Secretary-General's speech at John F. Kennedy School of Government entitled "Securing the Common Good in a Time of Global Crises" [including a question and answer session at the end]
Harvard University, Massachussetts, 21 October 2008SG: Thank you for your very kind introduction Dean Ellwood.
Distinguished Faculty Members,
Students and dear friends,
It's a great honour and pleasure for me to be back to the John F. Kennedy School. This is a really great opportunity for me, in my new capacity as Secretary-General of the United Nations, to return to visit my old school.
I must start by expressing my great regret at having had to postpone my visit here this past May. There was the very serious and devastating Cyclone Nargis in Myanmar, so I had to rush to talk with the Myanmar authorities. With my direct intervention, fortunately, people have been able to receive all humanitarian assistance, and even until today this humanitarian assistance is flowing. Thank you very much for your understanding for that postponement
Now I am pleased to say how much I am honoured to be back again, meeting with my professor, Dean Allison. I even have here my professor, who used to be my teacher. Looking at the faces of the young students reminds me of my school days which I still regard as the golden times of my life. I have never had such a great time in my previous life. I have been always busy, but that does not mean that I did not study much. [laughter] But it was a real golden time for me. Last time I visited the Kennedy school was in September 2005 when I was Foreign Minister. At that time I brought some “good news” of the very historic announcement of the Six Party Talks Agreement. At that time I brought some very good news as well as some answers. But this time, unfortunately, I have to bring you some questions and a call to action on our common challenges. These are some things that I would like to discuss with you today. Of course I will state what I think in my capacity as Secretary-General, but I am here to learn more from you, to learn some very fresh, creative ideas from young students as well as professors.
I have had a two-hour long – I think almost three-hour long discussions with the very distinguished prominent professors of Harvard University on major issues pertaining to our common challenges – the global financial crisis, climate change, global health issues, terrorism and disarmament. All these are the common issues, the common global problems which we have to address together. That is exactly what I am going to discuss with you today.
Let me briefly recollect how I have really enjoyed now going back to my old days. It was ྏ and ྐ, the class of ྐ. At that time Dean Allison was a very legendary dean for many, many years. And at that time, I couldn't even have easy access to him, not because he was a bureaucrat but because of so many students – I was just one of the JFKs - Just From Korea.
Now talking about JFK I had a very inspiring, a very brief moment of meeting then President John F. Kennedy at the White House, which inspired me to think what role, what I should do, in the future. At that time I wanted to become a diplomat, serving for the nation. Now I am much more honoured to serve beyond the nation, beyond the national boundary of Korea, the whole international community as UN Secretary-General. So I am very grateful both to President Kennedy and the School of Kennedy for the excellent teaching you have given me.
And I would like to also take this opportunity to express my sincere congratulations to all Mason Fellows who will soon be celebrating the 50th anniversary next month. I have been very proud as part of the Harvard community as part of the Kennedy School and more importantly as a member of the Mason Fellows. [Applause]
Among Mason Fellows I understand that several have become Ministers and there are at least four or five Heads of State or Government at this time, and one, in no small part due to excellent teaching, has become Secretary-General of the United Nations, and I am very much grateful for this honour.
As I said we come together today at a time of intense crisis – unrelenting waves buffeting the world's people and institutions. Many months ago, when I spoke of a “triple crisis” – soaring food and fuel prices, climate change, and also development emergencies. Now all these triple crises have been compounded by the global financial crisis. Today, with increased evidence of the effects of all three crises around the globe, compounded by the ongoing shock waves of the financial crisis, my call to arms now seems distant and all too modest.
Now more than ever we must be bold. In these times of crisis, when we are tempted to look inward, it is precisely the time when we must move pursuit of the common good to the top of the agenda. Global solidarity is necessary and in the interest of all. Pursuing the common good will require addressing a set of global challenges that hold the key to our common future. I would like to highlight five issues: ensuring global financial stability as an intentional first step toward prosperity for all people; addressing climate change; advancing global health; countering terrorism; and ensuring non-proliferation and disarmament.
