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Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon

Off-the-Cuff

Secretary-General's press conference

Geneva, Switzerland, 12 December 2008

SG: Good afternoon Ladies and Gentlemen of the media, it is a real pleasure to see you. I am particularly pleased to be able to come to Geneva and share some time with you as we are coming to the close of this year. It will be a good opportunity for us to see what has gone and what will be lying ahead next year. Thank you very much for taking time. I know that these will be very busy days for all of you.

I will make a brief statement and then will be able to take your questions.

As you know, I have just come from Poznan, Poland, where I called for bold, urgent steps to tackle climate change. The conference will end later today, but already this morning as I left Poznan, it was clear that a lot of progress has been made.

The purpose of the meeting was not to come to final decisions, but rather to agree to a work plan for the intense negotiations ahead in 2009. Parties had taken an important step forward.

Parties have committed themselves to reaching an agreement by the end of 2009 in Copenhagen, Denmark. That gives us just one year to negotiate one of the most complex multilateral treaties ever; one year in which to agree on deep cuts in emissions and significantly greater resources; and just one year to reach a deal that all countries can support and participate in.

It is quite significant that Parties have recognized that agreement on a climate deal cannot await resolution of the economic crisis. Rather, there seemed to be strong support for the notion that progress on a ¡°Green New Deal¡± can help us achieve both economic and climate objectives. We can grow and be green at the same time.

Prior to the Poznan meeting, I called for taking the necessary decisions to fully operationalize the Adaptation Fund. Negotiations have advanced significantly as of last night, but now Parties must close the deal.

I was very encouraged by Prime Minister Reinfeldt of Sweden, who has committed $500 million over three years for the Adaptation Fund. This lead should be followed by others.

I was also encouraged by the initial discussions by Ministers on a ¡°shared vision¡±. Negotiators must now turn this into concrete outcomes by the end of the year.

As you also know, I am visiting Geneva to mark the sixtieth anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. There was a very meaningful commemorative ceremony in New York headquarters two days ago, but as I had to be in Poznan I was not able to attend it personally. But now I am very pleased to be able to participate in person at this commemorative ceremony in Geneva. It is heartening to see so many people around the world taking part in this commemoration. This is as it should be: the Declaration is the people¡¯s document ¨C the embodiment of their rights and their hopes.

But I have also been very saddened to see so many people around the world ¨C wherever I travelled ¨C whose human rights are being abused and not properly protected.

I have worked hard over the past year to bring the Declaration to life. I have sought a stronger United Nations force for the protection of civilian lives in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. I have been pushing for more democratic rights and freedoms in Myanmar, and elsewhere.

Political leaders are trustees of their peoples¡¯. They remain in office only to ensure the safety and well-being of their populations. With the spread of cholera in Zimbabwe and the surrounding region, I am deeply disturbed at the deteriorating humanitarian situation there for which the leadership of Zimbabwe cannot evade responsibility. I have also stressed the need for justice in the aftermath of grave breaches of international humanitarian law.

And during these troubling economic times, I have underscored the importance of the right to development. The current crises involving food, fuel, development and climate are having the worst impact on those least able to bear such burdens. And they are placing our development objectives in jeopardy. This is every bit a matter of human rights as protecting civilians on the battlefield.

Let me also say a few words about two issues that I know are of particular interest to the Geneva press corps.

First, the situation in Kosovo. I welcome the assumption of the European Union¡¯s rule of law mission functions by EULEX under the overall authority of the United Nations within the framework of Security Council resolution 1244. I am confident that all parties are committed to ensuring that the transition from the United Nations to the European in this vital area proceeds smoothly.

Second, with respect to the situation in Georgia-Abkhazia, without a binding ceasefire regime, the risk of escalation has become higher. And without a credible mandate, the role of the United Nations mission will be increasingly difficult to perform. We are continuing consultations with all relevant parties, and I hope to give recommendations to the Security Council in February. If the United Nations is to remain, it should be given a mandate that is meaningful and acceptable to both sides.

Finally, since it is customary at this time of year to look ahead, allow me to do a bit of the same.

