Is there -- or do you see -- any pressure on the Sudan besides public statements?  There are no teeth in the Security Council resolution, and there seems to be no teeth elsewhere.

The Secretary-General:  The Council is fully seized of this.  I know the current draft resolution that is on the table, but I don’t think that is the end of the road, and I don’t think anybody in the Council believes that is the end of the road, unless if the Sudanese Government does not perform, the Council, I am sure, will take action -- and action that will go beyond what is in the current resolution.

Question: But they are waiting for you to give them the analysis, and when is enough is enough, because they are not going to act without you?

The Secretary-General: No.  That is the analysis that they are getting now from my Representative.  I was there with him this morning, and we are giving them the facts.  He is going to go back to the region.  Quite frankly, as I have indicated, we are using the monitoring mechanism, and we are sending people to the field to obtain additional information.  The Council is aware of everything that is happening.  I just came from the Council; in fact, Mr. Pronk is still there talking to them.  I think your question is, can’t one fix a date so that, by such and such a date, if this and that have not happened, then something will follow?  That something will have to be defined by the Council or by the international community.

This is something that may be discussed, but at this stage -- as I said in the agreement -- we all stress the urgency, the need for the Government to act immediately and for us to monitor.  It is going to be a judgement call.  The question is, at what point do you -- the international community, the Council, myself and others -- decide that it has not worked, that they have not delivered, and that we need to do much more.  I think it is more a judgement call than an artificial deadline.  But the urgency is there, and the Sudanese Government doesn’t have forever.  I think the pressure will continue and the community will insist that it does perform.

Question: How many countries have said they are willing to contribute troops for the protection of the UN personnel in Iraq -- as mandated in that resolution -- and what does the total indicate about respect for the UN after many of these countries said we have got to get the UN involved there?

The Secretary-General: We have about three or four countries that have indicated some interest.  I don’t think any of them has come up with the size of force it is prepared to deploy; consultations and discussions are going on.  I have spoken to some who seemed interested but had certain conditions.  For example, I spoke to President Musharraf about this, who indicated that they would be prepared to contribute if the request were to come from the Iraqi interim Government, and if there were other Islamic troops on the ground, because they would not want to be the only Islamic force on the ground.  And, of course, there are discussions going on about the possibility of the deployment of troops from other Islamic countries to the region, but I don’t think that has been brought to closure yet.

As to your second question, I will leave the Member States to answer that.  The UN has an important role to play; the UN must be in Iraq.  Your question is, if that is the case, why aren’t you protecting them and making it possible for them to go back?  I think that is a question for them, not for me.

Question:  Mr. Secretary-General, going back to the Middle East:  it has been really a bubbling crisis for the past few weeks.  First we had the Palestinians taking great umbrage at an assessment by Terje Roed-Larsen, your Special Envoy; now we have the Israelis being very defiant about a resolution demanding that they tear down the barrier.  I was wondering what the next steps are.  Do you see this as a crisis for the Quartet in trying to get the peace process back on track?

The Secretary-General: I think all the members of the Quartet are worried about the latest developments.  I really hope that, as difficult and as complicated as the crisis is in Palestine, that they will exploit this crisis positively, and move ahead and really come up with some other reform structures which are required, particularly in the security area.  If they can use the situation to reform the security, put it under one head and empower the Prime Minister and the Minister of Interior to really take charge of the security apparatus and come up with other reforms that will allow the Cabinet to work as a Cabinet under the Prime Minister.  I hope Chairman Arafat will see the need, in supporting this sort of reform at this stage, to be able to move the process forward.  If that were to be done, I think it would help the Quartet’s efforts to implement the Road Map.

I am aware of the statements the Israel Government has made with regard to the General Assembly resolution.  Obviously, they don’t like it, but the Israeli court itself also came up with a decision on the route of the barrier and asked them to change it because of its impact on the Palestinians.  So one cannot say that the International Court [of Justice] was entirely wrong.  Obviously, this is an issue for the General Assembly, but I think they should heed and pay attention to the Court’s decision.  Even though it is not enforceable, it has some moral bearing on what they do.

Question: I would like to congratulate you on a successful tour of Africa, by any standard, and the courage you showed in doing that, Sir.

Concerning the time frame that we talked about, speaking during that tour to Jan Egeland, your Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs, he did say that the Sudanese have promised to start disarming, but that they did tell you that that will take time and it is not effective immediately.  So, from the outset we expected this process to take time.  Secondly, even Jan Pronk, your Special Representative, has said that the problem cannot be solved in one month or even one year, and that I have on record.  So don’t you think that we should give the Sudanese Government the benefit of the doubt and some time to deal with this problem?

