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

7 October 2008
SG/SM/11851

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

7 October 2008
Secretary-General
SG/SM/11851
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 OCTOBER 2008

 

United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon: Good morning, ladies and gentlemen.

Before taking your questions, let me make some brief opening statement.

First, in the context of the global financial crisis, I would like to call your attention to the closing of the General Debate and the remarkable success of our two High-Level Events on the Millennium Development Goals and African Development Needs.  Everyone has felt the earthquake on Wall Street.  But it has not shaken our resolve.  Banks may be failing.  But the world’s bottom billion can bank on us.  We showed that last week.  The global financial crisis may have overshadowed our work, but it did not dominate it.  Despite the market turmoil, we raised $16 billion.

The generosity of these commitments is most encouraging, given the economic climate.  It means the world is not forgetting the needs of the world’s poorest people, notwithstanding the prospect of harder times.  It means that, for all the obstacles, we have a good chance of meeting our Millennium Development Goals by 2015.  I urge world leaders to honour these pledges.

We saw genuinely fresh thinking and new approaches.  Our new initiative on malaria, backed by a broad range of public and private partners, is a model of how a problem that we have lived with for too long can be overcome.  I also call your attention to the World Food Programme’s (WFP) truly innovative pilot programme for spurring agricultural development in Africa.  I urge you to remember both as you write about these issues over the coming months.  As you know, they will be front-and-centre next month at the Doha conference on financing for development.

Second, a few words on issues of peace and security:  Next week, I fly to Geneva for talks with the European Union and OSCE (Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe) concerning the situation in Georgia and the future role of the United Nations.  As you know, I have called for a four-month technical extension of the UNOMIG mandate, which is going to expire by 15 October, next week.  That should give us time to establish a firm framework for future cooperation among all the parties.  My special envoy, Johan Verbeke, has just returned from his visits to Tblisi and Abkhazia and will remain fully and deeply engaged.

The situation in Darfur is deteriorating.  We are seeing increasing attacks on UN and international staff.  The UNAMID mission is severely stretched.  Just yesterday, a Nigerian peacekeeper was killed in an ambush.  He was the ninth UN soldier to die in Darfur in the last three months.  That is why I have sent our new head of UN Peacekeeping Operations, Alain Le Roy, to Sudan this week.  The head of the UN Department of Field Services, Ms. Susana Malcorra, is also in Khartoum now.  The purpose of their visit is to accelerate our deployment and push the political process, without which there can be no peace.

Despite the many obstacles, we aim to reach 65 per cent deployment by the end of the year, and 85 per cent by March 2009.  I may have to adjust a little bit in view of the circumstances on the ground.  The first Egyptian and Ethiopian battalions will deploy by the end of October.  Yesterday, I spoke with the Prime Minister of Thailand with a view towards securing the deployment of a Thai battalion in Darfur.  I also discussed this matter with the Prime Minister of Nepal during the General debate.  As you know, the Government of Sudan has approved the deployment of both Thai and Nepalese military units.  They were very positive conversations, and I am assured that the Thai and Nepali Governments will move ahead as soon as possible.

During the General Debate, President Viktor Yushchenko and I explored the possibility of deploying Ukrainian military helicopters and personnel to Darfur.  We have had subsequent discussions with the Ukrainian Defence Minister in New York last week.  These efforts are continuing.

The political and military situation in Afghanistan is precarious, at best.  The multinational force is stretched to the limit of its current resources.  In this context, I thank the Japanese Government for its contributions, most recently the decision to extend its naval mission in the Indian Ocean.

In Somalia, 3 million people are in danger of starving. Nearly 90 per cent of the food that feeds them arrives from the sea aboard WFP ships.  As you know, pirates are terrorizing Somalia’s coastal waters.  Navy vessels from the Netherlands, France, Denmark and Canada have been escorting our ships safely into the ports.   Canada’s tour of duty ends on October 23.  As yet, no nation has volunteered to take Canada’s place.  Without escorts, those ships will not arrive.  Without that aid, more people will die.