While these challenges may seem quite different at first blush, they share an important set of common characteristics that are all interconnected. That was confirmed by all distinguished professors at Harvard University in our meeting today. These global public goods distinguish themselves from other issues of concern because: they endanger all countries – whether rich or poor, big or small – and all their people; they cross borders freely without respecting national geographic borders and are highly contagious; and they cannot be resolved without action by us all. And these challenges must be addressed by all. However a country may be powerful and resourceful, for example the United States, even the United States cannot address this alone. But the United Nations can mobilize all the resources and means of Member States, of the whole international community. That's where the United Nations is very well appraised. That's where the Secretary-General stands.
In the recent boom years brought about by increasing globalization, it became all too easy for us to take for granted global financial stability and the prosperity it facilitated. But the same threads of globalization that united us in the good times, are now biting deep in the bad times, especially for those who can least afford it. While recently we have heard much in this country about how problems on Wall Street are affecting innocent people on Main Street, we need to think more about those people around the world with no streets. Wall Street, Main Street, no street – the solutions devised must be for all.
At the UN we focus daily on the “for all” part. This is what I have been emphasising all the time on many issues. We have to crisis proof our agenda, especially in the area of development. In particular we cannot allow the financial crisis to turn into a prolonged human crisis. That is why the race to achieve the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), by the target of 2015, has become even more pressing. Last month I convened a high-level summit meeting on the MDGs at the United Nations where Member States committed 16 billion dollars in one day. That was very encouraging and very generous. Those generous pledges now need to be kept, and all the new partnerships formed to achieve the MDGs need to forge ahead.
Ladies and Gentlemen, young students,
I would now like to turn to climate change, a truly defining issue of our era. Climate change is the ultimate global and existential threat. Its impact is documented with new evidence from around the globe every day. And its consequences will not be evenly felt. The irony is that those countries who have least contributed to this current phenomenon of global warming will be the hardest hit, and do not have even any capacity to address the situation. The United States and other industrialised countries, while they have contributed most, still they have capacity, they have resources. Their condition is much better now. Particularly developing countries, least developed countries, landlocked countries and small island developing countries do not have any resources to deal with these issues. And, as so often, it will weigh heaviest on the most vulnerable, who have neither the resources nor the capacity to cope.
Last year, the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change shared the Nobel Peace Prize with Al Gore for a decades-long effort, which established that climate change was not only occurring, but accelerating. Now it is scientifically clear that climate change, global warming, is now happening. It is no longer a theory. It has become a fact of our life and has become an imminent threat to all humanity and to this planet Earth. We cannot afford to delay action any further.
Professor John P. Holdren, whom I met this afternoon – regretfully I think he must be lecturing now - vividly described the current situation as “being in a car with bad brakes driving toward a cliff in the fog”. As the fog of scientific uncertainty has been lifting – no small part due to many of this University's outstanding scientists – we increasingly see what lies ahead. And we surely know what we need to do. Steering clear of the cliff will require immediate actions by all, including Governments, the business community, UN bodies, civil society, and individuals like you and me.
This summer I launched “Cool UN”, a very small initiative to help reduce our carbon footprint. I asked to only raise the temperature from 72 to [77 degrees] Fahrenheit. It resulted, you may be surprised, in a reduction of 300 tons of gas emissions, which will be equivalent to 710 round trips across the Atlantic. Everybody was advised not to wear ties because the room temperature had gone up. We gave some small considerations to the Member States, the delegations, who were attending important negotiations and conferences. We made it just one or two degrees cooler for them than for the staff. This small initiative has resulted in very great substantive results. This is leading by example.
I am very glad to see that Harvard also believes in leading by example. Harvard's sustainability initiative, which includes the target of reducing greenhouse-gas emissions by 30 percent during the next eight years, is very welcome.