The Secretary-General:  This is why I go back to the question of the Sudanese Government’s responsibility to protect its citizens.  There is a series of actions that they have to take.  One is deploying troops to protect the civilians; ensuring that those who commit human rights abuses are brought to justice and are penalized; to send a message to others that impunity will not be allowed to stand; disarming the Janjaweed and the other outlaw groups.

Which comes first?  What is the most effective step that the Government must take to protect the people?  When we were there, they said they were going to deploy 6,000 policemen and women.  If you deploy 6,000 policemen and women to villages to protect the IDP camps, you dissuade attacks.  You dissuade the people, and then move on to disarm them -- to disarm not only the Janjaweed, but the other elements.  But you can take immediate action to show immediate results, and this is what the international community is looking for.

Yes, the disarmament of these elements will take time and will require time.  They need to plan for it and they need to do it, but for the immediate they can take steps to protect civilians.  The fact that you deploy so many police and others may dissuade the people from coming to the camps in any case, provided you have the right type of police.

Question:  [inaudible] …as saying they failed.  Do you go as far as saying that the Government of Sudan has failed in disarming the Janjaweed and doing what is expected from it?

The Secretary-General: I don’t want to put it that categorically at this stage, and I think you have to put it in the broader context that I have defined -- the problem with the responsibility to protect.  Protection means also providing police, providing legal protection and disarming.  So it is a combination of starting with the most effective to be able to protect the people, but the disarmament was part of the agreement.

Question: I just wonder what you would say to the refugees, the displaced people in Darfur, who are still seeing the villages being attacked, still seeing bombing -- presumably by the Government -- and still seeing the Janjaweed around their camps.  Should they trust the pledges of the Government, and if not, can they rely on the international community to force them to do so?

The Secretary-General: I think at this stage, given the reports that are reaching us, the Government is not taking adequate steps to protect the people.  I think they are right to be nervous, they are right not to have confidence.  They need to see practical measures that will offer them the kind of protection that we are discussing here, and until they get that, they cannot be confident that security is around the corner.

As to the second part of your question, if the Sudanese do not do it should the international community -- if I get you right -- make them do it or should the international community go in and do it by itself?  Basically, this is what you are saying.  I think, in the first instance, my sense is that the international community must insist and hold the Government accountable and hold it responsible for the commitments that it made, and insist that they must perform.  If they fail to do that, I think the international community cannot sit back.  They have to take measures.  What measures should they take?  Should it be sanctions?  Should it be sending in a force, and is that force available, and how quickly?  These are issues that the Council will have to take up, but we should not sit back and say that the Government has not been able to do it and that is it.  That is why I am saying that monitoring is important, maintaining the pressure is important, insisting that they perform is important.  And then there comes that moment of judgement, when a decision will have to be made that they have not performed and that one cannot rely on them to perform.

Question: Since you were one of the officers that were called on by the ICJ to act if Israel fails to heed, as you call it, the Court’s decision, should sanctions be imposed on Israel?  My second question is about the same issue.  Do you agree with the ICJ that Article 51 does not apply to non-State actors, or with the Israeli Supreme Court that says that, though the route is flawed, the fence is allowed to protect Israel against terrorist attacks?

The Secretary-General: Let me say that I think the resolution requires me to keep track of damages because of the barrier, and report back.  Of course, that is a mandate from the General Assembly that I will have to find a way of honouring.  As far as the barrier itself is concerned, I gave my views in the document to the General Assembly and to the Security Council.  But on the question of application of Article 51, as you say, I don’t want to take on the Court or do their work.  I am not one of the judges and I think that the judgement of the Court will have to stand by itself.  I am not going to second-guess the judges of the International Court, but I should also say that I thought that the decision by the Israeli court was also a courageous and a bold decision which has said a lot for the Israeli judiciary system.

Question:  Mr. Secretary-General, many people in the world, well-intentioned and otherwise, are saying that the time has come for the United Nations to get more involved in Iraq, to get international staff back there.  A Security Council resolution on Iraq created this force to protect the United Nations in Iraq.  You yourself, we are told, had language inserted in that resolution that said “when circumstances permit” would govern the timing.  Isn’t it a fact now that the failure of countries to come forward and staff that force -- a relatively non-controversial act -- is seriously undermining the ability of this Organization to fulfil its mandate to get seriously involved in Iraq?

