TRANSCRIPT OF PRESS CONFERENCE BY SECRETARY-GENERAL BAN KI-MOON AT UNITED NATIONS HEADQUARTERS, 7 JANUARY 2008

7 January 2008
SG/SM/11360

TRANSCRIPT OF PRESS CONFERENCE BY SECRETARY-GENERAL BAN KI-MOON AT UNITED NATIONS HEADQUARTERS, 7 JANUARY 2008

7 January 2008
Secretary-General
SG/SM/11360
Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

TRANSCRIPT OF PRESS CONFERENCE BY SECRETARY-GENERAL BAN KI-MOON


AT UNITED NATIONS HEADQUARTERS, 7 JANUARY 2008

 


The Secretary-General:  Good morning, ladies and gentlemen.  First of all, I would like to send my best wishes for a very happy, healthy and prosperous New Year.  I hope that 2008 will bring to all of you and your families best wishes, happiness and prosperity.  It has been a great privilege for me to work with you during last year, my first year, and I count on continuing such a good relationship and friendship and exchange of ideas, including constructive criticism, even.  Thank you very much.


By tradition, this is the season for taking stock -- and for looking ahead.


We mourn the loss of 42 UN colleagues during the year 2007, including 17 killed in the Algiers terrorist bombing.  Yet we enter 2008 with new determination -- and new opportunities -- to strengthen the UN’s role in the world.


You know that I am not one to speak easily of successes.  The past year was one of immense challenges.  But I think we have made certain progress.  We opened a new chapter on climate change.  We took on new and daunting challenges in peacekeeping, most specifically in Darfur.


We must build on this foundation.  Protecting our planet and its people -- our global commons -- requires all our best efforts.  So does the task of securing economic well-being, social justice, security and other global public goods.  This requires sustained and coherent international action beyond what nations or markets can provide by themselves.


That is why I believe so strongly in the United Nations.  Only the United Nations can take on the issues that affect us all, that shape the fate of the Earth and its peoples.


These are powerful concepts:  the “global commons” and “global public goods”.  They are the basic building blocks of modern globalized society.  If they are to have meaning, we must be mindful of the responsibilities they impose upon us.


We must address ourselves to the needs of the weak, the disadvantaged, those who have been excluded from the mainstream international community.  I speak here of those who are most vulnerable to climate change.  Those who suffer the most grinding poverty.  Those who do not enjoy basic human rights.


And so I say, let 2008 be the year of the “bottom billion”.


That’s the phrase some economists use to describe the poorest of the world’s poor.  They are the forgotten ones, the nearly 1 billion left behind by global economic growth.  Most live in Africa or the small developing islands of Asia, eking out lives of hardship on incomes of less than $1 a day.


We must pay careful attention to these nations with special needs.  We must heed the voices of the world’s poorest people, who too often go unheard.


For this reason, I shall work over the coming year to strengthen the UN’s role in development.  We are at the midpoint of a great campaign to end world poverty, set forth in the Millennium Development Goals.  Too many nations have fallen behind.  We need fresh ideas and fresh approaches.


That is why, last year, I established the MDG Africa Steering Group.  In April, world leaders will gather in Accra, Ghana, for the UNCTAD summit on trade and development.  In September, we will host a high-level meeting at the beginning of the general debate.  The goal:  to re-energize the world’s commitment to the Millennium Development Goals, with special attention to the poorest of the poor.


Last year, we used a similar forum to galvanize world action on climate change.  This year, we will do the same for the bottom billion.


In the pursuit of the global good, human rights must be a core principle.  It is fitting, then, that 2008 should also mark the sixtieth anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.


As I have said before, I say again.  Economic and social advancement is an implicit human right.  I will use this milestone year, therefore, to call for the universal ratification of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, as well as the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.


I am determined to press ahead with the Special Tribunal in Lebanon and to work with the international courts to promote justice and oppose impunity.  We will launch a new global awareness campaign on human rights, push more aggressively to better protect women and children against violence, and strengthen the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights.


The demands on the UN grow ever greater.  If anything, the coming year promises to be even tougher than the last.  Look how it has begun, with turmoil in Kenya and renewed violence in Sri Lanka.  We must nurture a fragile peace process in the Middle East.  We must do more to help the people of Iraq emerge from conflict and rebuild shattered lives.  We must stay the course in Afghanistan, so that it does not again fall into lawless anarchy.


