Secretary-General's Press Conference at Palais des Nations [unofficial transcript]
Geneva, Switzerland, 2 July 2007SG: Bonjour, chers amis de la presse.
I am delighted to be back in Geneva again. While this is the second time in my capacity as Secretary-General to be in Geneva, I just attended for the first time the High-Level Segment of the Economic and Social Council, where I launched the Millennium Development Report for 2007.
I was pleased to open the Innovation Fair. In particular, I was very much impressed by the efforts of NGOs to make MDGs a reality through public and private partnerships.
As I mentioned in my remarks to ECOSOC, we are halfway towards the 2015 deadline for those Goals, and it is crucial that we take stock and see what more needs to be done to reach them.
For the first time, we can illustrate with statistics the marked progress since the Goals were agreed to in 2000. Let me share with you some examples.
The number of extremely poor people living on less than a dollar a day has fallen from 1.25 billion in 1990 to some 980 million people in 2004, despite sharp increases in total population.
And the share of children attending primary school has grown from 80 per cent in 1990 to 88 per cent in 2005.
There has also been strong progress on child mortality because of focused interventions on measles, TB, dysentery and malaria. I am very encouraged by these statistics.
And although we are not on track to achieve all the Goals in all regions – especially in sub-Saharan Africa -- the Goals are still achievable everywhere if we work hard to realize them. Both donor countries and developing countries need to keep their promises.
I am hoping that the discussions here in the days ahead will give a real push to the drive to meet the Goals by 2015 and I am determined to make progress in this area.
Ladies and Gentlemen, today marks the completion of my first six months in office as Secretary-General of the United Nations. Let me use this opportunity, briefly, to talk to you about some of my other concerns, which I will also share with your colleagues in New York.
I feel that we have achieved a turning point in my early proposals for reforming United Nations peacekeeping. Indeed, the General Assembly on Friday approved the thrust of my plan for strengthening the capacity of the Organization to manage and sustain our peacekeeping operations. As adopted by the General Assembly, the proposals include a restructuring of the Department of Peacekeeping Operations; the establishment of a separate Department of Field Support headed by an Under-Secretary-General and a major augmentation of working-level resources. This is crucial as we are facing increasing demands on overstretched capacities and so many lives depend on our ability to act. The General Assembly also approved my proposal to restructure the Office of Disarmament, creating a new post of High Representative of the Secretary-General in disarmament and non-proliferation. To achieve these major reforms in only six months is virtually unprecedented in the United Nations and I express my sincere appreciation to Member States for (their) strong support for my reform proposals.
Our ability to act is most challenged in Darfur, Sudan. There I feel encouraged by the recent agreement reached by the Sudanese Government, the African Union, and the United Nations on the future deployment of the hybrid operation in Darfur. On Friday, the Department of Peacekeeping Operations started to meet with potential troop and police contributing countries. In the meantime, it is vital that the African troops, AMIS, now deployed on the ground until December this year, receive the financial resources so badly needed to protect and assist people in Darfur.
This brings us to another major challenge. From Darfur to the endangered islands of the Pacific and beyond, I have attempted to warn against the dangers of climate change. Time is of the essence. To galvanize political will and coordinate concrete action before the Bali negotiations in December, I have appointed three special envoys and we are actively preparing a high-level meeting on September 24th in New York.
On our efforts in the Middle East, I am guided by the relevant UN resolutions and I am deeply engaged in the search for a durable solution. I am aware that you, as a press corps, have a keen interest in many areas – on human rights and many political issues. Ladies and Gentlemen, so now I will take your questions – on ECOSOC, on the Millennium Development Goals, or any other questions you may wish to raise with me, taking this opportunity. Before I take your questions, I wanted to let you know that I will be visiting Rome, Italy, from tomorrow for two days to attend the international conference on justice and rule of law in Afghanistan, and will be back Wednesday afternoon to spend more time on another important segment of this conference. Thank you very much.
Q: Secretary-General, thank you for coming. I would just like to ask a quick question about the climate change comment which you made, and the importance of addressing the issue. Recently a report came out noting that China has now become the biggest emitter of greenhouse gas emissions in the world. I'm wondering in light of that, whether China's role should be re-evaluated in terms of taking on binding commitments to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Thank you.
SG: It is true that China as one of the biggest emitters should take part, on board, in the international community's common efforts to address these climate change issues. I was encouraged when I attended the G8 summit meeting in Heiligendamm, Germany, early last month (as) the Chinese President also made quite a clear commitment to participate and cooperate fully with the international community. I therefore would naturally expect that the major emitting countries like China, Brazil and India, will make their own efforts to participate actively in (the) ongoing international community's common efforts.
