TRANSCRIPT OF PRESS CONFERENCE BY SECRETARY-GENERAL BAN KI-MOON AT UNITED NATIONS HEADQUARTERS, 11 SEPTEMBER 2008

11 September 2008
SG/SM/11786

TRANSCRIPT OF PRESS CONFERENCE BY SECRETARY-GENERAL BAN KI-MOON AT UNITED NATIONS HEADQUARTERS, 11 SEPTEMBER 2008

11 September 2008
Secretary-General
SG/SM/11786
Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

TRANSCRIPT OF PRESS CONFERENCE BY SECRETARY-GENERAL ban ki-moon

AT UNITED NATIONS HEADQUARTERS, 11 SEPTEMBER 2008

Ladies and gentlemen, glad to see you again, I’m meeting you for the third time this month.  I feel personally sorry that I have not been able to meet you as often as I hoped during the summer break.  I understand that it has been some months since we had this type of press conference last.  I’d like to meet you more regularly, from next month.  So I’d like to propose that we meet on the first Tuesday of each month, unless my schedule prevents me.  If I have to travel outside of Headquarters, then we’ll try to arrange another date.  So, I’d like to meet you more regularly from today.

On the eve of the new General Assembly, which is going to be my second General Assembly as Secretary-General, I am very much excited and anxious to make this General Assembly as successful -- and even more successful than before.  I see this as a new beginning, a fresh start with fresh initiatives.

As you know very well, on 25 September, the President of the General Assembly and I are going to convene the High-Level Event on the Millennium Development Goals.  And also, before that, on 22 September, again, there will be an equally important High-Level Meeting on African development issues, on NEPAD [New Partnership for Africa’s Development].

Last year, we used these kind of high-level meetings to galvanize political will and action on climate change.  And I would like to use these two occasions to really work more for the poorest people -- the poorest of the poor -– the ‘bottom billion’ trapped in poverty.

Some 150 countries will be represented, including more than 90 Heads of State or Government and other international figures.  Nearly 20 of the world’s biggest and prominent philanthropic foundations will also be here.

Today, we’re releasing The Millennium Goals Report 2008 –- the most comprehensive global assessment to date.  It provides hard evidence on what we have done well, and what more needs to be done if we are to reach our goals by 2015.

Developing countries are devoting more resources to education and health, thanks to reduced external debt servicing, fresh assistance and new financing from private foundations.

Primary school enrolment is rising, and we’ve been seeing progress on health and gender equality.

The proportion of people living in extreme poverty is expected to decline by half by 2015, according to new data from the World Bank.  That, too, is a major accomplishment.

But progress is largely concentrated in Asia.  Until recently, sub-Saharan Africa was losing ground in the fight against extreme poverty.  Investment in agriculture is critical.

Despite the challenges, there are enough successes to prove that most of the Goals are reachable in all countries.

In most cases, we already know what needs to be done, and how.  Now we need an aggressive push to get the world on track.

On MDGs [Millennium Development Goals], there have been some questions, even doubts, about whether these MDG goals are achievable ones.  I believe that these are achievable Goals, as set out and agreed by world leaders in 2000.  For that to be possible, we must really galvanize political will and mobilize necessary resources and I count on the leadership of developed countries.

I expect all participants to announce specific initiatives or commitments and lay out plans for them.  By the close of the meeting, we hope to be in a very different place from where we are today.

I am going to have another press conference at the close of the high-level event on 25 September.

I think this is a new era of global partnership, not just by Member States, but by a galaxy of emerging players on the international scene.  I know that you have more immediate concerns.  Let me address a few issues of conflicts.

On Georgia, I remain in almost daily contact with world leaders.  I have offered my good offices to facilitate international discussions, and we will explore possible peacekeeping or other arrangements for Abkhazia and South Ossetia.  We are also looking at sending a fact-finding mission to Georgia.  United Nations agencies are delivering assistance to all people they can reach.

On Cyprus, I am encouraged by our progress and by our facilitation role on this issue.  This week, I have spoken with all the key players, including the Turkish Cypriot leader, Mehmet Ali Talat, and the Greek Cypriot leader, Dimitris Christofias, as well as the Prime Minister of Greece, Kostas Karamanlis, and the Turkish Prime Minister, Recep Erdogan.