In Darfur, we must do our utmost to push the peace talks to a successful conclusion.  We must manage the very complex deployment of UN-African Union forces.  To succeed, we need the full cooperation of the Government of Sudan.  We also need the Member States -- including the Security Council -- to live up to their commitments.


The road from Bali will be difficult as well.  Two years is not a long time to win a climate change deal that all nations can embrace.  I intend to keep up the momentum.  We need a global grass-roots public awareness campaign to focus political pressure and keep global warming at the forefront of public consciousness.


We, therefore, move into the new year with renewed commitment to our ultimate mission -- building a stronger UN for a better world.  As ever, I seek results, not easy rhetoric.  Our watchword must be effectiveness.  I will continue my push to modernize, revitalize and streamline the UN system, upholding the highest standards of ethics, performance and accountability.


I want to stress this word.  Accountability is not a technicality.  It must be the fundamental operational principle of the UN -- for the Secretariat, the agencies and Member States alike.


We will continue our work to stiffen procurement and management procedures.  I will shortly ask all senior executives to sign management compacts with me, laying out specific and measurable benchmarks for performance.  Last year we reorganized our Department of Peacekeeping Operations.  This year, we will do the same with our development-related bodies and the Department of Political Affairs.  I want it to become more proactive in tackling global crises, especially in the realm of preventive diplomacy.


Member States, too, must hold themselves accountable.  They must put up the resources to deliver on their mandates.  We must deliver on our promises -- openly, effectively and promptly.


Ladies and gentlemen,


Since my first day in office, I have sought an open and active dialogue with you in the UN press corps.  You were the first people I met last year on my first day, and you are the first -- after my town hall meeting with the staff this year -- that I am meeting in this new year.


I look forward to our healthy, frank exchanges.  They are valuable and, often, fun.  Let me start by taking your questions.  And again, my best wishes to you all for a very successful, rewarding 2008.


Question:  Thank you very much for your kind wishes to the United Nations Correspondents Association.


On behalf of all my colleagues here, I would like to wish you and Madam Yoo Soon-taek all the best -- and, of course, a very successful second year, despite the slow activities and results of the last year.  You have set a lot of high expectations for this year.


So I wonder if you can tell us:  First, there is a new crisis in Africa, in Kenya, where accusations of genocide and ethnic cleansing have become more and more visible now and heard all over the world.  I wonder what the United Nations is doing to prevent another case of Rwanda in 1994, where the United Nations is limited to providing relief services while the killing went on?


The Secretary-General:  I have been in close contact with Kenyan leaders, including President [Mwai] Kibaki and opposition leader [Raila] Odinga, and President [John] Kufuor of Ghana, in his capacity as Chairperson of the African Union, and many other international leaders to, first of all, calm down and stabilize the situation.  I urged them strongly to avoid further killings of civilians.  That was unacceptable, as I have stated in my two previous statements.  I will continue to do that.


The United Nations has been doing our best efforts to provide the necessary humanitarian assistance to many people there who have been unfortunately displaced because of this situation in Kenya.  Protecting human rights is very important and paramount for us.  We are taking all necessary measures to prevent the further deterioration of the situation.


As for the specific question you raised, that will always be a high priority in my mind.  We will try our best to ensure that no further casualties will happen there.  And as the leaders of Africa -- including President Kufuor, who is expected to have consultations with the Kenyan leadership, as well as some former Presidents who are also expected to visit there -- I hope, through those international interventions, the Kenyan leaders will sit down together and resolve this issue in a peaceful manner.


Question:  Mr. Secretary-General, both you and the Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping last month said that the force going in to Darfur would be at risk unless the Sudanese Government agreed to some of the troop assignments that you were requesting, and unless other countries gave you the transportation and logistics you needed.  Neither of those two things has happened.  You have had a formal change of command in Darfur, which basically is just changing the colour of the helmets.  My question is:  If this force is, as you say, at risk, how can you deploy them when they don’t have the capacity to protect civilians and don’t have the capacity to protect themselves?


The Secretary-General:  That is exactly why I, as Secretary-General, and the United Nations as a whole and the international community -- Member States -- must ensure a rapid deployment of the Hybrid Operation as agreed, to the level of 26,000, as soon as possible.  We now have 9,000 re-hatted soldiers in Darfur.  That is not sufficient.  That is why we are very much concerned about this ongoing deteriorating situation in Darfur.