The Secretary-General: I cannot but agree with you in the sense that protection and security for the UN staff going back, or for anybody, for that matter in Iraq is absolutely essential, is a basic prerequisite.  After what happened last year, we made it clear that, if we are going to go in with staff, we would need to be assured of protection.

So we were quite encouraged when the idea of a dedicated force that would protect the UN staff and their facilities came up, realizing that the Member States agreed with us and they are taking our concerns very seriously, in addition to the phrase that we can deploy “as circumstances permit”.  But without that security, we cannot really deploy in any sizeable number.

We have taken risks and gone in to do essential tasks.  The fact that I did not have an SRSG did not prevent us from sending in Lakhdar Brahimi to do his work -- and the electoral team.  But for us to go in and support the elections -- which we want to; we would want to do everything to help the Iraqi people -- that security force is essential.  Otherwise, we will not be able to deploy in any large numbers.

Question: What is the UN response to subpoenas by US congressional investigators on the oil-for-food programme?  Will any documentation be privileged to the UN investigation, or can you see documents being released to US investigators?

The Secretary-General: We have not been subpoenaed by the Congress -- if that is your question.  We have not received any subpoena, and we are very clear on the rules about release of documents.  All the documents have been given to Mr. Volcker, who has indicated that he wants to do a comprehensive job and release a report -- a public report -- as quickly as possible.  We would want to keep it that way, and so does he.  Because you don’t want to have the documents flying all over the place, and we have made our position very clear.

Question:  Sir, how concerned are you that any action against Sudan by the Security Council, which is led by the big Powers, could be perceived as action against a poor African black country, and to what extent is the outcome of the war in Iraq an impediment to action in Sudan?

The Secretary-General: I think the issue was discussed actively during the AU summit, and I must say the African leaders faced up to the issue of Darfur; they didn’t duck it.  Not only did they not duck it, they talked about even increasing the force that they are sending in.  They have 120 monitors and a 320 protective unit -- a formed unit -- to protect the monitors, and they were thinking of increasing it.  They also became very engaged in trying to find a political solution.  And the talks took place in Addis.  So the leaders in Addis, with Sudan present, were very anxious that something be done to protect the civilians on the ground and for the situation to be brought under control.

On your second question as to whether Iraq makes it easier or difficult, I would say, perhaps, that it does make it difficult.  We are still dealing with Iraq; we are not out of Iraq yet.  And any discussion of intervention in Iraq will be looked at very, very carefully by Governments.

Question:  Intervention in Sudan…

The Secretary-General: Sorry -- any proposal for intervention in Sudan will be looked at very carefully by Governments, and I am not sure how quickly and how enthusiastically one will get support for that initiative.  We have to be very clear on that.

Question:  Sir, let me ask you a question on a different part of the world, namely, the former Soviet Republic of Georgia.  The UN is actively involved in a peacekeeping operation in Abkhazia, but it seems that another crisis is looming in a different part of Georgia -- I mean South Ossetia.  For 12 years, Russian and Georgian peacekeepers have been able to keep it under control, but now the situation threatens to slip out of control.  There are some suggestions that there could be some international involvement.  Could you foresee any meaningful role for the United Nations in South Ossetia, and what would be the prerequisites for such involvement?

The Secretary-General:  No, we are monitoring developments very carefully.  As you have rightly pointed out, we are there with our peacekeepers.  We saw what happened in Adjara, and now we are looking at Ossetia.  We have not taken a decision to deploy to that part of Georgia yet, but with my Representative and our team here, we are monitoring it very carefully.  And I would hope that discussions between the Russian Federation and the Georgian Government will help calm the situation.  In the last couple of months they have had a very good discussion.  When I was in Moscow myself in April, the next day the Georgian President was coming to see President Putin -- and we had a frank discussion about developments in Georgia.  I also had a sense that the two men were developing a good and useful relationship.  I hope that relationship will help them work out their differences and not lead to an explosion.  But we are monitoring it, and we hope it will not get to the worst-case scenario that you have described.

Question:  Mr. Secretary-General, I am wondering what is your comment on the IAEA’s inspector returning to Iraq.  Does that mean the UN is going to tie up the loose ends on the WMD issue?  Do you think it is safe for the inspectors to return?

The second question is:  last year, when Chinese premier Wen visited the UN, you said you were going to visit China this year.  Has a time been set up for your visit?