But in order to avoid Professor Holdren's precipice we must conclude a new comprehensive deal to replace the Kyoto Protocol, which will expire in 2012, by the end of next year. We must agree on a universally acceptable, inclusive, balanced and ratifiable treaty to replace the Kyoto Protocol. We took the first major step in Bali in December last year. The Member States have taken a very good roadmap, and we are now heading towards the Poznan conference in December this year. Our next test will be in just two months, and I may extend it by the end of next year. We need to come out from this Poznan conference in Poland this December with a strong political signal on strengthening financial and technology transfer mechanisms to help developing countries with adaptation and mitigation. We need a shared vision of what a new agreement will look like, including on the question of institutional architecture, as well as a concrete work plan for 2009 that will enable Parties to engage in very serious negotiations without delay.
Global health is another great challenge of our time. But also one with an immense scope for solutions.
With increased travel, migration and urbanization, a paradigm shift has occurred in the way we look at global health. Diseases and pandemics are spreading across borders today faster than ever before, and – if not controlled effectively – these can have devastating impacts.
HIV/AIDS, avian flu, SARS, are only a few examples. We also need to focus on the so-called “neglected tropical diseases”, which affect the poor all over the world.
We have the tools and resources to treat and control many of these diseases, and we have the know-how to build health systems that serve all. Moreover, global health is receiving unprecedented attention and resources from new and powerful actors.
At last month's MDG summit meeting, our development partners came together to announce significant projects and pledges to combat tuberculosis and malaria. Our global malaria campaign has brought us within range of containing a disease that kills a child every 30 seconds. This gives us hope – and just as importantly, a model for achieving the other goals.
We will be able to see soon the eradication of polio on the earth, and my target, my ambition, is by 2015, we will be in much better shape in terms of eradicating malaria. I have set a target of 2010, by which time [inaudible] a significant decrease in the number of people killed by malaria. My campaign to eradicate malaria is moving very well, and I'm also working very hard on tuberculosis, HIV-AIDS. I have been attending many international conferences and trying to mobilise the necessary resources and assistance. And on HIV-AIDS, we must really help people so that they can get care and treatment and support and all this necessary assistance.
All these commitments are very generous and I am very much encouraged and grateful for all governments, and particularly business communities' strong support in global health issues.
I welcome this heightened activity by the international community. But it carries some risks. The global health sphere is increasingly complex and fragmented, and there is no systematic approach to ensuring coherence of action. In addition, transaction costs are high. Capacity is severely strained.
We need to work in a more coordinated manner, each according to our comparative advantage to strengthen health systems. We must move from building silos to building systems, systems that work for the poorest and most vulnerable.
I believe that the United Nations has an important role to play in the current fragmented health landscape: namely to be a convener and advocate for greater coherence and accountability among health actors. That is why I have been convening 40 global health leaders over the last year to develop an action plan to address some of the most urgent health priorities facing the world's poorest and most vulnerable.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Terrorism is another threat that can affect anyone, anywhere, at any time. We have seen so many devastating, tragic, brutal terrorist attacks against all the people around the world. Combined with the threat of weapons of mass destruction, it is perhaps the most serious threat to international peace and security.
Terrorism is deeply personal. It kills our sons, daughters and mothers, our fathers, grandparents, all our friends and families. This was made powerfully clear at the United Nations last month when I hosted the first Symposium on Supporting Victims of Terrorism. Eighteen victims – including Madame [Ingrid] Betancourt, came to New York to share their stories, their challenges, and explain what short, medium and long-term support was needed to slowly rebuild shattered lives. But they also gently scolded us that too often still it is the perpetrators – and not their innocent victims – that receive all our attention.
Two years ago, the General Assembly adopted the first Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy. It was a milestone, the first time all 192 UN Member States agreed together to formulate a comprehensive, collective, and inter-governmentally approved plan to counter terrorism. This was the first time they agreed that conditions exist that can be conducive to the spread of terrorism and that, to gain ground, they must address these conditions.
Last month, our Member States came together again in New York to review the implementation of the strategy. We have come a long way, but we surely cannot stop now. I urged Member States to take multilateral counter-terrorism cooperation even further. For this, I outlined three principles.
First, we must be more innovative in developing our tools. We cannot shy away from promoting non-traditional approaches to security. Military force is rarely enough to bring an end to terrorist violence.
Second, multilateral counter-terrorism efforts must be undertaken in partnership with regional and sub-regional groupings, but also civil society organizations. Academic institutions can play a very important role in helping shed light on the multifaceted and evolving phenomena of terrorism and political violence.
