Deputy Secretary-General's press conference in Santiago
Santiago, Chile, 25 January 2013
DSG: I will make a short introduction, and tell you first of all how happy I am to be in Chile, and how happy I am to be at this meeting with CELAC [Commonwealth of Latin American and Caribbean States] and the European Union – this Summit meeting. It is important that the regions of the world work together. The United Nations has global responsibilities, but it is very important that there is also regional dynamic components, first within the region, but also vis-à-vis other regions. I believe very much in inter-regional cooperation. And I reminded the group yesterday that I always carry the UN Charter in my pocket, and here to prove it, I want to say to you that it is not well known to many that in fact there is a chapter in the UN Charter about regional arrangements. Chapter 8 here is about regional arrangements. In other words, the very wise founders of this Organization felt that for the international system to work well, there should be cooperation, also within regions – to solve problems, prevent conflicts, and encourage development, and of course, [inaudible] human rights and rule of law. And then, that should be taken into the global context. This was very, very interesting, this was written as early as 1945. The only region where there was regional cooperation at that time was Latin America. In Europe and other parts of the world it did not exist.
So I want to make that point, how important that meeting is between the European Union and CELAC, and I am glad that so many heads of state and heads of government have come here. And I want to commend Chile for its hosting of this meeting.
I think also, ECLAC – the Economic Commission for Latin America [and the Caribbean] is an important institution which can help this regional cooperation. I know that ECLAC was very much active in the relationship that developed between Latin America and China, and I am sure also that ECLAC has played a role in helping organize this meeting with the European Union.
Let me tell you about my work. I am Deputy Secretary-General, which means that I am at the side of the Secretary-General, serving with him, and of course dealing with most of the issues related to the UN. But I would want to mention two of them to you. My first responsibility is conflict resolution, and this means that my daily work has been very much characterized by dealing with the crisis in Syria, and the crisis in Mali right now. Those are the two issues that occupy my mind and our work, very much, as you understand.
We are of course hoping that the United Nations Security Council would be able to come up with a strong Resolution that would make it possible for us to exert our, to develop our work more actively, but as you know the Security Council is divided. You have different views on the Council, which means that we do not have the same possibility of pressure on the parties – both sides of the conflict – to bring them to a political settlement. We would like to see a negotiated transition in Syria. We believe that the so-called military victory could be a distant possibility and could lead to much more suffering.
We are very worried about the present humanitarian situation. You have almost four million people at risk. There are 650,000 refugees in the neighbouring countries, and there is also risk that with continued fighting the divisions inside the country go deeper an deeper and that they take on ethnic and sectarian dimensions which would be very dangerous for the conflict in the future, and might even lead to a situation where there may be revenge after conflict. So we are extremely worried about the situation in Syria. The Secretary-General considers it his main concern right now. He counts every day when we don’t have a cessation of hostilities – not in terms of the days – he counts them in terms of the people killed. We have about between 100 and 180 people dying every day, so we don’t count the days, we count the number of dead every day and this is a burden.
Lakhdar Brahimi, our negotiator, is doing a great job, working very hard in trying to get the parties to agree to a negotiated solution, but we hope very much that the Security Council will give him a stronger hand.
On Mali, we are in a situation now where the role of the United Nations is not completely clear. There was a French intervention when the extremist forces of the North tried to move South. This move has been stopped, and now there is preparation for certain countries in the region to come in and be active in the military operation. The United Nations is asked to provide a support package. We are offering that, but it is not yet decided in the Security Council. Right now, tomorrow, there are going to be discussions in Addis Ababa with the African Union, the United Nations and the sub-regional organization ECOWAS [Economic Community of West African States] about the steps forward in Mali. It is a very fluid situation, but of course we understand fully the aspirations of the Mali people to unify their country, and above all to stop the repression and the very widespread violations of human rights that take place in the north of Mali. I myself visited Bamako only a couple of months ago. I met, among other organizations, with women’s organizations. UN Women has an office there, and I met 34 women from Mali, not only south but also from north Mali. So I got a very vivid demonstration and picture of the extent of human rights violations in northern Mali.
By the way, connected to political work is also humanitarian work and human rights work. So that is my dossier on the political side.