The European Union and other nations are discussing solutions.  I am going to discuss this matter with Javier Solana when I visit Geneva.  I urge them to bear in mind the October 23 deadline as they consider longer-term solutions to the challenge of piracy on the Horn of Africa.  The political future of Somalia is uncertain again.  Yet, we need to set to work on a plan for deploying a viable multinational force to help secure a peace, or at the very least sustain its people.  I have been discussing this issue with a number of leaders of potential troop-contributing countries.  Amid the crises of the moment, we must not forget the plight of others.

Lastly, a word on climate change.  It remains the defining challenge of our era.  The danger is that, as with the MDGs, the magnitude of the threat will be obscured by shorter-term problems, and in particular the deepening financial crisis.  If so, this would be a tragedy. We have no time to lose.

In December, negotiators gather in Poznan, Poland.  At that point, they will have less than a year to reach a successful climate change agreement in Copenhagen.  We need to come away from Poznan with a shared vision for international cooperation, a clear workplan with specific goals, a serious commitment to a global Adaptation Fund, and, above all, a strong willingness to the part of developed and developing nations alike to lead on an issue that all agree is an existential threat to our planet.

Faced with immediate economic troubles, it would be natural for Governments and the people everywhere to lose sight of this fact.  Our job is to not let that happen.  Our job is to keep science at the forefront.  To keep public attention focused on the issue.  And, above all, to keep making progress.  For in truth, no challenge is as great as this.

Grave as it may be, today’s financial crisis will be overcome.  We must underline the need for “crisis-proofing” of the important priorities of the United Nations from international financial turbulence.

Thank you very much.  I will be happy to answer your questions.

Question:  Thank you, Mr. Secretary-General.  Yesterday, the President of the World Bank, Robert Zoellick, called for doubling the membership of the G-7 in order to deal with the global economic crisis.  The current G-7 is unable to contain the crisis.  I wonder what is your position to really strengthen the multilateralism mechanism to deal with the economic crisis and serve programmes like the MDGs.  Without a strong mechanism, I don’t know if you are confident you can get the $16 billion by 2015.

The Secretary-General:  Like anybody else in the world, I’m very much concerned about this continuing financial crisis.  Though the US Government has agreed to have this bail-out programme for $700 billion, and European Union leaders are taking necessary measures, and I understand the finance ministers of important countries will gather this weekend for the Bretton Woods institutions meetings, I hope they’ll be able to address this issue and contain first of all and look at the medium- and longer-term measures to address this issue.  As Secretary-General, I am very much concerned about the impact which this crisis may impose on world leaders and world Governments, particularly the developed countries, donor countries whose capacity may be weakened in addressing the Millennium Development Goals and climate change and the global food crisis.  This is why I am emphasizing that we need to underline the crisis-proofing of the UN’s major priorities.  We are facing multiple crises.  In that regard, I agree with what the President of the World Bank, Mr. Robert Zoellick, stressed.  The G-8 leaders have committed to provide annually $50 billion for the proposal for helping developing countries, in 2005 at the Gleneagles Summit.  Now, because of changing prices, it has gone up at least $62 billion.  First of all, G-8 countries should implement their commitments and they should look at this issue while addressing financial crises; they should not lose sight and they should keep in mind to put at the forefront the challenges of the most vulnerable countries, the poorest countries in the world.

Question:  Secretary-General.  Do you think it would help the peace process in Darfur that you yourself have committed so much time, if the UN Security Council passed a resolution suspending the ICC’s investigation of President [Omar] al-Bashir?  Would you support that?

The Secretary-General:  This is very important and this is an issue involved in very fundamental principles of peace and justice.  I believe that peace and justice are two very important pillars we must uphold.  First of all, I’m very much aware of the concerns expressed, particularly by the African Union and the League of Arab States and the Organization of the Islamic Conference, Member States, even many Non-Aligned Movement countries on addressing this ICC issue.  As Secretary-General, I have a broad responsibility to promote and protect and uphold two important principles.  I think these two principles should go hand in hand in parallel.  In addressing this issue, first of all, the Sudanese Government should fully cooperate to ensure that this peace process, as well as the safe and security and deployment of the Hybrid Operation progress as smoothly, as expeditiously, as possible, while also they look at this issue of taking very credible judicial measures to meet the expectations and requirements of the International Criminal Court.  The International Criminal Court is an independent and judicial organization whose decisions and judgement should be respected and protected.  And that is what I am going to do.  There needs to be a very harmonious balance while we keep these two processes and pillars moving in parallel.