The first substantive negotiations began this morning, attended by my Special Adviser, Alexander Downer.  He describes the meeting as “productive” and “fruitful”.  During my telephone calls to all the leaders, I have urged them to seize the momentum and try to demonstrate their political leadership with a sense of flexibility and wisdom, also looking beyond their visions and issues; they should look to the future of the Cypriot people.  While I believe that the Cypriot people have the ownership of this, we are committed to continue to provide our facilitating role.

On Lebanon, I am encouraged by President [Michel] Suleiman’s efforts towards establishing an inclusive national dialogue, also including diplomatic relations between Lebanon and Syria.  At the same time, I condemn yesterday’s car bombing and urge restraint.  This is a very frustrating situation, that we see many such bombings and killings.  This violence only underscores how important it is for dialogue and reconciliation to move forward.

The United Nations Deputy Secretary-General, Dr. [Asha-Rose] Migiro, arrived in Lebanon today.  Her visit will focus chiefly on economic development, but she will have meetings with President Suleiman, Prime Minister [Fouad] Siniora and Speaker [Nabih] Berri.

We have strongly supported the Annapolis process with its ambitious goal of a comprehensive peace by the end of 2008 –- a peace that will encompass the reality of two States, Palestine and Israel, living in peace and security.

The meetings I will host on the margins of the General Assembly offer an opportunity to assess the situation and chart a way ahead.  There will be meetings of the Quartet and the Ad Hoc Liaison Committee as well as an iftar for Arab leaders.

I share the frustration many feel with the situation in Myanmar.  We have not seen the political progress I had hoped for.  We want to see the parties, in particular the Government of Myanmar, take tangible steps towards establishing a credible and inclusive political process in the country, which of course must include progress on human rights.

Somalia cannot be abandoned.  Since coming into office, I have insisted on a stronger response.  The recent Djibouti agreement reached under the auspices of my Special Representative is encouraging.  But to consolidate this process, we need to deploy an international force.  And Member States must strengthen the current African Union force on the ground. 

In the broader Horn of Africa, more than 14 million people urgently need help.  In Ethiopia alone, the population needing food aid could double to 8 million by the end of this year.

Hurricanes have been devastating the Caribbean.  In the last month, Haiti has been hit especially hard.  There is also severe flooding in South Asia. 

Climate shocks are affecting people everywhere.  We have to find ways to revitalize this debate.  Our first test comes three months from now in Poznan, Poland.  By then we need a shared vision of what a global climate change agreement will look like.  We have only 18 months until Copenhagen.  The clock is ticking.  In that regard, I would like to again urge the leaders of the Polish Government, the Danish Government and all other Member States of the United Nations to demonstrate their political leadership.

Our theme for last year’s General Assembly was building a stronger United Nations for a better world.  This is an ongoing effort.  You may have read my remarks to our senior advisers in Torino during our senior retreat.  Some press reports misconstrued what I said, suggesting that I viewed our first year as a failure.

To the contrary, I think we’ve made good progress in many areas, particularly when it comes to management reform.  Please remember that the purpose of the retreat in Torino was that we really wanted to improve the areas where we have not made progress rather than focusing on the areas where we have made some progress.  Therefore, my remarks to our senior advisers have been mainly focused on what we need to do more.

But my essential point is that we need change.  The world is changing around us, and the United Nations must also change with it.  We are responsible to the global taxpayers -– and to the United Nations thousands of hard-working and dedicated staff members –- to create an Organization that is more effective and more modern.  That is better able to deal with the world’s problems.

This year -– and in coming years –- I will devote strenuous effort to changing and reforming how this Organization does business.

Lastly, today we are observing again the tragic anniversary of the 11 September terrorist attacks.  This week, as you have already participated, the United Nations held an unprecedented symposium in support of the victims of terrorism and we had also a review session of the United Nations Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy.  On this solemn occasion, we stand with the families and the loved ones they lost.  And you have our firm commitment to fight against terrorism.