On the development side, which we discussed mostly yesterday, my main responsibility now is to accelerate, to try to help accelerate the achievements, the implementation of the so-called Millennium Development Goals. There are eight of them, as you may know. They range from fighting extreme poverty to reducing the number of people with no access to clean water and sanitation. There are eight of these goals, and I find it extremely important that we accelerate our efforts to achieve these goals. They were decided in the United Nations in the year 2000, and they are to be achieve by the year 2015. In other words, we have three years to go, or less than three years to go, to achieve these goals.
There has been some progress. There has been progress on extreme poverty, mainly because of progress in Asia, but also in Latin America. You have made progress, very substantive progress in several areas in many individual countries in Latin America. But also Asia, of course, with China and India. The big problem on extreme poverty is still Africa, but above all Africa south of the Sahara.
There is another area where there is also good progress and that is education. Girls and boys learn to read and write in this world today to the extent that never has been the case before. There was particularly great progress after 1990 and onwards. Right now there is a little bit of stagnation, and I hope that we will see a positive trend also after the stagnation occurred in 2008/9, probably due to the financial difficulties in the world. But, education is good news, as far as Millennium Development Goals are concerned.
The bad news is, surprisingly enough, maternal health. We are not making the kind of progress on maternal health that we would like to see. There are still too many women dying while giving birth. There are still too many women who don’t have access to midwives. There are still too many women who don’t have access to clean water which is necessary when you give birth. Family planning has difficulties of different kinds that make it difficult to make that Goal really be achieved.
The other goal which has probably the least progress is the area of sanitation. Water is ok - if I can get a glass of water to demonstrate to you. This is what I am doing now. This is a luxury. This is a luxury and a dream for 783 million people in the world. 783 million people don’t have access to clean, relatively safe, water. 2.5 billion people – 37 percent of humanity – don’t have sanitation, which is a euphemism for toilets. And this is the main reason why more than 3,000 children die every day under the age of five, because of diarrhoea, dysentery, dehydration and cholera. And I have seen them die in front of my own eyes – in Sudan, in Somalia and other places.
So this is the concrete demonstration of what this is all about, fighting poverty of course. But we also need now to think about the road forward, and that is another task of mine. How do we move from these Goals which are supposed to be achieved by 2015, to the next generation of goals from 2015 onwards. Here we have not only poverty eradication, we also have sustainability. In other words, the climate, the natural disasters, the droughts, the extreme natural disasters we are seeing right now, the tapping of resources around the world. I have a line which might be of interest. You know in life, people often say: “What’s your Plan B?” when they want to discourage you from what you are doing. I say on the environment and on climate: “There is no Planet B”. That I think reminds you of the extent of the nature of these challenges – poverty eradication and sustainability.
And then of course, there is something which is so important which you in Latin America are so much aware of. You cannot have peace and security, you cannot have development, if you don’t have respect for human rights and the rule of law. Because without respect for human rights and rule of law you will be undermining factors inside societies and between societies and countries, and you will also not have the vehicles for providing development. That is our philosophy, which we decided to discuss at length in a very constructive meeting yesterday, where I was impressed, by the way, by ECLAC’s work and the whole UN family’s work of giving the news of the region to us in New York who are dealing with negotiations that will hopefully in the end lead to acceleration of the MDGs and a new and interesting road ahead for the next generation of goals.
So, this would be my introduction to the meeting. I am very grateful you came here, and I look forward to another three more interesting days in Chile, a place that I visited when I was Deputy Foreign Minister. We had an Ambassadorial meeting in Santiago. This is my second time around, and I spent the weekend in Isla Negra, in my much-admired author’s house – Pablo Neruda – who is of course world famous. Since I am from Sweden I would want to say particularly that we are proud that he is a Nobel laureate.
So, thank you very much for coming, and please go ahead with your questions and comments.
Q: Hi, Mr. Eliasson. Latin America is a region with high murder rates, but it is one with no wars, with the exception of Colombia. [inaudible] Moreover, it is a region that has economic growth. Should Latin America begin to help more in peacekeeping missions around the world, and stop being just a region receiving aid?
DSG: Thank you very much. Latin America is certainly a very strong contributor to peacekeeping operations. Brazil plays a very important role in Haiti, as you know. Several other Latin American countries are also there. But around the world, there is a growing number of Latin American countries contributing. Uruguay is a major contributor. There are also contributions from Chile, from Peru…there are a number of Latin American countries that are now contributing. We are seeing a positive trend when it comes to Latin American contributions to peacekeeping.