Question:  Can you comment a bit more on the political process taking place in Somalia right now, and what hope is there for that process to move forward and give some relief that’s giving rise to the piracy situation?

The Secretary-General:  There was a very important agreement signed between the Government and the Alliance [for the Re-liberation of Somalia], the ARS, in early June, and there was again a very important agreement among the political leaders in Somalia, Ethiopia, during the month of August.  Those were very encouraging developments of the situation politically inside Somalia and we strongly support this political reconciliatory dialogue, and it should continue and the international community should support such a process.  At the same time, I would urge Somalia leaders to do more, to have an inclusive political dialogue comprising all the factors, all the ethnic groups and all the religious leaders and all the spectrums of their society.  At the same time, as I just said in my opening remarks, the international community is now very serious in looking at how to help the security concerns through the deployment of international stabilization forces.  I’m in the process of identifying potential troop-contributing countries who can provide the troops and funds and resources and other tools.  This [is an] ongoing effort, I think we need to have very comprehensive approaches on this issue.

Question:  Good morning, Mr. Secretary-General.  Thank you for this opportunity.  I want to get your opinion on the issue of cross-border attacks in Pakistan by the United States Government.  As you know, it’s been a very controversial issue and there’s been a lot of discussion about it.  Do you feel that this is something that the US should continue to do, and what is your official position on it?

The Secretary-General:  On this issue, I understand that the American and Pakistani authorities, they have been discussing to find a very harmonious resolution on this issue.  I understand that there were such cases, while fighting against terrorism, there seemed to have been some cases which created some political controversies between the two countries.  At this time, as the United Nations, I would only hope and urge the concerned parties to resolve this issue, respecting each other’s concerns, as well as their sovereignty and territorial integrity.

Question:  Mr. Secretary-General, my question is about Afghanistan and, since you have yourself described the situation as precarious, the British Ambassador has said, as you know, that the US-led coalition in Afghanistan is failing against Taliban and will fail.  And now your own representative, the Special Representative of the Secretary-General, also has reinforced that view and has said that there is no military solution, and there should be political upsurge.  And having said that, Sir, he has also made a peace appeal to the Taliban.  In this situation, Sir, what is the United Nations going to do?

The Secretary-General:  I think that we should look at this issue comprehensively.  I believe that there is no perfect military option.  I believe that there should be more political dialogue to resolve these issues in a political community.  This is desirable.  But, at the same time, you should also understand that there are realistic and practical concerns and challenges of eradicating, fighting against terrorism.  That is why we need the military operations.  Therefore, military operations and political dialogue and political solutions should be harmoniously balanced.  That is what we have been working on, and I was very much encouraged during the International Conference on Afghanistan which was held in Romania, that there was such a strong support from the international community for peace and stability and humanitarian assistance in Afghanistan.  That is what the United Nations has been leading by our Special Representative.  Mr. Kai Eide has been given a unique coordinating role by the international community.  He has been coordinating in his much-strengthened capacity as SRSG among all the major international actors in Afghanistan.  We hope that, based on the international community’s support, Afghanistan’s Government leaders should also do their own part in strengthening and promoting more inclusive political dialogue with all the spectrum of Afghanistan -- do more for good governance, fighting again, eradicating this corrupting practices prevalent in Afghanistan, including all the opium and drug trafficking.  Those are all what the international community and the Afghanistan Government should do.  Whenever I had a meeting with President [Hamid] Karzai of Afghanistan, I have emphasized those points.  First strengthening the inclusive political dialogue, good governance and also strengthening their relationship with their neighbouring countries, particularly with Pakistan.  When I met President [Asif Ali] Zardari of Pakistan, I also emphasized this point, and I was very much encouraged when President Karzai attended the inaugural ceremony of President Zardari of Pakistan and they had a joint press conference committing themselves to work together for peace and stability.