Thank you.  I will now take your questions.

Question: Mr. Secretary-General, on behalf of the United Nations Correspondents Association, thanks for doing this, especially the Q&A.  As you said, it’s been too long, but this idea of doing it on the first Tuesday of every month will, I think, go well and should lead to a different mix of questions.

Also, thanks for addressing at least some of the conflicts that are going on, particularly like Myanmar.  I know it’s been almost three weeks since Mr. [Ibrahim] Gambari made his visit, and there has been a lot of actually negative press coverage saying that the visit was perceived as a failure, that he didn’t meet with Aung San Suu Kyi, nor with General Than Shwe.  It’s also reported that he’s offering electoral help, whereas most of the opposition parties say that the way the election is proceeding towards 2010 is undemocratic and is under a Constitution that really wasn’t legitimately approved.

I wonder if you could say specifically where you would like to see things go in Myanmar, and also, while over the summer, while we haven’t had this opportunity, things in the Security Council have, if not spiralled out of control, there’s been a lot of heated rhetoric, particularly between Russia and the United States; many people are calling it a new cold war.  There’s something as the Secretary-General -– maybe in the context of Georgia or maybe more generally –- that you can do to try to get the permanent five, and particularly those two, working more closely and constructively together.

The Secretary-General: Those are two timely questions; I thank you very much for them.  On Myanmar, I am as concerned as you are, and as frustrated as everybody else.  But I would like not to characterize Mr. Gambari’s visit as a failure.  If you talk about failure, then, if we stop making progress through all possible diplomatic means, that should be viewed as a failure.  I continue to make progress in this, as mandated by the General Assembly.  As you may know, I’m going to convene an ambassador-level meeting of the Group of Friends on Myanmar tomorrow afternoon to discuss this matter with concerned Member States.  I’ll try to continue to do whatever I can, in close coordination with Member States, particularly those countries which may have some influence on Myanmar.

On Georgia, again, I have been personally engaged on a near-daily basis since the outset of this crisis.  I have made clear the United Nations willingness to help in every way it can.  I dispatched the High Commissioner for Refugees, Mr. [José Antonio] Guterres, immediately after this situation broke out during the month of August, and United Nations humanitarian agencies are working very hard to assist those affected by the conflict and to get people back to their homes.  As I said, I’m now working very hard, in close coordination with concerned parties, to dispatch fact-finding missions, largely humanitarian, as well as on some human rights issues, led by OCHA [the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs] and composed of many agencies of the United Nations.  Mr. [Johan] Verbeke, my new Special Representative on Georgia, visited European capitals.  Most recently –- I think Monday this week –- he had a good meeting with Russian Foreign Minister [Sergey] Lavrov in Moscow and with other senior Government officials to discuss all these issues.

In accordance with the six-point agreement, the United Nations obviously has a role to play.  The United Nations Secretariat is involved in setting up an international mechanism and international talks as stipulated in the agreement.  As envisaged, an international conference on Georgia, as already announced, will take place in Geneva on 15 October, and I am currently discussing with both France and Russia the possible United Nations role in this context, and we are currently working, as I said, on dispatching these humanitarian assessment teams.

Question: Do you agree with the idea that there may be kind of a new cold war between the two forces, both the [unintelligible] and the Zimbabwe resolution, on Kosovo, on a variety of issues.  I just wonder if you can … you would be one person that could try to mediate that in some way.

The Secretary-General: As the Secretary-General, I really try to avoid your question, because I do not want to really think about that kind of possibility.

Question: Thank you, Mr. Secretary-General.  A quick follow-up to what you stated about this fact-finding mission to Georgia.  Would the United Nations want to send this fact-finding mission to South Ossetia as well as to the rest of Georgia?

Secondly, I know you talked about the Turin meeting, but one of your great criticisms was the lack of flexibility in a lot of the United Nations bodies in terms of trying to meet the needs and demands of the world today regarding staff and a lot of other things.  What was the response that you got, and what specific measures are you planning to take to try and make this Organization more responsive?

