United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon arrived in Tunis on Monday evening, 21 March, after completing a visit to Egypt. He had said at the outset that he was visiting both countries to support their recent efforts at forging a democratic transition, by listening to the peoples and Government of each country to determine what kind of assistance they wanted.
On the morning of Tuesday, 22 March, the Secretary-General met with the Instance supérieure pour la réalisation des objectifs de la révolution, de la réforme politique et de la transition démocratique, a gathering of political leaders, as well as other civil society elements, that had been involved in the January revolution in which President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali had left office.
The assorted leaders discussed their views about the kind of support that the United Nations could provide to their electoral process, to women’s rights and human rights, and to strengthening the capacity and role of civil society. They also expressed their concerns about the conflict in Libya, including the actions taken by international forces in implementing Security Council resolution 1973 (2011), passed a week earlier, which authorized the use of “all necessary means” to protect civilians in Libya.
The Secretary-General then met with a range of senior officials in the new interim Government of Tunisia, including, in order, President Fouad Mebazaâ, Foreign Minister Mohamed Mouldi Kefi and Prime Minister Beji Caid-Essebsi.
He discussed with all of them the assistance that the United Nations stands ready to provide the Tunisian people as requested, including for electoral support and constitutional reform. A United Nations electoral team is already in Tunisia, and the Organization is ready to provide further support, he told reporters afterwards.
The Secretary-General held a working luncheon with the United Nations country team in Tunisia, which he followed with a round table discussion with youth leaders who had played an influential part in overthrowing the previous regime.
In a speech to civil society leaders, the Secretary-General told the people of Tunisia that their call for liberty, dignity and social justice had been echoed by the entire world. He noted that the uprising in Tunisia had been inspired by a single person, Mohamed Bouazizi, who had set himself on fire to protest living conditions under Ben Ali. His cry of “no more” had been taken up in Tunisia and the rest of the Arab world, the Secretary-General said. (See Press Release SG/SM/13467)
In the early evening, he had a private meeting with Mr. Bouazizi’s family to pay his respects.
The Secretary-General also held a press conference, in which he said that Tunisia had led the way for the Arab world in revolution. It is now leading the way to a democratic political transition, with a map already developed for the way ahead, the Secretary-General said.
Speaking of Libya, the Secretary-General emphasized once more that the international community had acted in Libya to save lives. The leader of a nation was deliberately and indiscriminately killing his people, which is why the League of Arab States had requested the Security Council to act.
We are at a historic moment, the Secretary-General said. Democracy is on the march across the Arab world.
The Secretary-General ended his formal programme in Tunisia by attending an official dinner hosted by Foreign Minister Kefi.
The Secretary-General returned to New York the following day, in order to brief the Security Council on his visits to Egypt and Tunisia and his discussions on Libya in a meeting scheduled for 24 March.