Third, we need to better leverage our collective strengths. While most resources and capacities for counter-terrorism are found at the national level, the collective approach of the United Nations gives multilateral efforts a great advantage that we should maximize.
I am now coming to a final, but also very important, serious subject. The world is facing acute challenges in the area of disarmament and non-proliferation. I come from a country that has experienced firsthand, in my lifetime, the ravages of conventional war and the threats of nuclear weapons from North Korea, and other weapons of mass destruction.
Such threats are of course not unique to my region. There is widespread support throughout the world for the view that nuclear weapons must never be used again. We need only look at their indiscriminate effects, their impact on the natural environment, their profound implications for regional and global security.
Some now call this an emerging nuclear “taboo.”
Yet if these arguments are so strong, why do such threats persist? Why has disarmament remained only a noble goal, rather than becoming an historic achievement?
The answer requires a little historical context. Disarmament entails the physical elimination of certain weapons, as opposed to the regulation of armaments. Both goals are found in the UN Charter. In 1959, the United Nations adopted a resolution, a very historic resolution, on “general and complete disarmament under effective international control” – also known by its acronym GCD. This resolution combined the two goals of eliminating weapons of mass destruction and regulating conventional arms. In 1978, the first special session of the General Assembly adopted GCD as the “ultimate objective” of States in the disarmament process.
As important as it is, however, GCD is not an end in itself. It serves an even broader global good: international peace and security. Unfortunately, I fear that few understand what this term GCD actually means. And I see little evidence that States are taking steps to ensure that their laws, policies, budgets, and bureaucracies are oriented to fulfilling this goal.
Part of the explanation no doubt lies in the many misunderstandings of the term. Critics caricature it as an attempt to eliminate literally every weapon on earth. They have dismissed it as utopian. They have interpreted it as implying that disarmament must await the prior achievement of world peace. And they offer alternative approaches to international peace and security, including those based on the endless pursuit of military superiority, the balance of power, doctrines of deterrence, technology restrictions, and other such measures.
All of these, however, have their own weaknesses. Typically, they advance the interests of only specific States, rather than the welfare and security of all.
The great advantage of the GCD concept is that it recognizes that the ability to achieve a WMD-free world will require both the elimination of such weapons and additional changes in the way that States produce, develop, transfer, and use conventional weapons. In many regions these are very closely related issues.
The United Nations has long stood for the rule of law and disarmament. Yet it also stands for the rule of law in disarmament, which we advance through our various statements, resolutions, and educational efforts. We promote key treaties – like the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty [CTBT] – that have been signed but not yet entered into force. It was in 1999 when I served as Chairman of the CTBT Organization. But still after nine years we have still not been able to see the CTBT come into effect. We still have many countries who have not signed and have not ratified this very important convention. The Chemical and Biological Weapons Conventions have still not gained universal membership. The Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty is facing a crisis of confidence.
The United Nations –notably through its General Assembly resolutions – has also been developing criteria for inclusion in disarmament agreements. In his speech to the General Assembly in 1961, President Kennedy recognized the need for such standards, saying “For disarmament without checks is but a shadow, and a community without law is but a shell.”
Yet there are still gaps in the law. Some key treaties remain to be negotiated. And new efforts are needed to create additional nuclear-weapon-free zones, especially in the Middle East, and to bring existing zones fully into force.
At a time when the world is focused on other more immediate crises, let us never forget that we must press our efforts to address the potential existential crisis which confronts humanity. It would not be responsible to do otherwise. I am pleased to see leaders stepping up to move us in the right direction. I applaud the International Commission on Nuclear Non-Proliferation and Disarmament announced by the Prime Ministers of Australia and Japan recently.
Dean Ellwood, Faculty members, students and friends,
America's great educator, Horace Mann, summoned humankind to “be ashamed to die until you have won some victory for humanity.” Achieving disarmament is one such goal. Achieving financial stability and prosperity for all, addressing climate change, global health and international terrorism are others. Let us ensure we are equal to the task.
Thank you very much.