Q: Mr. Secretary-General, four weeks ago your Deputy-Secretary-General in New York Asha-Rose Migiro issued a report on Africa and the Millennium Development Goals, which was much more pessimistic than your report today. She says for instance that no country in Africa, even the best governed countries on the continent, have been able to make sufficient progress. So I wondered which is the valid one, this report or yours? And secondly, if I may, your appeals to the industrial countries are rather vague. Your predecessor, Kofi Annan, in his report to the General Assembly in 2005 made very specific requests (on) what the industrial countries should do to help reach the MDGs. He proposed a specific timeline for reaching the 0.7 per cent ODA goal. He made a specific request to improve market access for the so-called least developed countries, he made specific figures for increasing the AIDS funds, and he called for the abolition of the agricultural subsidies. So my question is, are you still sticking to these very specific requests of your predecessor? And what's your message to the industrial countries after they did not provide specific timelines at the recent G8 summit?
SG: It is true that quite a number of African countries are off track. At the same time, there are quite a number of African countries who are making good progress in the MDG process. The goals are achievable, I think, if countries commit themselves to sound governance and accountability, and receive adequate financial and technical assistance from the developed countries. For developed countries, it is also very necessary, desirable, to keep their commitment. The G8 in 2005 had made a commitment to double their aid and I hope that G8 countries will keep their commitment. During the last G8 summit meeting in Germany the G8 countries have promised, committed, USD 60 billion to address all these diseases. We have been working to soften and relieve the debt of African countries. All these statistics show, as I reported in my 2006 report, that there is a tendency, a growing tendency that many countries are taking part and we see positive statistics to the realization of the MDGs. It is very important that all the countries, developing countries and developed countries, should do their own part, particularly on the developed countries, in keeping up their 0.7% GNI commitment by 2015. Also, they should take necessary measures, like opening up their markets and this “trade for aid” would be one of the good ways to facilitate and encourage their sustainable economic growth. At the same time, I would urge the leaders in developing countries to put their national policy priorities in line with their Millennium Development Goals.
Q: Monsieur le Secrétaire général, comme vous l'avez dit, vous rencontrez demain le Président Karzaï. Qu'attendez-vous de cette rencontre, d'autant qu'aujourd'hui l'Afghanistan est le producteur principal d'héroïne, ce qui est aussi un problème global?
SG: As you are already aware by this time, I had a brief visit to Afghanistan before coming to Genève. The purpose of my visit to Afghanistan was to have first-hand information, as well as discussions with Afghanistan's leaders in Kabul, before I attend this international conference on justice and rule of law in Afghanistan in Rome. I had, first of all, very good meetings with the Afghanistan leaders and the Commander of NATO-ISAF and with our own UN team, which have been very useful. I am still very much concerned and saddened by this continuing violence and particularly the casualties of civilians. I have made a strong request to Afghanistan leaders, as well as military commanders, to avoid the civilian casualties in the course of their military operations. Again, the cultivation of poppy, opium, creates a serious problem that the Afghanistan Government lacks the ability to control, manage all these social-economic programmes, and they have to make a strong effort, nationwide effort, to eliminate corruption in their own country. I made a very strong request to President Karzai and, at the same time, the United Nations has been in close coordination with western countries to provide necessary alternate sources of income for those farmers who cultivate these poppies. Even though the progress has not been very satisfactory, this is an ongoing effort by the United Nations, led by the United Nations Office on drug control in Vienna and also in cooperation with NATO and western countries, to provide necessary farming resources to them.
Q: Monsieur le Secrétaire général, concernant le Darfour, vous avez réussi en premier recours avec l'acceptation de la force hybride; mais vous avez participé tout récemment à Paris à une réunion où l'Afrique était absente et le Président Al-Bachir a critiqué certains pays européens qui ne seraient là que pour leurs propres intérêts. Pensez-vous que le Président Al-Bachir est doté d'une bonne volonté pour régler ce problème du Darfour? Une deuxième question, si vous le permettez Monsieur le Secrétaire général: les pays d'Afrique demandent dans le cadre de la réforme de l'ONU que certaines agences des Nations Unies soient délocalisées en Afrique. Est-ce que vous êtes pour cette proposition? Je vous remercie.