The Secretary-General:  On your first question, I know that Mr. El Baradei said that the Iraqi Government has asked them to come back.  Some Council members are also looking down the line at what UNMOVIC will be asked to do.  So I would want to wait to see the Council discussions to make a judgement as to where we go from here.  I think the Council will have a word to say about this, and I would much rather wait to have that Council discussion, both on the missile, biological and on the nuclear.  Whether we go back in or not would be determined by that discussion and, of course, under what circumstances.  As you rightly point out, is the security there for them to go back and continue their work, and if not, when do they go back?

On your second question, probably in the fall.  I would hope to take a trip in the fall.

Question:  Mr. Secretary-General, there have been reports from human rights groups that the Sudanese police force have been recruiting Janjaweed to, sort of, be integrated into this police force.  Have you heard whether these reports are at all credible, and do you personally think that it may be wise in the not-too-distant future to think about imposing sanctions or calling for Chapter VII intervention?  Or will you wait for your instructions from the Council on that?

The Secretary-General:  On the question of the role of the Janjaweed and their induction into the police force, or even into the army:  I have heard rumours about these things happening -- in fact I confronted the Government with it and they denied it.  But there were rumours around, even when we were on the ground.  And we did tell the Government that they have to be careful not to -- it must be a no-no for them to recruit Janjaweed into the army or the police.  Because for the villagers to see the same people who are attacking them appearing the next day in uniform, saying “We are coming to protect you”, would be tragic, and they will not believe anything that the Government says.  I really have no hard facts to say that, but we did hear the rumours and we warned the Government about it and raised it with the Government.

On the question of at what point one goes to the Council to say, “Impose sanctions” or “Adopt a Chapter VII resolution and take action against Sudan”, I think I will stand by what I said earlier, that we should hold them to the test they must perform.  And we are going to monitor it.  When that point of judgement comes, I cannot really tell you.  It may be sooner, it may be later.  It is in the hands of the Sudanese.  If they don’t want the international community to intercede or to interfere, as they seem to indicate, then they have to perform:  it is in their hands.  If they do not, I do not think they will have a right to insist that the international community has no business interfering in ensuring that their people are protected.  The first responsibility is theirs; if they don’t do it, the international community will need to take action.  But when that point comes is something that I cannot tell you now.

Question (interpretation from French):  First, on the DRC, the report of experts shows that Rwanda had supported the Congolese rebels and that they fired on MONUC Blue Helmets.  I would like to have your reaction to that report.  Did you speak about it with the President of Rwanda, President Kagame?

Secondly, the Accra summit on Côte d’Ivoire:  is that still planned for 29 July?  What do you expect from that?

The Secretary-General (interpretation from French):  I did take a look at the report on the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and I did speak in Addis Ababa with President Kagame about that.  But that was before the report was published. As you know, the Rwandan Government rejected the report, so we need to find a means to discuss that with him.  For the time being, we haven’t had an opportunity to do that.  I hope that a detailed response will be forthcoming in writing so that we can study exactly what happened.  But I did see the report and will continue to work with our people on the ground and with the Government of Rwanda.  But I am sure that we need to have something written.  The report is out now, so that will be done.

Yes, the meeting on Côte d’Ivoire that’s going to be on the 29th -- I hope that we will be able to encourage the Government and the rebels to start recreating the Government, because the Government isn’t working.  The rebels and others have left the Government, but I hope that in Accra we will be able to encourage them to get together and resume the process of reconciliation.  A real dialogue needs to be established.  If we manage to bring that off, that’s not too bad.

Question: The US Government is threatening to withhold funds for some UN agencies.  Is there anything you will say to the Bush Administration to try to convince them otherwise?  And, very briefly, given the kind of violence we have seen in the world in recent times, would you say that this is a safer world than it was, say, two or three years ago?

The Secretary-General: My answer to that last question is no.  I cannot say that the world is safer today than it was two or three years ago.

On your first question, I think already there are funds being withheld for the activities of the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA).  UNFPA is doing very essential work on reproductive health.  When we consider what is happening in the world today, one of the topics I talked about is HIV/AIDS, which today has a woman’s face, which today is producing so many orphans.  We have 15 million orphans, and most of them get it through breastfeeding, and through mother-to-child transmission, which we are trying to do something about.  This is an area where UNFPA is doing very good work with mothers, with communities and societies, and really needs help.

I hope governments will support UNFPA and not extend the decision not to fund its activities to other agencies.  In fact, I was very encouraged yesterday when the British Government announced £80 million in funding for UNFPA activities.  That was a shot in the arm that they needed.  I would encourage other governments to support the essential work they are doing.  Thank you very much. 

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For information media. Not an official record.