The Secretary-General:  Of course, this assessment team will have to visit South Ossetia and other areas, but we are still working on exact terms of reference.  We are not yet there.  We are working very hard to finalize it and to again complete our coordination with other concerned parties.

About the level of flexibility, well, if I say jokingly, please bring me anybody who is more flexible, in many areas, than I am.  I am sure that my staff will agree with me on that point.  I am a man of flexibility -- real flexibility, reasonableness and sound judgment -- and I do not insist on my own, sometimes egoistic, views.  I have been warning and advising our senior staff.  I do appreciate and respect any person’s own philosophical views, sometimes egoistic views, independent-minded views.  When you are working for a huge organization like the United Nations, composed of many different nationalities, then you really need to have a very harmonious management style.  That is what I have been doing.  Therefore, when somebody criticizes me as lacking flexibility, I regard that as unfair.  That is my personal view.  I am very firm in principle.

There may be some exceptional things.  People want to have some exceptions.  In fact, there are no rules without exceptions.  That may be a fact of life, but I like to base my conduct of business and management on the basis of rules and regulations and principles.  When it comes to ethics, you have to be ethical, as guided by all these ethical rules.

When it comes to mobility, then you really need to change.  I know that there is some reluctance on the part of staff, but when I said mobility, mobility should be accompanied by good prospects for job career development as well as training.  This is what I am going to do.  If you look at certain statistics, you will be surprised how much this Organization has not been mobile.  I really want to make this Organization mobile, versatile, efficient and effective.  Then, why should we not respond to criticism -- sometimes constructive criticism, but sometimes very severe criticism against our Organization.  As a Secretary-General, it is natural that I have to look at the criticism very seriously.  Whatever needs to be changed and improved, that’s what I have to do.

I really want to make this Organization very mobile.  There should not be any fear or concerns about the mobility.  In that regard, to have a better understanding with our staff, I am going to have a town hall meeting again with all of our staff after this general debate period is over, but my remarks in Torino were not to reprimand our staff.  In fact, I went out of my way to very highly praise the dedicated service and devotion of our staff.  But my point was more focused on our senior advisers, that they should follow my lead by example, a policy.  Now, this has to trickle down to all areas of our staff.  Thank you very much.

Question:  Thank you, Secretary General.  I would like to ask you about the Western Sahara issue.  There has been a lot of controversy about Mr. [Peter] van Walsum, whether he is the one who had to resign or whether you are the one who decided to not renew his contract.  Also, concerning the new envoy and when he is going to be appointed and the prospects of holding a new round.  Finally, Sir, on the Quartet issue that you plan to, on the side of the General Assembly, can you give us more details of what you expect out of this?  Don’t you think it is too late now to achieve this goal of Annapolis that was referred to, about a Palestinian State by the end of 2008?

The Secretary-General:  About the Western Sahara, I would like to make it quite clear:  it was not my decision not to extend his term of contract.  He came to me; he sent me a note saying that he felt that he had done enough for his role and that I had better find some other person.  I did not make a decision on that until the last minute.  He had shown extremely capable leadership, commitment and a great deal of passion to come to a resolution to this long-standing issue.  I highly appreciate his contribution.

Since he decided voluntarily to quit this post, I had to find another person to replace him, because I am also very committed to continue this negotiation process.  He has convened four rounds of negotiations with some success, improvement, progress, but with ups and downs.  It is not the case that the two parties have completely agreed, but they appreciated it and they agreed that these meetings should continue.  I am now in the process of selecting a good replacement negotiator on this matter.

Question: Will it be Christopher Ross?

Secretary-General:  I am not in a position to confirm it.  I saw the report.

Now, on the Quartet, as I did participate, I have been participating in the Quartet meeting, I thought it would be very desirable and important to have another Quartet meeting during the time of this general debate.  There is an agreement.  I am going to do it on -- I think it is a Friday, 26 September.  After that, I will have a press conference and after that I will convene an iftar dinner, inviting many Arab leaders together with the Quartet principals.

There are, again, questions and doubts whether this Annapolis process is achievable by the end of this year as has been announced.  Until such time as we see the final resolution of the Annapolis process, we must continue.  Leaders of both Israel and the Palestinians have been meeting regularly.  That has been one encouraging situation.  I hope they will continue, whatever may happen to the leadership of Israel.