In terms of development, there is a certain reduction in development assistance, but that is a trend unfortunately that we also see internationally, not least because of the economic crisis. But, I think the majority of the countries in Latin America are today what is called ‘middle income countries’, and by that they are not on the list of developing countries. So, this could be a consequence. But I still think it is a very important role for cooperation, even in the development area, between the European Union countries and Latin America, and this I think is going to be one of the subjects we discuss here in Chile in the coming days.
Q: I want to ask you why the Millennium Development Goals aren’t getting achieved. What do you think is the main political reason?
DSG: There are number of factors that are behind this. There has to be a mobilization of efforts, both from countries on the outside who can help, and here we have much to do, not only in terms of development assistance but also in terms of technology transfer, fair trade conditions, and so forth. So the outside world certainly has a very important responsibility, but there is also responsibility for the countries themselves, those who are concerned. There has to be a strong priority given to infrastructure and to developing good institutions. I would say that there is a term which you often have heard perhaps which is called the need for ‘good governance.’ If I were to translate that rather general term to reality I would say that good governance is in fact good well-functioning institutions and good well-functioning infrastructure.
Institutions and infrastructure is what creates security and prosperity. For that of course there have to be efforts also from the countries concerned. I think, in today’s world, the problems are so huge, so big and so complex that not only there have to be a number of other actors involved. I mentioned the countries concerned and the more prosperous part of the world and the governments of those countries, but there are also other actors who play a role. The United Nations has recently developed a new spirit – well I would say come into a new chapter of cooperation with the World Bank. The World Bank, with its leadership – Dr. Jim [Yong] Kim – he is a doctor by the way; he has a background in health – he is very much in favour of an increased cooperation between the United Nations and the World Bank, the so-called Bretton Woods institutions. This cooperation is now taking very concrete shape. I spent one whole day in the World Bank in Washington only ten days ago, talking to President Kim and also to the whole board of the World Bank, and there is a tremendous capacity coming in from the World Bank in terms of loans and grants to the countries in question.
There is also the private sector. The private sector has technology, training possibilities, the employment they generate. It is very important that the private sector also feels this responsibility and accepts that responsibility. And by the way, it is also future markets. It is not only a question of what we consider fair, it is also an enlightened self interest, because if the poor rise you also have a more prosperous world who would otherwise not be part of the world trade patterns.
There is also a role for civil society. I have worked very much with civil society in my different humanitarian missions and peace missions in Africa and also other parts of the world. I have always had great help from civil society, which play a very important role and very often is a bridge between different parts of the world. So I think that it is very important to have this mobilization.
And then of course we have to expect political will. An unequal world is a dangerous world. Inequality is not only unfair, it is also dangerous. I think it should be in our enlightened interest that we realise that we should try to improve the conditions in the world so that we have more harmonious relationships. This would have an effect also on peace and security.
So, I would hope that we will, in spite of the present financial difficulties, still see the possibilities of a next generation. But the reason that I make this case so strongly, is that I feel that we really need to be reminded of this. There is a need for it. I have seen too many young people, women, die in front of my eyes, in my private experience, starting with Somalia in 1992. But it is also that, again, I appeal to the enlightened self interest, that we all have an interest in creating conditions where tensions do not grow, which they tend to do if you have very grave inequalities.
Q: Mr. Deputy Secretary-General, like my colleagues have mentioned, Latin America has made great strides in recent years in terms of economic development and social development. What do you think the possibilities or the chances are for Latin American nations such as Brazil of becoming a permanent member of the Security Council, something which has been a long desire of Latin America and the developing world – other countries such as India? What do you think the chances are of that, and does the United Nations view the expansion of including a nation such as Brazil, or India, or I will stick with Latin America seeing as we are here - which is in the top five in terms of economic power, one of the top nations in terms of population, and the fact that with the recent and continuing global financial crisis in a certain sense the tables have turned in terms of the centres of power. Obviously, the North remains the stronghold, but the grip on that power has changed a little bit. Thank you.
DSG: Thank you very much. I think you are right at pointing to the changing geo-political and geo-economic map in the world. It is correct. It is a world which is now having players, emerging powers, that are growing by five to twelve percent and who are advancing and playing roles also in peacekeeping as I just mentioned.