I had a long telephone discussion with President [Omar al-] Bashir last Saturday, and we agreed to meet again in Addis Ababa.  Before that, before we meet again at Addis Ababa on the occasion of the African Union Summit meeting, we will have a high-level consultation to resolve all these pending issues.  There are, as you rightly said, two areas of pending issues, one to be done by the Sudanese Government.  There are still many technical or administrative issues, to which the Sudanese Government must commit themselves as agreed, including a status-of-forces agreement and also composition of forces and other technical issues.


Then there are resources to be provided by the Member States in general, including critical assets like helicopters and heavy transport equipment.  These are to be done by both sides:  by the international community as a whole and the Sudanese Government.  I will do my best to expedite this process.  In fact, we have made a good framework to resolve these Darfur, as well as Sudanese issues as a whole, including a peace process and the Comprehensive Peace Agreement.


All those three tracks will move hand in hand.  And we are also looking at the possibility of resuming the second peace process.  But that may take a little bit of time.  My Special Envoy, Mr. Jan Eliasson, and African Union Envoy, Mr. [Salim Ahmed] Salim, they are working very hard.  Jan Eliasson is also going to visit Khartoum next week.


Question:  Mr. Secretary-General, there have been statements threatening war in the African continent lately.  The POLISARIO has been saying that this is the last chance that they give the Moroccans in the Western Sahara; otherwise, the preparation for war is afoot.  Also, we have the worrying aspect of Chadian aeroplanes bombing areas of Sudan, Darfur, in chase of Chadian rebels, so they allege.  And there are obvious and frank threats from the President of Chad to enter Darfur to chase the Chadian rebels.  Your thoughts on both subjects, please.


The Secretary-General:  On the Western Sahara issue:  As you may know already, I am going to issue a statement this morning that there is going to be another consultation in Manhasset, in Greentree, between the parties concerned.  I appreciate all the parties concerned having accepted my invitation.  Mr. [Peter van] Walsum is going to organize, as well as facilitate, this dialogue.  This is a painstaking and very complex issue, and I hope that this time they will be able to make good progress on these issues.


On the situation in Darfur and, again, the Sudanese relationship, I am going to discuss with African leaders, including President [Idris] Deby of Chad.  I have spoken with President Bashir.  But I would really urge the leaders and countries concerned to refrain from all these exercises -- refrain from using military forces.  This will only aggravate the situations in Africa.  I am very much concerned about all these ongoing deteriorating situations -- not only here but elsewhere, including Kenya, Sudan, Chad and other areas.


I really hope that this new year, 2008, will see bright hope.  We have started with gloomy prospects:  the situation in Kenya and elsewhere.  I really hope that, with active cooperation and dialogue among the leaders of the world, we will see some better world this year.  This is my firm commitment as Secretary-General.


Question:  But the POLISARIO is saying frankly, and their statements are very clear, that this is the last chance they are giving the Moroccans.  Your thoughts on that; are you having any contacts with the POLISARIO?  I understand that you hope that they will reach an agreement, but it seems the obstacles are too high and, in the face of these threats, it sounds like dire straits to me.


The Secretary-General:  I would not make any comment on such kinds of very definitive declaration by any one of the parties.  All the issues, they have their background and very complex nature of the issues.  And it needs the parties concerned to be, first of all, patient and persistent and consistent and faithful in resolving this issue through dialogue.


Question:  We know that you are a very humble person, but if you were to rate your first year’s performance on a scale of 1 to 10, how much would you give yourself, and why?


The Secretary-General:  I am the sort of person, as you said, modest.  I am the sort of person who is very strict to myself, officially and personally.  Even in my home and my private life, I really want to be very strict to myself.  When you set a guideline or rule, I want to be bound by that.  I stick to that.


The assessment of my performance as Secretary-General during the last one year will be the role and duty of you and Member States and other public and private organizations, including many NGOs.  I think that I have made certain progress.  As I said, I am not a person who easily speaks about success, because one year may be too long or may be too short for anyone to assess my performance.  All the issues which you may have seen last year, they are all ongoing projects, including reform of the United Nations, Darfur, climate change or all these Lebanese situations.  All are ongoing and very complex, so we need to continue and step up our efforts.  I think I have established good tracks on the basis of which I can move ahead on these projects.