Question:  Just while we are on Pakistan, I’m wondering if you can update us on the call for the independent probe on Benazir Bhutto, and how you see that contributing or distracting from stability in a region that people are concerned about.

The Secretary-General:  I have been discussing this matter even before President Zardari was elected as President and during the General Debate session I had also in-depth discussions.  We have an agreement that there will be sort of some commission established under the United Nations, but [we are discussing] any detailed technical matters of who should be appointed as commission members and how it should be funded and how long it should be and what would be the scope.  It is not going to be an investigation, but we are looking at finding out all the situations on this assassination of Mrs. Bhutto.  But we are still discussing this matter with the Pakistani Government.

Question:  First, I’d like to thank you for opening the new doors of the building and handicapped people finding it much easier to move around.  Thank you.  My question is on Lebanon.  There has been a report lately that Syria is massing forces on the northern borders with Lebanon.  Saad Hariri, the political leader in Lebanon, has warned the international community that Syria might use the pretext of the terrorist attack to meddle in Tripoli and northern Lebanon.  However, the Foreign Minister of Syria sat with me on 27 September and he denied that there were any forces in a high state of alert, increased forces from Syria.  However, the State Department just through Robert Wood, one of their spokesmen, warned Syria yesterday not to interfere in northern Lebanon and to use their mass forces on the northern borders.  What is your take, what is your information and what advice do you give to the Syrian Government?

The Secretary-General:  First of all, both the leaders of Syria and Lebanon should not lose this momentum created recently between the two countries through the formation of a national unity government, and the new president elected in Lebanon, and also their willingness to establish diplomatic relationship through exchanging full ambassadors.  And there has been again increasing, encouraging developments, a situation where Syria has been hosting good international meetings in Damascus.  Those are very encouraging developments of the situation, which we need to encourage always.  Therefore, I would urge that that the leaders of both Governments should refrain from, first of all, any unilateral actions which may disturb, disrupt this process and fully cooperate.  When I had the meetings with President [Michel] Suleiman and President [Bashar al-] Assad of Syria, they all committed themselves and they were all very much encouraged by the very encouraging atmosphere between the two countries, and they committed themselves that they would do whatever they can to improve their relationship, which will be a very conducive to overall peace and stability in the region.

Question:  But there are masses and masses of forces, and Syria is in a high state of alert, according to the State Department.  What’s your take on that?

The Secretary-General:  I just said that they should refrain from taking any unilateral measures which may disrupt this ongoing process.

Question:  On the same subject.  Mr. [Michael] Williams, your Special Coordinator, has “played down the seriousness of the event”, and the US has expressed concern by sending Cobras to Lebanon to face Syrian intervention.  As Secretary-General, what is your position on this particular issue, and how would you address this issue?

The Secretary-General:  I would support whatever Mr. Michael Williams has said as my new Special Representative in Lebanon.  First of all, we are now addressing the situation, not only in Lebanon.  All throughout the Middle East, we have seen many important initiatives and encouraging developments of the situation, which we really nurture at this time for the benefit of peace and stability in the region.  That is what I want to see, and that is what I am going to work even harder with the arrival of the new SRSG in Lebanon.

Question:  Allow me to ask one country-specific question, and my question is on UNMIS, the peacekeeping mission in the southern part of Sudan.  In addition to the continuation of the refuelling operation in the Indian Ocean, recently the Japanese Government decided to send only two officers to the [ Sudan] mission.  Do you think it is enough of a contribution on the part of the Japanese Government to the UN peacekeeping operations?

The Secretary-General:  I was informed by Amb. [Yukio] Takasu a few days ago of the Japanese Government’s contribution, and I appreciated the Japanese Government’s willingness to contribute to UNMIS.  Of course, as Secretary-General, I may want to have as many contributions as possible from Member States, including Japan, but even a small contribution will make a difference.  That is what I can say.

Question:  Thank you.  I have a question about the financial crisis.  But before I get to that, please indulge me.  When Tuyet asked the question about Robert Zoellick, and the idea of expansion, you said “I agree with Zoellick”, you meant on expansion of the G-8, correct?