I was President of the General Assembly of the United Nations in 2005/6 and we negotiated a number of reforms. The Human Rights Council came about that year; the Peace building Commission came about; the Counter-terrorism strategy came about. It was a very rich year in terms of negotiations that came to a close. But, to come to your question, the issue of Security Council reform was very, very slow. It is a very, very difficult issue to move. It touches upon the national interests of the states who are part of it. There is a committee working on it. They have worked for some time. There are several countries who raised their aspirations – Brazil is one, as you mentioned. There are others who are raising these demands. I think there is going to be more and more discussion about this issue.
It is not a matter for the Secretariat or for the Secretary-General or me to do this. We are there to serve the nations of the United Nations. It is the Member States that will have to deal with this issue. I hope that they will make progress. I think it is important to discuss the representativity of the Security Council and the working methods of the Security Council.
There is also discussion about the use of the veto power, and the extension of that veto power to new membership. There is really a need also, in my view, to discuss whether the Security Council could not, or should not, act earlier in conflict. I myself have been involved in mediation and wars and conflicts and humanitarian crises, and I often ask myself ‘why don’t we get in earlier?’ I know the Security Council is preoccupied with trying to get in at the earlier stages of conflicts, so that we don’t have to meet with the nightmarish situation that we have mostly to deal with. In fact, the Security Council should act on threats to international peace and security before conflicts erupt.
So there are a number of issues that the Security Council could do, but as I said, it is not in the hands of the Secretary-General or me to do this work. It is the Member States that have to discuss this, and I am sure that they will continue to put this matter on the agenda.
Q: My question is very short. How do you see the emergence of China in the next years and its contribution to the United Nations?
DSG: It is a big question. China is a permanent member of the Security Council; a very major responsibility. China is the world’s most populous nation. China is a country which in economic terms has grown tremendously. China is a very important actor on the world trade scene. China is also playing a stronger role in regions. I have worked very much in Africa and I have seen the growing role of China in Africa. I just mentioned the cooperation that has been established between Latin America and China and specific nations and continents and of course that also has a potential for great cooperation.
I think all countries, members of the United Nations, have a responsibility to make a multilateral organization work better. And I am hopeful, and I am sure that China will play that role. I will go to Asia in a couple of weeks. I will visit China and also other countries in the region. It is important for us to develop that cooperation more closely, and I count on China as a responsible nation who will play an active role.
I would hope that also the larger countries take the multilateral cooperation very seriously, because sometimes there is a tendency to think that one can achieve one’s interests by bilateral arrangements, but in today’s world we need to really work together, as a global family. In this world, everything is interconnected, and I think that the ideal for me is that we are so good that we produce good formulas, even good solutions for international problems. Just think about climate, and migration – we produce good international solutions and formulas – but that all countries in the end realise that these solutions, these formulas, are a national interest. If we can achieve this – the international solution, the international formula, is seen as a national interest, then you don’t have this relationship between international there and national there, because in today’s world the national problems are very often of an international nature. In order words, we therefore have to consider the international work [inaudible] This is easy for me today; I am from Sweden, a smaller country, closely related to international cooperation, [inaudible] that we are relying on international cooperation. For the major countries, this doesn’t come as naturally, but I would hope and think that in today’s world that realization also embraces China.
I have only the best of experiences with my cooperation with China, in terms of not least development issues and peace and security issues.
Q: I wanted to ask you about water and sanitation. You spoke about it, as one of the main goals of the Millennium. In the past, you have spoken about the importance of moving resources, Governments moving resources, to boost economies and how they should spend more on water and sanitation. And you mentioned the case of Rwanda, how it set itself apart by investing more. Can you tell us a little bit about the costs of not investing in Latin America, and maybe a bit about mining and the conflicts it raises for water resources in a region that largely depends on it?