Question:  Mr. Secretary-General, in your opening statement you talked about pressing on with the investigation in the Hariri assassination and the Lebanon Tribunal.  As you know, the family of Benazir Bhutto has asked for United Nations participation in the investigation of her murder.  I would like to get your thoughts about that.  And do you feel that the United Nations should be the one organization or agency in the world that is the place to go for such political assassination investigations?


The Secretary-General:  In other places, you mean?


Question:  Yes.  In other words, Benazir Bhutto’s family has asked for the participation of the United Nations to investigate her murder and her assassination, and as you know, Scotland Yard has been invited in by the Government.  But do you feel that the United Nations should be the place where the buck stops and where investigations start in such political assassinations?


The Secretary-General:  First of all, the United Nations has not received any formal request from the Government of Pakistan, and as you may very well be aware, Scotland Yard are now providing technical assistance in the investigation process of this very tragic assassination case.  Therefore, I am not in a position to comment on any request on a private, personal level.  All this kind of establishing special tribunals should be, first of all, based upon the formal request of the Government concerned.  And then that should be decided by the Security Council.  That means that all Member States should decide.  The assassination of Hariri case, which has been establishing this Special Tribunal, was a very special one, where the whole Security Council has made a consensus agreement on this.


Question:  Mr. Secretary-General, Happy New Year to you and your family, and thanks for welcoming constructive criticism.  Actually, this is praise of what you have done in Paris, when you chaired the meeting in Paris on Lebanon.  I am wondering if you are satisfied with the follow-up to that meeting you have chaired.  And since you said you are pressing ahead with this tribunal on Lebanon, are you going to name the judges?  You said you will accept the recommendations, but are you going to be naming the judges, and is the tribunal pretty much ready to be operational in February, as we have heard from the American ambassador?  And is this Tribunal now unstoppable?


The Secretary-General:  We have made good progress on the establishment of the Special Tribunal for Lebanon.  The United Nations remains committed to the search for truth and justice in this case.  On 21 December, after three months of negotiations, we signed a headquarters agreement with the Dutch Government on the Special Tribunal, to be headquartered at The Hague.  I have also received and adopted the recommendations of the selection panel created to help me recruit judges for the Tribunal.  It is a panel of international judicial experts, which includes my Legal Counsel, Mr. Nicolas Michel.  I will announce the names of those selected at an appropriate time in the future.  The judges will assume their functions on the date I will also determine soon.


In this regard, I would like to speak more broadly on the situation in Lebanon, if you will allow me to say a few words.  I continue to be in close contact with Lebanese leaders and, more broadly, with international and regional leaders to try to find a solution to the prolonged political crisis.  I am deeply disappointed by the current situation, in which the Lebanese people have not been able to elect their own President for such a long time.  There has been a prolonged constitutional vacuum by not having a President yet.


Failure to reach an early agreement would represent a betrayal of the expectations of both the Lebanese people and the international community.  You have seen the international donors conference, which was held in January last year in Paris, which committed almost $8 billion, and you have seen this meeting which I convened last December in Paris on the occasion of the other international meeting.  I am, at the same time, encouraged by the efforts of the League of Arab States, announced yesterday.


I once again call on Lebanese leaders to think about the future of their country, transcending sectarian and individual interests.  And, on the neighbouring countries, I urge them to help the Lebanese people, so that they will be able to overcome this crisis on their own will, without outside interference.


Question:  A follow-up for you, Mr. Secretary-General:  have you been in touch with a particular neighbour who is thought to be interfering in Lebanon, and there is a Syrian presidency or Syrian Government; have you had any recent contacts with them?  And what do you mean when you say that in due time you will announce the names of the judges?  Do you mean when the Tribunal becomes operational?  And will that be in February, like the American ambassador said?


Secretary-General:  The Tribunal is making good progress, including the funding.  We have been receiving necessary funding from many, many countries.  Therefore, first of all, the headquarters agreement should be ratified by the Dutch Parliament.  We need to have sufficient funding.  We are talking about $120 million for the period of three years, out of which we may need at least $40 million or $45 million, I am not aware of the exact amount, for the first year.  I think necessary preparations are going on well.  As soon as all these administrative and legal measures are finalized, then I will be in a position to announce the names of the judges.


Question:  And Syria?


The Secretary-General:  As you know very well, I have been in close contact with many leaders in the region, including President [Bashar al-] Assad of Syria.  I think I have spoken with him last month, and I will continue to discuss this issue with whoever is known to have influence or interest in the future of Lebanon.