Q: Thank you again for coming today. You mentioned that, in your ideal world, we would have a new climate change treaty by the end of the year. I assume that one of the goals would be to have the United States ratify that treaty. In your ideal world, what would the United States agree to in that Treaty?
SG: The United States must take a leadership role in addressing climate change. The United States is by far the biggest greenhouse gas-emitting country, and it fortunately has the most resources and the biggest capacity to address this issue. Therefore I have been calling on the American leadership, President Bush and all others, to show leadership. It is not only the United States; it should be all industrialized countries who have contributed most to this current phenomenon. They have the capacity, they have the technology, they have the financing resources. But what they lack is political will. As Secretary-General, my role is to galvanize such political will. I will work very closely with the next president of the United States, whoever that may be, to take a leadership role. The whole world is looking at how the United States, the next US administration, will address this issue. We do not have any time to lose. We have only 14 months. This is an issue which affects the whole of humanity, regardless of where you're coming from. Current leaders, including myself, must deliver this planet earth to our coming generations, a much more hospitable and environmentally sustainable world to our succeeding generations. This is our historical responsibility. And I call upon young leaders here to show leadership. You will soon become the owners of this world, and I hope you will pay more attention, take ownership of climate change and other global issues. The whole world now depends upon your leadership.
Q: As a Lebanese, I can tell you that one of the most difficult things I ever had to live through was the July 2006 war. Mr. Secretary-General, this was a war that led to the complete destruction of my country. (inaudible) I really want to continue to have faith in the UN, but I want to know what the UN is doing, if it's not the implementation of UN resolutions, to make sure that the correct lessons are being learned, to make sure that we end an era in which we fight the war on terror with more terror.
SG: I fully share with you your frustrations, and I have full sympathy and support for all Lebanese people. The situation in Lebanon has been one of my top priority issues and a top priority issue for the United Nations. I have visited your country twice, and I have been consulting almost daily with the leadership of your country. Now there is an encouraging development in the situation, with the formation of a National Unity Government led by President [Michel] Sleiman. I met him just last Saturday again. And I have been constantly talking with Prime Minister [Fouad] Siniora, Speaker [Nabih] Berri and President Sleiman
I believe that this is a microcosm of the situation in the Middle East. When you have a peaceful resolution of the Lebanon situation, we can expect in other parts of the Middle East a smoother peace process. Now there is a very important role that the United Nations has been playing. You may be frustrated. I am also frustrated. But the United Nations has been taking a very important political leadership role - in terms of mobilizing resources for social and economic development. I and other international leaders have been mobilizing through pledging conferences. I was very encouraged, in January last year, when there was an international pledging conference. There was a huge commitment by the international community, such strong support. Now the people and leadership of Lebanon must take this opportunity. Now there is again a very encouraging situation between Syria and Lebanon. I have been discussing this matter with Syrian President [Bashar Al-]Assad. The establishment of diplomatic relations between the two countries is very encouraging, and there have been such talks, border committee meetings. You have the full support and commitment of me, as Secretary-General. So don't lose your hope. But at the same time, the Lebanese leadership and people should have more reconciliatory work through inclusive political dialogue. Thank you.
Q: Soon, we are going to know who is going to be the next President of the United States. Perhaps there will be a very sound window of opportunity to repair a relationship that in the eyes of many seems to have been affected by what's been happening over the past eight years. It's a matter of opinion, but it is certainly something that the partnership between the United Nations and the US has somehow been affected. Once we know who is the President, what is your strategy to seize that opportunity and ensure that that partnership delivers again for the world? Thank you.
SG: That is a very timely question, a very good question in fact, very important. I believe that the strong partnership between the United Nations and the United States is crucially important for the smooth operation of the United Nations in meeting major UN development goals, major UN peacekeeping goals, and also human rights protection. Thus, I have been paying much time and energy in developing such a very cooperative partnership between the United Nations and the United States.
By any standard the United States is the number one leader of the whole international community – the largest financial contributor to the United Nations, the largest economy in the world, the largest in technological innovation. You have broad resources and power and capacity. Thus it is required and anticipated that the United States should take a very important leadership role and contribute more to the United Nations. Unfortunately, during the last few years, the relationship has been not desirable.