DSG: I have dealt with water issues for a long time. I was Millennium Development Goals advocate for the UN before I went into it. I was also Chair of an organization called Water Aid in Sweden. I have been out in the field seeing what this problem means. I am growing worried about the problems of water related to urbanization. Sometimes it is easier to solve the water problems in villages – maybe by cleaning of water or drilling wells – matters that can be done. But if you think of this trend, the urbanization trend, I think sixty percent of humanity will be living in cities in the next five to eight years, I think. What is happening is that it is often poor people that move into capitals and then they are not prepared enough in terms of infrastructure investment collective systems for sanitation, and that causes, of course, very, very unhealthy – if you go to a slum like Kibera outside Nairobi you will see what I mean. It is 800,000 people living without any type of joint system that works.
I just read about a growing cholera problem in western Africa, and it is related to the same problem. I don’t know the details of the Latin American situation, but I think this is going to be a great challenge for Latin America, with the urbanization that you are seeing here also, to make sure that you have time enough to catch up with these problems which lead otherwise to great risks of health crises.
And then of course to this should be added the population pressures. Water is more and more a scarce resource. What I have seen in my life, unfortunately, is also growing competition with states in conflict about water. When I was in Darfur in 2006 and , I came to a village where they said that they had two wells in the village, but that one well could not be used because a dead animal – a dog or a goat – had been thrown into one of the wells by the enemy militia, and then of course people could not drink the water and that forced them to move into the camps and the village was deserted. That is how they chase people away. So there, water was used as part of warfare. You can see it on the West Bank with the Palestinians and Israelis, the dispute for water which is completely uneven. So water is becoming a factor not only for health and survival but also for peace and security. And then also if you deal with water and sanitation issues, you deal with other problems. If we were to have really a great step forward on water, what do we achieve? We achieve of course, naturally, a reduction in child mortality. We achieve an improvement in maternal health. We achieve a reduction of extreme poverty. We achieve more fair conditions in relations between men and women, because it is often mostly women who go after water, it is mostly women who take care of sick children with diarrhoea and dysentery. And you would also have progress in education, because if you are sick you don’t go to school, and if you are taking care of sick children you don’t go to school either. So if we do water and sanitation right, we could have a great improvement on other Goals also. So that is the beauty of an acceleration of this apart from taking care of a problem which is undignified for us to have in today’s world.
Be careful when you ask me about water!
Q: The region has adopted a common position on many issues, like on the case of Palestine. Is that a challenge for the common political system, and at the same time there are so many conflicts in the Latin American countries – like Nicaragua and Colombia, or Peru and Chile – both cases in the International Court in the Hague. What is your vision?
DSG: There is of course a relationship between conflict and development. When I was President of the General Assembly we concluded with a declaration where we stated the following: There is no peace without development; there is no development without peace, and there is no lasting peace or sustainable development without respect for human rights and the rule of law. Three pillars: security, development, rule of law and human rights. And they have to be strong, all three of them. If one of these pillars is weak, the whole structure is weak. In other words, conflicts make development very difficult, in some cases impossible. I have seen it with my own eyes in many crisis areas. I have been most recently in Darfur. So yes, certainly, with the crisis in Syria, I can tell you that there is an economic study which is coming out soon, stating that the GDP of Syria is going to be reduced by 18 percent, because of the war. And if this war continues this year, it will probably go down to over 40 percent in two or three year’s time. This shows what war does to development, and [what] conflict does. That is why we really have to deal with conflict, and we have to deal with it early on. Once you get into a military phase it is like the genie getting out of the bottle; it is very difficult to get it back, as we see in Syria.
I am very glad that there are very few open conflicts, wars, in Latin America. Even if you have tensions, there are other attempts to deal with these issues in a peaceful manner. The Charter, again – there is another chapter which is called ‘Peaceful Settlement of Disputes’. It says the following: the parties to any dispute shall first of all seek a solution by negotiation, enquiry, mediation, conciliation, arbitration, judicial settlement, regional arrangements or other peaceful means of their own choice.
If the issues are handed over to the International Criminal Court or arbitration, we use the Chapter VI – you know – the peaceful settlement of disputes – and I commend the Latin American nations for choosing very often this road of going the judicial road, the peaceful way. There might be tension, very deep tension, but if you deal with it early on before you go into what is often futilely called military solutions, in my experience, it hardly ever works. We have to deal with them through mediation and through peaceful means.