Question:  Thank you, Secretary-General, and Happy New Year.  I wanted you to give me your perspective -- or the perspective of the United Nations Secretariat -- regarding the Greentree accord between Nigeria and Cameroon.  The Nigerian Senate keeps saying that the treaty has not been ratified, but the treaty is already being implemented.  Now, did that decision, or did the information that the treaty was not ratified, did it come to the United Nations, as a surprise?  Is the United Nations supposed to implement a treaty that has not been ratified by the competent authority in one of the countries that signed the treaty?


The Secretary-General:  I will continue to discuss this matter and urge the leaders of Nigeria and Cameroon to abide by this Greentree agreement, which has provided a good framework for resolving all these pending issues.


Question:  Let me follow up with you.  Are you surprised that the Nigerian Government did not ratify the treaty before it was implemented?


The Secretary-General:  That was a source of concern last year, which I have been discussing with the countries concerned.


Question:  Mr. Secretary-General, are you watching any of the US presidential debates, and who do you think is going to win, and will it make any difference to the United Nations?


The Secretary-General:  I hope you will be able to tell me what are your own views.  I am watching and closely following all these debates, but I have to wait until the final choice of the American people, who will be elected as the President of the United States.  I will be very happy to work with anybody chosen by the American people.


Question:  If you allow me, I will ask my question in French, and you can answer in either English or French.


The Secretary-General:  In French? Yes.


Question (spoke in French):  You referred, in your introductory remarks, to the attack that took the lives of 18 United Nations employees, and you mentioned other recent attacks in the region, which received less media attention.  There was an attack carried out against French tourists, another against Mauritanian soldiers and a further attack against Italian soldiers, and also a recent attack targeting police officers in Algiers.  Do you share the view that is held by numerous individuals in the region who believe that the Sahel region is an area of arms trafficking and, therefore, constitutes a base for the various terrorist groups that are threatening the region and, beyond that, threatening neighbouring countries?


The Spokesperson:  The question, for those of you who were not following in French, is about Algeria:  the recent bombing in Algeria, and the prospect of…


Question:  I am actually talking about the Sahel region as a zone of lawlessness and the smuggling of arms.  And a lot of countries and people in the region are worried that those attacks mean that the region may be considered as ground for terrorist groups that may threaten the region.  Given the recent attacks in Algiers and also the attacks in Mauritania that led to the cancellation of a major sporting event, the Dakar rally, do you share the views of those who think that this Sahel region is becoming ground for terrorist groups that may threaten the stability in the region?


The Secretary-General:  Let me practise my French.


(spoke in French)


Thank you very much for putting that question to me in French.  I think you are well aware of my passion for the French language.  Now, if you will allow me, I am not fully prepared -- but if you will allow me to continue in English.  I discussed matters with President [Abdelaziz] Bouteflika when I was in Algiers last month, last year.


(spoke in English)


These are serious issues for any country in the world, including those in the Sahel area.  It is not only Algeria.  I told President Bouteflika that, while it was a very tragic -- and I was so sad and so shocked, and they were also embarrassed very much by not having been able to protect the United Nations staff and United Nations premises -- this should be a global issue, not Algeria or any countries in the Sahel area.  Therefore, this needs a global, concerted effort to address, fight against international terrorism.  I think the international community must do more.  Regardless of what their belief may be, there cannot be any justification whatsoever when it comes to terrorism.  Terrorism is terrorism and, therefore, that bombing in Algiers really strengthened my resolve to work more.  I again express my strong commitment to work for that.


Question:  I think the talks start today on the Sahara issue.  Don’t you think that this issue is also contributing to this instability, since there is no prospect for a solution?  Do you expect a breakthrough in this round, or whether those talks will…?


The Secretary-General:  All sorts of grievances coming from these conflict issues may be the source of some elements of terrorism.  That is why we must resolve all the conflict issues through peaceful means, through dialogue.  I cannot but be general on your questions.


Question:  This is also about Algiers, Sir.  In the wake of the bombing, the Algerian interior minister said that there were warnings against bombing of international institutions, including the United Nations.  There are also all kinds of reports about internal warnings that came around.  The question is, why doesn’t the United Nations, as it did with the Ahtisaari case in the aftermath of the Baghdad bombing, why doesn’t the United Nations create its own independent investigation, as opposed to just investigate by [David] Veness?