The Secretary-General:  Yes.

Question:  Okay.  Now, on the financial crisis, normally when the Secretary-General, when a crisis comes up -- a shooting war or something that can possibly involve the UN, you would be on the phone, mediating, using your good offices, is this one case where there is really, other than calling on developed countries not to lose focus on the bottom billion, you really can’t do anything?  The Secretary-General can’t mediate, can’t get in the middle of this?  And if that’s not the case, do you have any specific ideas that you have been putting forward, about how the world’s Governments would resolve this crisis?  And corollary to that, would you agree with the President of the General Assembly, Mr. [Miguel d’Escoto] Brockman’s proposal, for revising the formulas for electing the boards of the World Bank and the IMF to reflect greater the developing world?

The Secretary-General:  You should know that, even though it has not been announced or released publicly, that during my many bilateral meetings with world leaders during the General Debate week -- I have had, I think, 125 bilateral meetings -- this financial crisis issue was one of the very important agenda [items] which I have discussed, particularly with leaders coming from industrialized countries.  I expressed my concern, but expressing concern may not be enough at this time.  That is why I am going to discuss again this matter on 24 October when I am going to convene the CEB -- the Chief Executives Board for Coordination, a meeting where all the heads of UN agencies, including the World Bank and the IMF, will get together on that day and on the following day.  This will be discussed with great emphasis, and I have allocated a special session devoted to the financial crisis issue.  I also welcome the President of the General Assembly’s initiative to hold a thematic debate on 24 October to discuss this financial crisis issue.

Question:  And his suggestion to revise the election of Board members to the World Bank and the IMF to reflect the developing world?

The Secretary-General:  This is one of the initiatives he has announced as part of his initiatives as President of the General Assembly to look at the issue of democratization of the Bretton Woods institutions.  That depends upon the Member States, as well as the Governing Boards of the Bretton Woods institutions.

Question:  Mr. Secretary-General, when he was meeting with us, the French Foreign Minister said if any G-8 country says they are going to meet all their pledges given the financial crisis, they are lying.  So, I am wondering what is your threshold?  Has anybody handed you a cheque that actually gives you optimism that you are going to get the $16 billion?  And what is the first threshold that you are going to reach when you understand whether you are going to get those pledges or not?

The Secretary-General:  The $16 billion were pledged during the General Debate while world leaders were discussing measures to address the global financial crisis.  Therefore, first of all, I am very much encouraged even during the crisis of these financial problems, that the leaders are committed to see the realization of the Millennium Development Goals.  That is a very important commitment, demonstrated by the leaders.  That is the real good demonstration of their leadership.  I hope that this will be implemented.

Question:  Are you sure this can be implemented?  Are you going to see the money?  There are so many pledges that have been taking place all the time, and they never happen actually.

The Secretary-General:  There are many monitoring mechanisms, when the Member States make a commitment.  It is true that there are always gaps between commitment and actual following of the funds.  There is a time gap, but we have some monitoring mechanisms within the UN system.  One important occasion will be the Doha Conference on Financing for Development.  There, we will also have a very important occasion to discuss this issue on how to fund mobilized financing in addressing global challenges.

Question:  Thank you, Sir.  In your remarks here, you made a review of different political crises all over the world, like what is happening in Somalia, Darfur, Afghanistan, Georgia, but I was wondering, still, why you didn’t say any word about the peace process in the Middle East -- I mean, the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians.  Does it mean that you are going to put this issue on hold for a year or two?

The Secretary-General:  There should be no misunderstandings.  You cannot talk of all the issues of the world at one time.