Since I became Secretary-General, I am encouraged that the United States - people and Government - have been paying more attention to multilateralism. I think this pendulum, the historical pendulum, is swinging back to multilateralism. That is a very important trend. I sincerely hope and I am convinced that the next President of the United States will fully cooperate and take a leadership role in the United Nations, particularly in the area of climate change. There are some very serious development issues – meeting the Millennium Development Goals for the poorest of the poor people, billions of poor people - that will require a United States leadership role. In fact, this gives me a good opportunity to again urge and appeal to the American public that they should work very closely with the United Nations, after all the United States and the United Nations share the same goals and objectives – peace, development and human rights. The United States was a founding member of the United Nations, in fact they were one of the architects of the United Nations. Therefore, their leadership is more than natural.
Q: Many of my peers at the Kennedy School who've worked at the UN have been inspired by its ideals, but are frustrated by the way the Organization works in practice. In particular, they found it overly bureaucratic, and that it failed to promote people in line with their abilities. What is your strategy for recruiting talent from schools such as the Kennedy School? (laughter)
SG: I welcome all Kennedy School students, first of all. (laughter) We have many Kennedy School graduates, many Harvard graduates in the United Nations system. It is very important to have young, talented staff in the United Nations, because we are dealing with all the issues which are happening around the world. Therefore I would really hope that young students who have a vision of working for the common prosperity and humanity, then I would really strongly advise you to apply for a job at the United Nations. The doors are open, but sometimes you may be frustrated by all these bureaucratic processes. That is why I have set as an important priority goal, to reform and change management, to make the United Nations more effective and efficient and transparent and accountable. Unfortunately, the appreciation level of the general public for the United Nations has been quite low. I am trying to raise this level of expectation and appreciation by the international community, but that cannot be done overnight, and that cannot be done only appealing to the people. It is required to do more. That is what I am committed to. You must have seen much change in the normal operation of the United Nations' work, in terms of accountability, in terms of transparency and effectiveness. I am asking my staff to be multifunctional, multi-skilled, and stand on the highest level of ethics. Therefore, the future is yours. I would welcome all of you.
Moderator: Just earlier, when we were having a conversation, the Secretary-General pointed out that not only did he bring with him Bob Orr, who is an Assistant Secretary-General, who was the Executive Director for Research at the Belfer Centre, that he has done a survey, and he has found eight Kennedy School students working in his immediate domain, so we are very proud of that.
Q: Sixty years ago, in 1948, a Korean statesman by the name of Kim [inaudible] wrote an official letter to your predecessor, the first UN Secretary-General, in recognition of vital role of that nascent world organization in resolving the Korean questions of reconciliation, reunification and peace, questions that still resonate today, sixty years later. What do you foresee to be the role of the United Nations and your office in the event of the peaceful reunification of the Korean peninsula, in addressing the political, economic and humanitarian questions, and perhaps also the gargantuan task of the reconstruction of North Korea?
SG: Thank you very much for that question. During the last sixty-three years of history of the United Nations, if any Member State, including myself, would be asked what is the most exemplary, model example of a success story of United Nations cooperation and intervention, it would be, I think, the Korean peninsula. Korea was born through the United Nations and also was able to gain democracy and economic prosperity, which they enjoy now, through United Nations assistance and the assistance and cooperation of the whole international community.
Unfortunately, the Korean peninsula is the only one state divided. Therefore the reconciliatory path between the two parts of Korea through dialogue and exchanges and cooperation will be very important and should be encouraged. The United Nations has taken a very important role in facilitating peace and stability on the Korean peninsula. Now both South and North together with other participants in the six-party talks have resolved, almost agreed, to disable and dismantle the North Korean nuclear process. We have welcomed and also encouraged this process. I would continuously try to encourage and facilitate smooth implementation of the six-party process agreement so that Korea can be a fully denuclearized peninsula.