If we do not see any tangible agreement by the end of December, then I would really hope that the next United States Administration will take over this process and continue.  But at this time, I would really urge and hope that this process continue, and try to achieve as much as we can and build upon this progress.

Question:  You said you had discussions with the leaders of the two communities [in Cyprus] and the Prime Ministers of Greece and Turkey.  What do you make of their seriousness and commitment?  And also, what will the United Nations do differently this time so we don’t have an effort doomed to fail like all the previous times?

The Secretary-General:  The Cyprus issue is four-decades long -— a long-standing conflict issue -— that really must be resolved as soon as possible.  I had bilateral meetings with both leaders from Cyprus and the Turkish Cypriot side, in June while visiting Paris.  I was also very impressed by their commitment and willingness to engage between the two leaders and continue their negotiation.  I was told that they had been long-standing, old friends.  This will also create a good atmosphere politically.

I think we have good momentum.  The United Nations is now re-energizing with a new Special Adviser, a very experienced and seasoned diplomat who is well respected by both sides and other concerned parties.  Therefore, I urge them, when they are going to discuss very substantive and very contentious issues, like governing and power-sharing and property issues, they must really show flexibility and leadership by thinking beyond current issues and by thinking of their future.

Question:  I am going to ask you my question in English to move things along more quickly.

You said, a moment ago, that you did not feel that you had to answer every criticism directed towards the United Nations.  However, the current paralysis, as it seems, of the Security Council on certain key sensitive issues -— doesn’t that worry you that soon again we may hear a very familiar criticism, which is that the United Nations is irrelevant?  And I am not only talking about those who advocate a League of Democracies.  Are you worried about that?  And what do you intend to do to push for the reform of the Security Council?

The Secretary-General:  During the last 20 months, whenever — or even without any serious regional conflicts happening — I have been closely coordinating and consulting with the Security Council members.  I have had the regular monthly luncheon.  In addition to that, I have been meeting with the Presidents of the Security Council and even all the P5s [five permanent members of the Security Council] and the non-permanent members.  Often, we have been frustrated by the inability to reach an agreement, because of very acute political differences.

But, largely, we should not be very frustrated by all these things that are happening.  I sincerely hope that the members of the Security Council, while deeply recognizing the primary responsibility for peace and security mandated by the Charter of the United Nations, should really be able to agree on all those issues.

Question:  On Lebanon, you just praised the national dialogue and also you were frustrated by what you are seeing in Lebanon right now.  In July, you sent an assessment team.  The official report came out two days ago.  The recommendations and the implementation of team one were insufficient.  How much are you still concerned about the smuggling of arms into Lebanon, in the light of the declaration of Israeli officials and Mr. [Ehud] Olmert have been loudly threatening against Lebanon?  And, another thing -- who has replaced Ambassador Verbeke in Lebanon as [your] representative?

The Secretary-General:  Ambassador Verbeke, as you know, was appointed Special Representative in Lebanon.  But, due to some unavoidable circumstances, which I do not want to discuss with you publicly, I have decided, in close coordination with the Security Council, to [appoint him to] work as a new Special Representative in Georgia.  He is now in the process of discussing his transition with Mr. Jean Arnault, the current Special Representative.  I hope you understand my answer.

On Lebanon, again, this illegal smuggling of arms, that has been a source of great concern in dealing with the Lebanese situation.  We have been trying to implement Security Council resolution 1701 (2006).  UNIFIL has been very closely coordinating with the Lebanese armed forces.  It is encouraging that the Lebanese and Syrian Governments have agreed to discuss the delineation of borders and border security, including this illegal arms transfer.  Whenever I have met and spoken with President [Bashar] al-Assad of Syria, I have raised this issue and discussed and urged him to strengthen his border monitoring systems.  This will be a continuing commitment and effort by the United Nations, urging them to expedite this process.

Question:  [inaudible] the threat in Lebanon?