The next year will be one in which climate change figures prominently. I will be using every opportunity between now and next year¡¯s meeting in Copenhagen to press governments to uphold their commitments.

It is shaping up as a time of serious economic distress for the developing countries. The latest projections from the World Bank are very sobering and should compel us to act with great urgency and compassion.

Of course, it will be a year of transition in Washington, D.C., which will have an impact on each of these issues and indeed across our agenda.

It is a year which I hope will bear fruit in the Middle East. Somewhat below the radar, Israelis and Palestinians have been engaged in direct, intensive negotiations, and have created trust and a framework where none existed only two years ago. They are setting the stage for peace, and are determined to continue. It is up to the international community to help them realize that long-elusive dream. In that regard, I am going to convene an important Quartet meeting on 15 December in New York together with Arab partners.

In Afghanistan, we will continue to face major challenges. A change of pace and direction will be required to reverse the negative trends marked by increasing insurgent attacks and a worsening humanitarian situation. The international community and Afghan Government must urgently implement the commitments made at the Paris Conference last June. The United Nations mission remains committed to carrying out its mandate, focusing on strengthening Afghan institutions and coordinating international civilian efforts.

Similarly, in Iraq, it is important for provincial elections in January to be held in a peaceful atmosphere, in order to enable broad participation by the Iraqi people. I urge all Iraqi leaders to work together in a spirit of national reconciliation to ensure the success of these elections, which will be the basis for a more inclusive political process. The United Nations is committed to providing all necessary support to the Iraq Election Commission to help make this possible.

This is a time of great fear and uncertainty. As Secretary-General of the United Nations, and by my own very nature, I remain cautiously optimistic that the United Nations and multilateralism are up to the challenges ahead.

And finally I would like to thank you for your kind invitation to dinner. I am looking forward to that. My time may be limited because of my participation in a commemorative ceremony to be followed right after this, but I would be very happy ... I can continue on an individual basis to exchange views on matters of mutual concern. And thank you very much for your support during the past year and I hope I can count on your continuing support and good coverage of all the matters of our mutual interests and concerns.

Q: I wonder if you could comment in a bit more detail on the situation in Zimbabwe in light of Mr. Mugabe¡¯s remarks yesterday that, with the help of the United Nations body WHO, the cholera epidemic is now over?

SG: I have been closely discussing this matter with Dr. Margaret Chan since the outbreak of the cholera epidemic. She has sent senior staff and teams ¨C humanitarian teams. All United Nations humanitarian agencies ¨C UNDP, UNICEF, UNHCR ¨C they are all mobilizing their available resources. Now, the reports which I have been receiving ¨C and also you have seen ¨C the reports are alarming. There are still many people who are suffering from this epidemic and the borders between Zimbabwe and neighbouring countries are now in danger of being affected by this cholera. Therefore, I cannot agree that the cholera epidemic is over. We will continue to monitor and try to help those people.

Q: M. le Secr¨¦taire g¨¦n¨¦ral, ce ne sont pas les sujets de pr¨¦occupation qui vous manquent, mais je voudrais aborder un th¨¨me que vous n¡¯avez pas ¨¦voqu¨¦, c¡¯est celui du Tibet. En avril dernier vous avez lanc¨¦ un appel pour que les conversations s¡¯engagent entre les tib¨¦tains et les chinois. Ces conversations sont dans l¡¯impasse. Est-ce que vous pensez prendre une initiative pour les relancer? Merci

SG: This is an issue which has raised many concerns in the international community. I hope the Chinese Authorities will continue to resolve all these issues through dialogue. The dialogue started some time ago between the representatives of the Dalai Lama and the Chinese Government. That was a good move, an encouraging move by the Chinese Authorities. I hope this will continue in a sincere manner so that all the concerns coming from Tibet will be resolved smoothly and harmoniously.

Q: The G-20 in Washington has elaborated some measures to combat the financial crisis. One of them, the first one, was to finish the modalities of the Doha Round this year. It probably won¡¯t happen. Today, it will probably be announced that there will be no ministerial [meeting]. I would like you to comment on what is the meaning of this for the future of the other measures announced in Washington.