The Middle East is also a very important priority issue for the peace and stability of the world.  As you know, I have convened a very important Quartet meeting, as well as a Quartet-plus Iftar dinner, inviting 13 Arab leaders on September 26th.  We had very good discussions.  First of all, we agreed that the Annapolis Middle East peace process should continue, and there should be a dividend achieved out of this Annapolis peace process.  It is encouraging that the leaders of both Israel and the Palestinian Authority have been regularly meeting, and I am quite convinced that this bilateral meeting will continue, even with the change of leadership in Israel.  There may be some scepticism [about] whether this Annapolis peace process may be able to be realized as was promised by the U.S. President.  But our duty, our role, and our commitment should continue until the very last minute of President George Bush’s mandate.  If it cannot be achieved by then, they should be taken over as a priority issue by the incoming Administration of the United States.  Many Arab countries were also hopeful about the prospect of this.  So, one should not be overly pessimistic, even though we have not seen any very positive, tangible results.  You have again my full commitment.  There was an agreement that we will have another Quartet meeting in the region with the parties concerned -- that means the Israelis and Palestinian leaders will participate in the Quartet and brief on their progress of the peace talks.

Question:  Are you going to Annapolis II in November?

The Secretary-General:  If there is going to be any important meeting on the Middle East, I will participate.

Question:  Yesterday in the General Assembly, the Indian Ambassador made a critique of this Annual Report that you had made about the work of the UN.  He said it lacked vision, and it didn’t address enough the financial crisis, and he specifically took issue with this idea that you have articulated about the Member States should be accountable to the UN.  He said, on accountability, just to give you a chance to respond to that, first of all, where is the so-called accountability report about the bombing in Algiers?  It is quite a bit late now; if you can say where that is?

Also, you yourself personally did a public financial disclosure, to your credit, but many of your senior officials did not.  In fact, there is a recent report by PriceWaterhouseCoopers for the UN that said that 172 people that were required to disclose did not, versus 34 in the previous year.  So, what is going to be the accountability there?

And finally, some of your senior officials have been saying that this idea that you have of forced mobility, of taking 20 per cent from DPKO, they are saying that this might not be a good idea, that you might lose expertise.  So, what is your idea behind that, and how can it help the problems that you have been discussing today?

The Secretary-General:  I am glad that you have raised this very important reform, management reform agenda, while everybody seems to be interested and focusing on regional conflict issues.  Accountability is a very important priority issue for me, as Secretary-General.  I think, throughout this Organization, including the Secretariat and Member States and all related organizations in the UN family, they should stand on the very firm and strict principle of accountability.  You may remember that I had been speaking out on accountability.  I termed it full accountability.  When you think about accountability there is a tendency of asking [for] accountability [by] the Secretary-General or Secretariat, but I think as I said in my report to the sixty-third session of the General Assembly on September 23rd, the Secretariat and the Secretary-General will always be fully accountable to the Member States.  At the same time, Member States should also be accountable to the Organization, as said in the Charter.  I went ahead by saying that, in more specifics, the Member States cannot continue just adopting resolutions and giving mandates to the Secretariat all the time without providing the necessary funding and troops and resources.  This would be an impossible, impossible mission in such a case.  Therefore, Member States should be accountable to the Organization, and Member Sates should be accountable among themselves.  Whatever they have committed, they should keep this promise.

Now, coming back to the accountability of the Secretariat, I think I made great strides and progress in terms of accountability of senior advisers.  This was the first time in the history of the United Nations that a Secretary-General has disclosed his financial assets, to which I hoped that the senior advisers would follow.  At the beginning of my tenure last year, the progress was not impressive, but at the end of last year you will see the record, that most senior advisers, I think almost all, have submitted their financial disclosure [forms].  This is spreading [through], even lower ranks who are required to submit their financial declaration.  This will continue.

But accountability does not limit itself only to the financial declaration.  This is just one small part.  Whatever has been said and promised should be kept.  That is part of accountability.

Now, mobility, when I said I would like to have as a pilot, 20 per cent, this is something which I set as an example.  I have asked the Under-Secretary-General of Management to submit to me a pilot project to, first of all, facilitate this mobility among the staff.  I know that there is some resistance and reluctance among the staff.  This is again new.  But without mobility, you cannot expect that our staff will be multi-functional, multi-skilled, and you cannot expect anybody who had been working in the same place for 10 years, 15 years, even 20 years -- you cannot expect from those people any creativity or any motivation.  They will just be doing their job as a daily routine.  From a daily routine, you cannot expect this Organization working under “business as usual” all the time.  We really need some fresh wind, some impact on the motivation, just to make our staff more motivated.  Then from motivation, you have some creativity.