The Secretary-General:  First of all, the United Nations has never received any advance warnings from whatsoever sources on this issue.  Then, I have instructed the Under-Secretary-General for the DSS [Department of Safety and Security] to report to me by 11 January, this week, about his own investigation and findings of this terrorist bombing incident.  On the basis of that, we are going to strengthen the measures for the safety and security of our staff and premises, and I’m going to discuss with Member States in general about how to strengthen the safety and security of staff.  This is a very paramount issue, as we have seen four years ago in Baghdad.  This was the second such terrorist bombing attack against the United Nations.


At the same time, the United Nations also needs to do more in communicating with the international community in general:  why the United Nations is there and what the United Nations is doing.  We need to make the international community appreciate more what the United Nations stands for.  The United Nations is not working for any group of nations over another.  The United Nations is working for the benefit and well-being of many developing countries; we are working for the promotion of human rights and peace and security.  So this must be correctly understood and communicated to the world.  And in that regard, I have been doing, on my own, efforts to communicate with the international community in general.


Question:  Don’t you think it’s imperative for the credibility of the United Nations that there will be an independent investigation that is not being done by the person who was in charge of security, to see whether security procedures were actually followed?


The Secretary-General:  I will see; I will reserve my judgement until I have a full report from DSS.


Question:  Happy New Year, Mr. Secretary-General.  Just to follow up on that, on the Algiers issue, were you ever made aware during 2007, or the time since you became Secretary-General, that the head of United Nations security in Algiers, Babacar N’Diaye, had made repeated requests to his superior in Algiers -- that also reached New York -- that there were, in his view, likely to be attacks on Algiers, not maybe making a specific date or a specific warning, but saying that they were a target of Al-Qaida and asking for specific precautions to be taken, such as the erection of concrete barriers or the raising of the phase level?  Were you ever aware of that, that it had ever reached your office?  And if that’s the case, that he did make these warnings, why wouldn’t that, combined with the Ahtisaari report after the Baghdad bombing and the threat that the United Nations is under, really compel an independent investigation?


The Secretary-General:  That’s a good point.  That is why we are now working very hard.  I have talked at length with President Bouteflika.  First of all, as host Government, the Algerian Government is responsible for taking all measures to strengthen United Nations safety and security, and he assured me that he will find accommodations for UNDP and UNHCR.  And this is not only to the Algerian Government; this is what I am going to discuss with Member States in general.  I will keep in mind what you suggested.


Question:  Well, can I get an answer to my question?  Did warnings and requests for greater protection from Babacar N’Diaye, who was the head of the United Nations security in Algiers and who died in the bombing, ever reach your office, ever come to your attention?


The Secretary-General:  I’m not going to tell you anything on these internal procedures.  But I’m very closely looking at this matter, and I have instructed Mr. Veness to look into this issue very seriously and carefully to make an overall report for me.


Question:  It’s about Darfur.  Last 21 December, the Fifth Committee of the General Assembly approved the budget about the hybrid force, and they were very concerned about the Lockheed Martin contract, because it was without bids, and they asked for an investigation.  And I don’t know now in what point is the process of this investigation.  What are you going to do and what do you think about this statement, this resolution of the General Assembly?


The Secretary-General:  On what?


Question:  On the Lockheed Martin contract.  You know, at the General Assembly, the members of the Fifth Committee said that they didn’t agree with the process used for doing this contract.  And I only am wondering:  what do you think about that?


The Secretary-General:  I have answered this question, I think, at least two or three times already before.  The situation in Darfur and all these preparations and constructions or procurement:  the situation is a very difficult one there.  You don’t have many vendors who are readily available to provide such service at a limited time.  And that is why, in accordance with the necessary rules and regulations bestowed upon me as the Secretary-General, I have taken an exceptional decision.  I am allowed to do that.  And at the same time, I made it quite clear, when it comes to transparency and accountability, I will make sure that there should be a very transparent process of executing this procurement.


Question:  When do you think you are going to inform the General Assembly about the process of the contract?  I don’t know, because they asked, they made a request.


The Secretary-General:  When they ask that question, as you do -- Member States -- this may happen in many national Governments, too.  You cannot always have all these open biddings, 100 per cent open biddings, as required.  But this should not make any precedents, of course.  But all the regulations -- even in national Governments or other organizations -- they have certain exceptional cases when you have to make such a decision.  So I hope you will understand.  But I’m not making to generalize this one.