In Colombia, there was an attempt to find a road forward. I hope that there will be steps in the direction of a ceasefire and a settlement of the conflict. On several other areas that you mentioned there are mechanisms that work. I hope that we use Article 33 of the UN Charter as much as possible. It is very important, because conflict if it takes the military form, is often hurting both sides and leads back to square one very often, but with bitterness and more difficulties later on. So, it is a very good fact that in the Security Council, in the United Nations, I haven’t since I started again – I have been working in the United Nations many years – but I have been back only since the first of July. Since the first of July I have not been involved in any Latin American conflict, and that is a good sign.
Q: The UN Declaration on the rights of indigenous peoples was adopted in New York five years ago, in order to eliminate human rights violations against nearly 400 million indigenous in the world. Five years later, in your opinion, what are the major challenges to ensure the survival of these communities, which in many countries are increasingly losing their lands and are the victims of actions of [inaudible]?
DSG: I am very glad you raised that issue because I think it is very important that we very deeply assess and deal with the problems related to indigenous populations. And I am glad that the United Nations is involved, it is growingly involved with the rights of indigenous peoples. It is also directly related to another matter, which has to do with minority rights. In my view, we cannot really have truly well-functioning democracies unless we have minority rights that make it possible for all parts of the population to feel sense of participation and ownership in the national efforts. So I know that there are also further initiatives underway in the United Nations. I know it is an issue which many nations struggle with and discuss very, very actively, also in this country I understand, but I think it is extremely important to find ways of introducing methods to provide the rights of indigenous population and to make sure that you have sense of participation for all citizens of a country, and that they feel the relationship to the state as being one of equality. If you do not have such minority rights, if you do not have indigenous rights, then you have divisive elements in a nation that would be leading to different types of tensions and even conflict. So I think this is an issue that needs much deep debate and then also concrete measures to be taken to make sure that minority rights and indigenous rights are defended and preserved.
Q: What do you see the UN’s role going forward in the conflict in Mali? Will the UN deploy peacekeeping troops? What will its coordination be with France and with ECOWAS?
DSG: Well, you probably noted that I was pretty vague on that question because it is a situation which is evolving more or less day by day. There was a plan to train the Malian army and to build up the capacity of the ECOWAS region, and then the role of the United Nations was to provide a support package for this operation, according to Resolution  of the Security Council. Now with the crisis that occurred when there was an offensive as you know from the north to the south, the French came to Mali completely in line with international law, because it was at the request of the Malian Government that they came, so it is in line with international law. And then now there are other nations that are coming in and they are gathering now in Mali. I don’t know what exactly our role will be. Our offer to provide a support package is still there. I think it is premature to talk about a UN peacekeeping role. It is now a stage with offensive operations going on, and that is not an area the United Nations can be involved. But I would hope that, once territorial integrity is established for Mali, if there is a need for UN programmes, even a UN presence on the ground, and if the Security Council requires this, that the United Nations can play a role. The United Nations can play the role much more easily in situations in which you don’t have a real combat situation. So I think you should see this issue in stages. This is the present stage where we play a less active role. But then we definitely would want to have a very active role afterwards. And of course we fully stand behind the desire of the Malian people and the Malian Government to re-establish unity in the nation and achieve territorial integrity. Particularly if this part of the country is characterized by violence and by serious breaches of human rights.
By the way, I should say that, right now – I think I said so – in Addis Ababa, there is going to be a discussion on this issue about the support, and we will see what will then happen. And I am sure the Security Council will come back on this issue and we will take the lead from there.
Q: Next year, the UN stabilization mission in Haiti will fulfil its tenth year. When do you think will finish this mission?
DSG: Well, I wish I could predict. We have been there and we are there. We are there with both military presence and also strong police presence. I met the departing head of the operation, our Special Representative Mr. [Mariano] Fernandez, who is now leaving his function and he stressed very strongly the need for continued presence in the security sector. We very much hope now that the elections will take place as soon as possible in Haiti, and that we will have a continued period of stabilization.
The country was struck by a horrible earthquake as you know. I think from the beginning there were 1.5 million people living in tents and in temporary quarters. There are still people living under such conditions, but the figure now is 350,000. So there has been some improvement. We still have work to do and we are in close cooperation with President [Michel] Martelly and his Prime Minister and his Government. And we will of course be there as long as we are needed. This is of course a matter between the government of Haiti and the Security Council. But for the time being I cannot give a timetable to you.
Thank you very much and have a good day. I am sure you’ll be busy the next few days.