In Cairo, Secretary-General Says Immediate International Effort Needed to Address Deteriorating, ‘Grave’ Humanitarian Situation in Libya

14 April 2011

In Cairo, Secretary-General Says Immediate International Effort Needed to Address Deteriorating, ‘Grave’ Humanitarian Situation in Libya

14 April 2011
Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

In Cairo, Secretary-General Says Immediate International Effort Needed


to Address Deteriorating, ‘Grave’ Humanitarian Situation in Libya


Following are UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s remarks, as prepared for delivery, to the Cairo Conference on Libya, 14 April:

I thank the League of Arab States for co-convening this meeting with the United Nations.  And I thank all of you for accepting our invitation.

The situation in Libya is still very complex.  Yet we can be greatly encouraged by the international community’s response.

The Security Council resolutions 1970 (2011) and 1973 (2011) sent strong messages mandating “all necessary measures” to protect the civilian population in Libya.

For its part, it was the League of Arab States that called on the Security Council to impose a no-fly zone and urged the international community to provide support and urgent humanitarian assistance to the Libyan people.

The Organization of the Islamic Conference also spoke out clearly.  Excessive use of force against civilians, it declared, contravenes not only human rights and international humanitarian law but runs counter to Islamic values as well.

We welcome the African Union High Level Panel’s mission to Libya earlier this week, which was aimed at achieving a peaceful and negotiated end to the crisis.  At different times, each of you has been in contact with representatives of the Libyan people in the search for a viable political resolution.

Throughout the past weeks, the European Union has been a strong advocate of a leading role by the United Nations in Libya.  I deeply appreciate efforts of High Representative [Catherine] Ashton to ensure we are working together.  Also, the European Union has been at the forefront of mobilizing humanitarian support.  Looking to the future, we expect the European Union to play a key role especially in the post-conflict reconstruction phase.

My Special Envoy and I have remained in close contact with the Libyan authorities and the opposition.

Mr. [Abdul Ilah] Al-Khatib has visited Libya twice so far, meeting with all sides to promote a settlement that accords with the will of the Libyan people, consistent with the provisions of Security Council Resolutions 1970 and 1973.  In the coming days he will be travelling even more widely and frequently within Libya and the region.

On Tuesday, prior to my departure from New York, I received a call from Prime Minister [Al Baghdadi Ali] Al Mahmoudi in Tripoli.  He spoke to me of his own reactions to the African Union Panel and its proposals.  I underlined once again to him the need for an immediate halt to the fighting and for all parties to abide by the United Nations Security Council resolutions in order to pave the way for a genuine engagement and dialogue.

Meanwhile, in Doha yesterday, we conferred on the on-going humanitarian and political situation.  We also looked ahead to consider how the international community can work with Libya once a ceasefire eventually comes into effect.  We are aware that NATO is meeting today in Berlin.

Let us acknowledge the full facts:

Swift and decisive international action saved thousands of lives.

We have an immediate concern:  the deteriorating humanitarian situation.

Within Libya itself, the picture is especially grave.  In Misrata, Brega and Zintan, where the fighting has been particularly intense, access to basic services and basic commodities has been largely cut off — food, water, health care.

The International Organisation for Migration and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees estimate that nearly half a million people have left Libya since the conflict began.

Many remain stranded at camps and transit points in neighbouring countries. 

We are also deeply concerned with the plight of third-country nationals, most of them migrant workers and refugees trapped in areas of fighting.

Last week the United Nations World Food Programme docked a ship in Misrata with vital supplies.  Just yesterday an IOM (International Organization for Migration) ship evacuated more than 1,000 third-country nationals.  For the most part, however, humanitarian agencies have been unable to secure safe passage.

We have completed an inter-agency humanitarian needs assessment in the east of Libya.  Contacts for a similar assessment in the western part of the country are on-going.

United Nations Under-Secretary-General Valerie Amos, the Emergency Relief Coordinator, is actively considering a visit to Tripoli in view of the humanitarian situation. 

As of 9 April, the United Nations has established an international presence in Benghazi, where humanitarian needs are being assessed and addressed.  I will establish an international presence in Tripoli as soon as possible.

I have also called on all neighbouring countries to keep their borders open to receive those fleeing the conflict.  We must be careful not to allow large concentrations of refugees awaiting evacuation to build up along the border, particularly given the fragility of the situation in the region.

Early planning and preparations are essential.  In tandem with our diplomatic efforts, the United Nations has launched a process of contingency planning to help the Libyan people rebuild their future.  We must expect this work to span the full range of peacemaking, peacebuilding and post-conflict reconstruction.

This complex process will require a concerted effort from the United Nations.  It is essential for the international community to remain engaged and united.

We must continue to speak with one voice; we must continue to work with patience and determination in common cause on behalf of the Libyan people.

The world is watching.  Expectations are high.  I hope our meeting today will help us chart the way.

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