Q (Repeat): Oui, avec plaisir. Monsieur le Secrétaire général, je disais qu'il y a des pays d'Afrique qui demandent à ce que les Nations Unies, dans le cadre de la réforme, délocalisent certaines organisations, qu'elles prennent pied en Afrique, d'autant plus que l'on sait que la majorité de vos actions concernent le continent africain. Je vous remercie.
SG: On Darfur issues, I have publicly stated on many occasions that this is the highest priority agenda for my administration and I think that during the last six months we have made slow but credible and considerable progress in helping resolve this Darfur situation. The people in Darfur have suffered too much and the international community has waited too long. It is now high time for us to take necessary action and I hope that the Sudanese Government will implement faithfully the commitment they have made. It was encouraging that the United Nations and the African Union together were able to agree with the Sudanese Government on the introduction of a hybrid operation. As I said earlier in my opening remarks, we have already started a meeting with the potential troop-contributing countries to help expedite this process. President Bashir made firm commitments in the talks with me over the telephone and during bilateral meetings. I hope that he will keep up his commitment as he did to me. And recently he has shown some signs of flexibility in addressing these Darfur issues. At this time, what is important is to step up the political process. The Special Envoy of the Secretary-General, Mr. Jan Eliasson, and the African Union Special Envoy, Mr. Salim A. Salim, have been tirelessly making efforts towards progress in the political process. I would say it this way, there are four main tracks in addressing these Darfur issues. The first one is of course humanitarian assistance. Second, is the hybrid operation, which will be United Nations peacekeeping operations to stabilize the security there. And the third one, the political process. There are CPA (Comprehensive Peace Agreement) and DPA (Darfur Peace Agreement), which need to be implemented as a part of all this comprehensive political process. And there is another important thing, we should give some good vision to the people and Government of Sudan at the end of this road map, a good incentive for a development package to reconstruct Darfur and Sudan. These are four tracks which have been reconfirmed during the recent Paris meeting where the enlarged contact group of foreign ministers met under the auspices of the French Government and President Sarkozy. Even though there were some uncomfortable feelings on the part of the African Union, because they have not been fully consulted in advance, and the Sudanese Government has not participated, the Sudanese Government made it again clear at the end of this meeting that they would not oppose this meeting. We have agreed to have another meeting during the month of September in New York under the leadership of the Secretary-General of the UN and the African Union Commission Chairman. We are now working and doing our utmost efforts to make progress on this issue.
Now, on this second question, I think the United Nations has many important frameworks and mechanisms and institutions to deal with African challenges. I made it quite clear that African challenges are again of the highest priority for me as Secretary-General. I have travelled to African States, I have met a lot of people and I have appointed as Deputy-Secretary-General a very distinguished African woman. And I'm going to appoint distinguished African people to senior posts. And I am doing my best efforts to improve the capacities of the United Nations to mobilize political and financial resources for Africa in the international community.
Q: Mr. Secretary-General, here you are today and just before your presence here a couple of NGOs launched a very important campaign to call governments and civil society to end hunger. And they confronted the statistics provided by your report with the statistics from the hungry people and they called your report a regression, not progress. Would you comment on that?
SG: About the statistics of my report? Of course, statistics provide very important guidelines in drafting and formulating policies, whether it be national or regional or intergovernmental United Nations policies. Therefore, I regard statistics as very important. These statistics are based on experts' experience and they also depend largely on national statistics. When exact and correct statistics are not available, they normally depend on national estimates. We would like to make these statistics as correct as possible but at the same time you should also understand that in many African countries or developing countries some statistics are not available. And therefore, a few years ago, there was a Marrakech plan of action on these statistics. We are ensuring that we have statistics as correct as possible. This is ongoing. But I would tell you that you should have trust and a good basis for judgement on the statistics provided by the United Nations and other international and regional organizations on development policies, particularly on the Millennium Development Goals.
Q (follow-up): Maybe I did not explain myself very well. So let me rephrase it. Do you agree that there are more hungry people today and that the States are failing to address the problem of hunger in the world?
SG: I told you that the number of abject poverty, =))people who live on one dollar per day, that has decreased when you compare in 1990s and 2005.
Q: Monsieur le Secrétaire général, concernant le Kosovo, pensez-vous que les choses avancent sur la scène internationale entre l'ONU, les Américains et les Russes, pour définir plus vite le statut du Kosovo proposé par M. Ahtisaari? Même hier, Monsieur Bush a rencontré M. Poutine, le Président russe, concernant le Kosovo. Merci.