The Secretary-General:  You should know that there have been some indirect talks between Israel and Syria, under the auspices of the Turkish Government.  I hope that this indirect negotiation will continue, which will really lessen and reduce the security threat in Lebanon.  There should be overall peace and stability in the region.  Of course, security and stability in Lebanon is also very important.  But these days, I think we see a generally improving and encouraging development of the situation among the parties concerned.  This is what we have been encouraging, and I have always been talking with the leaders.  Even yesterday, I discussed this matter with the Prime Minister of Turkey, to encourage him to contribute to that process.

Question:  Do you think that Lebanon should start a peace process with Israel?  Is it the right time?

The Secretary-General: Any peace process is desirable. Since they formed the national unity Government, they have much more leverage and political unity.  This is the right time for them to engage in all dialogue.

Question:  First of all, I would like to add my voice to Matthew’s endorsing the idea of regular press conferences.  A good idea, although I would caution against holding one on the first Tuesday of November, as your words might get drowned out by other news that day.

My question is on North Korea, two aspects.  One, what is your level of concern about the reports of Kim Jong Il’s possible debilitating illness and the possible transfer of power and the implications for a destabilized North Korea and the peninsula?  Also, combined with that, there are reports that the Yongbyon nuclear reactor is being reassembled.  How concerned are you about those two developments, and is there anything you might be able to add in terms of your knowledge of those two developments?

The Secretary-General:  As Secretary-General of the United Nations and also as a Korean citizen, I am deeply interested in this and am closely following the situation and what is happening there.  But at this time, I am not in a position to have any independent source of information to confirm what has been reported in the media.  I can tell you that I am closely following this matter.  I only hope that any situation taking place in the DPRK will not negatively affect what has been going on in terms of the denuclearization process of the Korean peninsula, as agreed by the six parties.

On the denuclearization process, I am also deeply concerned by the DPRK’s decision to go back to reassembling that nuclear facility.  They must commit to their agreement, made at the six-party talks, for the early realization of the denuclearization process.  I have welcomed the agreement reached by the six parties, which was a very welcome development in the situation on the Korean peninsula.  Now with this impasse, I sincerely hope and urge all the six-party members to play their role in facilitating that ongoing process.

Question:  Mr. Secretary-General, I know that you have already expressed reluctance, through your spokesperson, to address the issue of the cold war.  But I will insist on trying to address that issue.  Can you state your view on everything that has been said before, regarding the possibility of returning to -- or even just displaying the rhetoric of -- the cold war here at the United Nations?  What are your views, sir?

The Secretary-General:  As Secretary-General, and as one of the citizens of the world, I would like to really rule out any possibility of returning to the era of the cold war.  I do not want to repeat the term “cold war” myself; that is why I have avoided it.  That is very firm, as far as I’m concerned.  But it would be too hasty to characterize the current situation we are seeing as going back to a so-called cold war.  All conflict issues must be resolved through dialogue, through a harmonious way.

The European Union and the Russian Federation have been discussing the matter of the situation in Georgia, and they have agreed on six points and on many other issues.  We sincerely hope that when we meet in Geneva on October 15, we will be able to discuss this issue in a comprehensive way.  So let us not be so pessimistic about what is happening in this world.  There have been many times when Security Council members have not been able to agree on specific issues.  But it is too hasty -- and too dangerous, even -- to think about this so-called “cold war”.

Question:  What do you think about the recent rhetoric, which we saw a few weeks ago in the exchange between the Russian and American ambassadors in the Security Council?

The Secretary-General:  That harsh rhetoric is not always desirable in resolving a difference of opinions.  That is why I have always tried to highly value dialogue, and sometimes, if necessary, very quiet diplomacy.  I know that on several occasions, my diplomatic style has not been very visible.  You can be visible, but sometimes you need to be engaged in a very quiet dialogue, behind closed doors.  You have seen in the past, in our history, that sometimes very quiet dialogue, quiet diplomacy, behind-the-scenes dialogue has been very effective, more effective than an exchange of rhetoric.