There are other areas of a peaceful reunification of the Korean peninsula, and the United Nations stands ready to facilitate the ongoing dialogue between the South and North. After all, all the pending issues on the Korean peninsula should be resolved through peaceful dialogue, through peaceful exchanges and cooperation between the two parties. I would strongly encourage both parts of Korea to engage in further dialogue, to engage in further cooperation and exchanges, so that the reconciliation will be made, so that the reconciliatory path will be widened and deepened. Thank you.
Q: Mr. Secretary-General, thank you so much again for talking to us today. My question for you is regarding the situation in Burma, which you also referred to as Myanmar earlier today. As you know, the country of Burma is ruled by the military and has imprisoned the democratically elected leader for many years – Aung San Suu Kyi. There are many people in Burma who are unable to even have access to basic necessities like food and medicine, and that was most evident as you mentioned during Cyclone Nargis in May, when it took weeks for aid to reach the people who were hardest hit. Now Sir, I have read your statements on the country of Burma, and I know that you feel very strongly about democracy coming to that country. And you just called us to action in all these different crises that our world is facing. Clearly action that the United Nations is taking in Burma is not influencing the military there to take better care of its people and to pursue democracy, and so my question for you is, what different actions can we and the rest of world and United Nations take to pursue democracy in Burma?
SG: There are two aspects when we are dealing with the situation in Myanmar. One is the democratization process, as well as humanitarian assistance. We have taken humanitarian assistance; humanitarian assistance is flowing. We will continue to do that. You seem to be more interested in the democratization process. I am personally engaged, and I will continuously be engaged personally at my level, as well as through my special adviser. The General Assembly has mandated me to engage in dialogue with the Myanmar authorities. Now, there is a very serious human rights situation, including these political prisoners. Most notably, Aung San Suu Kyi is still under house arrest. I am going to discuss this matter when I visit Myanmar, but still I am considering when it would be the most opportune timing for me to engage myself by visiting there. I will continue through my good offices channel, and with the strong support of the Group of Friends of the Secretary-General with whom I have been working very closely, to gain first of all, political support, and to influence the Myanmar authorities to democratize their society as soon as possible. It may take some time, but I understand that the level of patience of the international community is getting thinner and thinner. I am very conscious of that situation, and will continuously be engaged myself on this issue. Thank you.
Q: Good afternoon, Mr. Secretary-General. Thank you for being here today. My question is: Stephen Peterson, who is a Professor here at the Kennedy School, he argues that the Millennium Development Goals actually do more harm than good when it comes to developing countries, and he says that this is because it forces developing countries to cover their recurrent costs with volatile donor aid. What are your thoughts on his argument?
SG: Our world leaders in 2000 set out very important visions, a blueprint for common prosperity of our international community in the twenty-first century. There are eight pillars, eight goals in the Millennium Development Goals, which must be met by 2015. As you know, last month, I convened a summit level meeting only to focus on this issue. I am concerned at this time, with this very turbulent global financial crisis, that political will as well as available resources, may be affected negatively in our common efforts to meet this target of the Millennium Development Goals. That is why I have been emphasizing strongly that while I would welcome all measures and initiatives of the industrialized countries to address the financial crisis, that they should not lose sight of the importance of meeting the Millennium Development Goals. I have been travelling to many developing countries, and whenever I see these people, I have become very humbled, and my resolve is always stronger and firmer whenever I meet them. I have a very firm commitment to devote all my energy and time to work for these poorest of the poor people around the world. There are still almost one billion people who live with only one dollar a day. If we expand this there are more than three billion people who live with only two dollars a day. We must help them so that they can have a decent life, decent access to drinking water, and we must cut by half the number of the extreme poor by 2015. And we must cut the number of infant mortality deaths and women's mortality coming from complications of birth and pregnancies. This is a very humbling, humbling situation. And there lies a very important political role for the United States and other developed countries. They must keep their promises. In 2005, three years ago, during the G8 summit meeting in Gleneagles, they committed fifty billion dollars a year until 2010 - this has not come in full yet - and I am urging again that they should keep this promise. I know that the financial crisis will be very much seriously affecting all of us, but at the same time we should not forget the challenges and pains and difficulties for all these people. You have my firm commitment to meet this target.
Thank you very much.