SG: Kosovo is one of the very important and serious concerns of the international community. As you know, my Special Envoy, Mr. Ahtisaari, has presented his recommendations on the future status of Kosovo and I strongly support that recommendation. This recommendation was based on long negotiations involving all parties concerned reflecting the views of major stakeholders of the international community and it provides all good elements for the future of Kosovo. Further delay or prolongation of this recommendation will not be desirable, not only for the peace and security in the Balkans but for European countries. I have been engaging myself with the leaders of major countries to address this issue. Unfortunately, so far the members of the Security Council have not been able to agree on it, even though most members of the Security Council agree that this recommendation presents a fair and good prospect for the future of the Kosovar people. Now, the question is how the Russian Government will vote on this matter because they have veto power. I hope sincerely that this summit meeting, which is now taking place in Maine, United States, between President Putin and President Bush, will find a good solution to this issue. There have been some ideas to make this process smooth, like for example French President Sarkozy has proposed a so-called “sunrise” clause giving 120 days for further consultation and after the 120 days a transitional period. I hope all these kind of flexible ideas, creative ideas, will provide a good basis for consultations to arrive at a mutually satisfactory solution of this issue, which is a very important and serious one, which has implications for international peace and security. Thank you very much.
Q: Good afternoon Mr. Secretary-General. I was wondering, sir, whether you could elaborate. I understand that you've got a request from the head of the International Maritime Organization to examine the possibility of doing something about piracy off the coast of Somalia, which is hindering humanitarian aid. Thank you, sir.
SG: I am not personally fully aware of this issue. Maybe I'll get back to you in person on this issue.
Q: Mr. Secretary-General, I know it's your job to be optimistic but I want to know, do you truly believe that the Millennium Development Goals can be reached, some of them, all of them? Does it all come down to money or does it take more? And specifically with Africa, though it's shown a little bit of progress, what are the prospects? Do you think that they really will halve poverty in the next coming years?
SG: When our leaders met and made this historic commitment in 2000 and reaffirmed it in 2005, I think they have not planned it for failure. I think they were fully committed to make these Millennium Development Goals a reality for the better and balanced prosperity of the international community. I think if we take firmly committed, concerted actions, I think this is achievable. This is what I have emphasized during my speech to the ECOSOC plenary meeting today. Both developing countries and developed countries have common responsibilities but this time I would hope that developed countries, industrialized countries, should do more about their role while developing countries make sure that they make these MDGs as their national priority policy. That requires strong commitment and political leadership of the leaders of the countries, both developing countries and developed countries. For developing countries, as I said, good governance, sound governance, good management and democratic rules and procedures, this will be helpful. Education, sanitation. And now you will see many of the industrialized countries are now meeting their targets on progress as scheduled. Some countries have even surpassed this 0.7% of GNI. I hope they will be able to hit the target by 2015 with the committed participation and strong political will.
The press conference closes, but a group of journalists stop the Secretary-General while still in the room and start asking him questions. No tape is available for the first part of the Secretary-Genera's comments.
SG: (on reform of DPKO) And there is a huge surge in establishing other peacekeeping missions. We may soon have to establish this hybrid operation of 23,000 people, and in Chad and Somalia. There will be at least 35 per cent or 40 per cent of a surge. This has been managed by one department, a very small department. And there have been serious problems in management, even corruption in procurement. There has been a lack of accountability, mismanagement and sexual abuse cases. All these come from a lack of? inadequate support and size of these peacekeeping operations. Peacekeeping operations are symbolic of the UN's efforts towards the contribution to peace and security. I would like to make it more efficient, more effective and more accountable by dividing it into two. The Department of Peacekeeping Operations will be mainly responsible for operations, training on the ground and recruiting peacekeepers, while the Department of Field Support [DFS] will be responsible for procurement, mission support, human resources, management, good management of all these. Therefore, with these two Departments there will be very efficient and effective support for peacekeeping operations. This is what I believe. There was some concern about unity of command by picking two same-ranked persons. This has been made quite clear in writing and orally, that whenever it comes to operational matters the head of DFS (Department of Field support) will listen and carry out the policies of peacekeeping operations.
Q: So, he will be the top one?The Department of Field Service will be the top one??
SG: He will be responsible?
Q: So, peacekeeping will be under field service, that's what you mean?
SG: There is no exact legal term as to who is under or who is above. But in terms of functional abilities?the Department of Field Support will have to closely consult and listen to the head of the Department of Peacekeeping Operations.