I begin every day as if this is my first day as Secretary-General.  I hope that our staff will really do their job as if they are beginning their first day, all the time, every morning, when they come to the office, they should be able to come with a great sense of expectation and commitment.  It’s not like a 9 to 5.  This is not what the international community expects from us.  I need to meet the expectation of the international community, Member States, so you have my firm commitment.

Then, how to promote this mobility, this is a very difficult job -- I know that -- because of all the different conditions of services.  That is why I have proposed to the General Assembly the proposals for harmonization of these conditions of services.  It is different from the Secretariat to UNDP, UNICEF, UNFPA, Funds and Programmes and specialized agencies.  Even the head of a mission abroad gets a minimum of 20 per cent less salary than his or her deputies when somebody comes from Funds or Programmes.  This is again an unacceptable situation.  I have been making this case to Member States.  Let me have this harmonization of services of contract.  We have all different types of contracts -- therefore, it is extremely difficult to have smooth mobility among 15 different contracts.  I am not aware why this system has developed in this way.  That is what I am going to change.

Question:  Mr. Secretary-General, a question about Myanmar.  Is there anything that you can do personally to break the deadlock between the Government and the opposition?  And are you still planning to pay a return visit to Myanmar before the end of the year?

The Secretary-General:  Again on this, you have my firm commitment and assurances that I will be constantly and personally engaged -- at my level and through my Special Adviser Mr. [Ibrahim] Gambari’s engagement with the Myanmar authorities.  I have convened for the first time this high-level meeting where many countries were represented at the ministerial, foreign ministers, level.  It was very encouraging.  There was firm support for the continuing good offices role of the Secretary-General, and also Mr. Gambari’s engagement there.  That will continue.  There was again strong commitment from the Group of Friends of the Secretary-General that they will provide whatever necessary assistance and cooperation to enable that.  There was again a strong urge from the Member States that it is up to the Myanmar Government, that they should fully implement the democraticization process, and also release political prisoners, including Daw Aung San Suu Kyi.

Now, as to my visit, when I said I will be personally engaged, that meant that I would be willing to pay a return visit to Myanmar at an appropriate time.  But you should also know that without any tangible or very favourable results to be achieved, then I may not be in a position to visit Myanmar without any expectations of ...

Question:  Are you saying that you do not expect any breakthrough, any result, are you giving up hope of getting a real negotiation going?

The Secretary-General:  I am now in the process of making some groundwork, which may allow me to consider my own visit.  But at this time, I need some more time.  I will have to consider all the circumstances -- when would be an appropriate time for me to visit.

Question:  Mr. Secretary-General, since I come at the end, and you may have exhausted all the answers regarding political and security and financial issues, I would like to ask you a question of a different nature.  We know about your political style, your search for dialogue, for harmony, for reconciliation in the resolution of conflict, but we don’t know much about your personal taste.  So I am going to ask you, what is your hobby?  What book are you reading now?  And how do you spend your Sunday afternoons?

The Secretary-General:  That is quite a personal question.  Maybe one day, next time when we meet in a personal setting, I will speak more about my own hobby and what I do on Sundays and weekends.

Question:  [inaudible, on Western Sahara]

The Secretary-General:  My final answer, and please excuse me.

I am in the process of selecting a Personal Envoy who will work on the Western Sahara issue.  I have started consultation with the parties concerned for a particular person whom I have an intention to appoint.  It may take a little bit more time for me to consult with the parties concerned, but again, I am very much committed, in view of the long-standing conflict issues in Western Sahara, to expedite this process and negotiation as soon as possible once this Special Envoy is appointed.

In the meantime, I have spoken with the leaders of the concerned parties that, while confirming all their respective commitments to seeing the continuation of negotiation, whether we can promote more measures to facilitate humanitarian aspects, there is some agreement that separated families can go by air, but whether they could visit their separated families even [by] land.  This is what has been discussed in the past, but I am now pursuing that matter.  But you have again my high priority and commitment on the Western Sahara issue.

Thank you very much.

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