Question: Mr. Secretary-General, with the 9/11 anniversary upon us, security and terrorism are high in our minds.  You condemned the attack that took place in Lebanon yesterday and took the life of an opposition leader.  Talking about terrorism, people in the Middle East are wondering when they will see an end to impunity in Lebanon.  We know there is a tribunal being set up.  They heard of the steps you mentioned and the progress being made.  Is there anything new about that progress that you can tell them now, to make sure they believe that this is going to happen at the end of this year or sometime soon?

Also, on terrorism, the New York Times has pointed out that President Bush gave his OK in July to an operation by special forces inside Pakistan, and today the head of the joint forces in Pakistan, General Ashfaq Kayani, has said that they will never allow foreign forces to conduct operations on their soil and that they will defend their country.  What is the view of the Secretary-General on countries running or conducting operations in other countries, Member States, without their approval?  Do you consider that a threat to peace and security, or is it OK in the name of the global war on terrorism?

The Secretary-General:  On your second question, I think this is something that I need to mention:  I am not in a position to make any comment on that.

On terrorism, we discussed it quite at length during my last press conference.  Terrorism cannot be justified in any reasons and should be prevented in all its forms and manifestations.  That is a very firm principle.  The United Nations is now doing all to mobilize the firm political will of the international community.  But I am very much frustrated by what we have seen recently:  many suicide terrorist bombings against civilians.  Protecting civilians in particular is a very important priority for us.

Question:  Sir, you did not answer my question with regard to Lebanon.  People are waiting to see if there will be an end to impunity and if there is any more progress other than what they have already heard on the tribunal issue.  Concerning the attack on Pakistan and the statement by the head of the joint forces, General Ashfaq Kayani, that they will defend their country, they will not allow another …. It’s a grave situation that threatens peace and security, and you should have an opinion about it.  We understand that it involves the United States, the host State, but we need to hear from you, sir.

The Secretary-General:  My Registrar [for the Lebanon tribunal] has been instructed to start and continue his function as Registrar, to make the necessary administrative preparations, so that once this special tribunal is officially launched, it will be able to function immediately.  As I have said on previous occasions, sufficient funds have been secured for the establishment and operation for the 12 months.  I am now in the process of securing funds for an additional two years of operation.

In that regard, I need to discuss this matter with the Lebanese leadership as to what would be a realistically workable date for the official launching of that special tribunal, but as far as plans are concerned, they are continuing well, and as far as a commitment is concerned, you have my full assurance on that.  I should like to refrain from making any further comments on that.

Question:  Secretary-General, you spoke about your tough-talking in Turin with your managers.  There seems to be a lot of resistance within the Organization to the type of reform that you are trying to bring about here.  What concrete steps are you willing to take, shake-ups, perhaps, within your management and the people working for you, other concrete steps that you're willing to take to make sure your vision comes through?

On the MDGs, you mention global taxpayers -- and the United Nations belongs to us all -- what can you tell the global taxpayers in concrete terms what your expectations of them are, in terms of monetary contributions from their Governments, and will the expectations grow in terms of how much money will be expected to meet your goals within the Millennium Development [Goals] project?

The Secretary-General:  On reform policies, I think you will agree with me that in every part of the world, when there are going to be some reform measures, there naturally is some resistance; that I understand.  In an organization, a very huge Organization like the United Nations, composed of different nationalities, particularly intergovernmental and Secretariat, you can also expect resistance, first because of the differences in traditions and the differences in cultures and understanding.  Therefore it takes time.  That may be the reason why the United Nations has not really been able to make a genuine sense of reform.

My proposal is not just to shake and stir for that purpose.  I really want to see the United Nations change, responding to a changing world.  It is not a new story that has appeared; it’s not a new theory.  From Day One, I have been emphasizing mobility.  Since I have seen the United Nations from outside, even from inside, I think that nobody can say no to the necessity for and importance of change for the good progress and achievement of this Organization.  That’s a mandate I am given by the Member States.