Question:  Talking about strengthening the United Nations role in the world and the Security Council members to live up to their commitments, I was wondering, Sir, why it took you 10 days or a couple of weeks, to express your position towards the final status of Kosovo.  And also, Sir, I remember last time, while you were in Portugal, as far as I remember, you advised them not to take any premature step by declaring their independence.  I was wondering, what can you tell them this time?


The Secretary-General:  I was mentioning in general, when there is a resolution, a mandate, for me to implement, there should be accountability, both for Member States and the countries concerned -- and the party concerned.  The Security Council has a particular responsibility:  when they take necessary resolutions and decisions to deploy peacekeeping operations or any other security measures, then, in addition to my own work as Secretary-General, they should also help mobilize the necessary resources and funding.  That is what I tried to mean.


Question:  Would you tell us clearly, Sir, what is your position towards the issue of Kosovo?  Do you still support Mr. [Martti] Ahtisaari’s plan?  Do you call for new negotiations, and if so, on what basis?  And is there a time schedule for these negotiations?


The Secretary-General:  I will have to see and assess the situation as the situation unfolds on the Kosovo issue.


Question:  There seems to be a difference of opinion between yourself and the Security Council on the issue of Somalia, where they’ve called repeatedly for an advance team to go in for, really, for exploring, dealing with this issue that [Ahmedou] Ould Abdallah has called more serious than Darfur, very serious.  So can you tell us where things stand in terms of the Secretariat’s following up on what the Council has asked it to do in terms of Somalia?


And one follow-up on my colleague’s question about that contract:  PAE.  The General Assembly itself put into its resolution that it noted with concern and asked for an investigation of the process.  So I know you’ve said transparency, and I believe you, but since you’ve said transparency, we haven’t had any briefing by the people that pushed for the contract, by Jane Holl Lute.  We haven’t had the contract disclosed.  So I think the reason that you have been asked the question three or four times is that it doesn’t seem there’s been any transparency, and the General Assembly, in its resolution on UNAMID, seems to agree with that.  So I just wanted to make sure you understand what the question is, and that it is not an attempt to ask the same thing again and again, but to say “where is the transparency?”


The Secretary-General:  On Somalia, I don’t think there is any difference between me and the Security Council.  I have been continuously consulting with the members of the Security Council on these very important issues.  I have suggested to Security Council members that there should be a two-track approach.  One is, first of all, the Somalis themselves:  they should engage in a broader political dialogue at the leaders’ level for national reconciliation.  And secondly, on the security track, the international community should help AMISOM so that they can have a better capacity to address the security situation there.


As for this advance team, I have made it quite clear, even, I think, to you some time last year, that we are considering dispatching a technical assessment team some time early this year.  On the basis of the report of this technical assessment team, we will discuss again with the Security Council what measures should be taken to help the situation in Somalia.


On this transparency and contract fraud:  transparency is one of my top mottos to make this Organization work as a trusted organization by the Member States.  You should not have any question about my commitment, personally and officially and organizationally.


As for some reports about procurement fraud which have appeared in some of the media, I would like to make it quite clear that I do not agree with all that has been reported.  It is true that there was some fraud, which was found, investigated by our own OIOS teams.  The amount which has been the subject of procurement fraud was sort of an aggregate sum, not the fraud itself, so there were some exaggerations and incorrect reporting.  I feel it unfortunate that the United Nations has been perceived in that way.  It was not in the amount of several hundred million dollars.  That several hundred million dollars was the total aggregate sum of the project fund.  So I hope there should be no misunderstanding.  But this issue was also discovered and investigated by our own.


At this time, I think the United Nations needs some strengthened investigative capacity.  We have many different mandates, different organizations and different agencies, starting from the ombudsman, OIOS, the Ethics Office; and there are all the specialized agencies and funds and programmes.  In November of last year, with my consistent efforts, we were able to have a standardized ethics rule which will be applied to all the agencies, funds and programmes.  That was very good progress in terms of ensuring and strengthening transparency and accountability.  That effort will continue this year and in coming years.


But I hope that Member States one day will consider how we can strengthen the investigative capacity.  We don’t have such investigative capacity in the United Nations.  We have been relying upon this Procurement Task Force.  Fortunately, that mandate has been extended for another year.


Thank you very much.  Again, I wish you all the best:  Happy New Year to you.


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For information media • not an official record
For information media. Not an official record.