I have given instructions to the Department of Management -- the Under-Secretary-General and OHRM [the Office for Human Resources Management], the Assistant Secretary-General -- to make some pilot programme, together with career development and training programmes, so that people can feel more accepting of that proposal.  It is absolutely necessary and desirable that we change.  You may find somebody very handy and comfortable to work with, when someone has been working in the same post for 10 or 15 years.  But from that kind of person you will never be able to find any sense of motivation, new creative ideas.  For many people it becomes routine, a daily routine job, with no sense of motivation.  So I really want to see this Organization re-energized, recharged and full of motivation, creativity and versatility, and multifunctional and multi-skilled.  That is the major purpose, and this will be a managed mobility.

On the MDGs, I do really appreciate and understand the economic difficulties in many developed countries, let alone many poor countries, so there may be some political resistance in allocating 0.7 per cent of GNI by 2015, but this requires some political leadership and political priority.  After all, resources are always limited.  There is no such country that can say it has enough resources.  That will never happen in the future, but if you have political leadership and determined political leaders, you can put national policy priority on MDGs.  That is what I'm asking and urging of the political leadership.  That is exactly why I'm convening all those high-level meetings in addressing climate change and the MDGs.

Question:  On that high-level meeting on MDGs, Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao is about to attend this high-level event and deliver a speech.  I wonder if you have any comment on China’s MDGs so far, and what kind of expectations do you have of the Chinese Government in helping other developing countries achieve their MDG targets?

The Secretary-General:  China is one of the fast-growing economic countries, and it has shown many good examples.  And those examples should be shared with, transferred to and emulated by many developing countries.  I'm very encouraged by and grateful to the Chinese Premier that he comes himself to participate in this high-level meeting.  I sincerely hope that Member States will learn and that China will be able to share its experience.  Also, its commitment to participating in the MDG realization will be crucially important.  China has been hosting African forums for many years and has been providing the necessary economic and technological cooperation to many developing countries.  That is what we expect from other countries, too.

Question:  Just a follow-up to what you're talking about regarding China.  What do you expect of China as far as a partner in climate change goes?  They have not exactly been very cooperative when it comes to the carbon footprint, in which you yourself have made great strides?

The Secretary-General:  When I visited China last July, I had very constructive and useful meetings with President Hu Jintao, Premier Wen Jiabao, Minister for Foreign Affairs Yang Jiechi and many others in the senior-level leadership.  They showed me strong commitment to contribute to these ongoing negotiations on climate change.  Everybody agrees that to be able to reach an effective, balanced, inclusive and ratifiable global agreement by the end of next year, to replace the Kyoto Protocol, we need the very constructive engagement and firm commitment of several major economies.  I think the United States will be one of the most important countries with respect to leadership, and China, India and Brazil.  Those are the countries that many members of the international community expect to exercise political leadership.  While we appreciate all the individual challenges of individual countries, we are talking about a global challenge that requires a global response through global partnership.  This is not the issue of a single country.  We must clearly see beyond national and geographical borders and national challenges.

Question:  Is this building safe?

The Secretary-General:  I can tell you that this is safe.  We have taken many necessary measures to meet the standards suggested by the New York City Government.  In fact, there were inspections by the Fire Department of New York, and I met Mayor [Michael] Bloomberg in my office, together with the Fire Department Commissioner, and after that I met with Mayor Bloomberg several times.  I visited his residence and discussed this matter.

According to the suggestions and recommendations and findings, the United Nations modified its guided-tour route effective 1 August.  We also found that New York City-based safety advisers have confirmed that the building is safe for visitors, delegations and staff.  Close to 50,000 students visit the United Nations each year, among 500,000 visitors every year.  It is regrettable that some of the public school students will not be able to see and learn the agendas of the United Nations and learn more for the future.

We have taken the necessary measures for safety, particularly on fire safety.  We want to confirm also that we are confident that the United Nations facilities are safe, and we will take all necessary measures to make this building safe for all visitors and all delegations, and also staff.

As we are preparing for this General Assembly and for many incoming visiting heads of State and Government and distinguished delegations, it is our duty to make this building the safest place.  We have, I think, installed all these fire doors, which can prevent fire.

Question:  But they are very unfriendly to handicapped people, sir.  The place became a nightmare for handicapped persons and should have been more friendly to them.

The Secretary-General: I will look at this issue again.  Thank you very much.

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