SG: First of all, I have welcomed and would encourage and welcome all such measures by world leaders ¨C [from] both industrialized and developing countries ¨C to address this imminent global financial crisis. At the same time, the meeting which took place in Doha last week was also very meaningful and important in the sense that, in the middle of this financial crisis, the leaders of the world have committed to continue their commitments for official development assistance and also implementation of the Millennium Development Goals, and to continue their joint efforts to fight climate change. That was a very important result; and an outcome document was adopted.

Again, there were many calls by many countries, particularly by developing countries, calling for a more inclusive multilateral system in addressing this financial crisis issues. I think this is the right approach and pertinent in dealing with many global challenges. The global financial crisis, the Millennium Development Goals, climate change ¨C those are all global issues requiring global responses through global partnerships.

The United Kingdom is going to be the host of the next G-20 Summit meeting in early April. The Doha Outcome has recommended that Member States of the United Nations agree on the modalities ... what to do with all the modalities and how the United Nations can contribute in an inclusive multilateral way to [solving] this crisis. I think they are all important issues which we have to very closely coordinate among the Member States.

Q: I would like to ask you, on Sudan, the ICC might issue an arrest warrant for President al-Bashir. If that were to happen what kind of impact would that have for the situation on the ground?

SG: First of all, I am not in a position to prejudge any judgement by the ICC. First of all, I am not quite sure when this application to indict President al-Bashir of Sudan will be given by the ICC. Depending upon the circumstances ¨C when and if this judgement is made ¨C as Secretary-General, I have repeatedly stated until now, in the past the decisions and judgements of the International Criminal Court are very important. Being an independent judiciary organization [its decisions] must be respected and implemented. At the same time, it is very important that the peace process, as well as security matters, are now being carried out there. The United Nations has to deploy, fully, the mandated peacekeepers ¨C 26,000 ¨C in Darfur to maintain peace and stability there. And also the peace process should be carried out, and also the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) should be implemented between the South and North Sudan. There are very serious humanitarian consequences caused by this security situation there.

The United Nations will continue to carry out those missions mandated by the Security Council. At the same time I would strongly urge that, whatever will happen on the ICC case, the Sudanese Government has the responsibility to fully cooperate with the United Nations missions and also [to] fully implement the peace process in accordance with the existing agreement, and also to protect all civilians and to provide the necessary assistance so that humanitarian assistance can be given to those people.

Q: I would like to ask you on trade, WTO has basically concluded today the efforts to have a trade deal. This is a very serious signal to the world economy, at least that¡¯s what it looks like. Do you fear that this will show that, for example, reforming the world financial system, as the G-20 requested, was much more difficult than we thought? And, secondly, do you think this will lead to a, let¡¯s say, protectionism wave in 2009, because there will be no agreement that is already settled today here in Geneva.

SG: When there was a G-20 Summit Meeting in Washington a few weeks ago, one of the strong calls by the leaders was that we must avoid protectionism and also this trade round should be revived as soon as possible. Unfortunately, at that time, Mr. Pascal Lamy was not present. I have discussed this matter with Mr. Pascal Lamy and I asked him to come to the Doha Meeting. He came and we discussed this matter. He was very busily engaged in reviving these trade negotiations. As I understand, when these trade negotiations reached an impasse, the deal was quite close. There were just a few issues by a few concerned parties and it requires political will at the leaders level. We have been urging that this must be concluded as soon as possible. That will provide one of the very good tools and avenues to overcome this financial crisis and also to provide the necessary trade benefits to many developing countries. Therefore, I again strongly urge that this negotiation should be concluded as soon as possible. And this requires political will.

We are going through multiple crises. You cannot always insist on your domestic challenges. There is no country in this world that does not have any domestic challenges, any domestic concerns. Everybody has all different types of problems. This requires political will ¨C in addressing climate change, in addressing the fuel and food crises and trade issues.

Q: I would like to go back to Darfur please and ask whether you personally are in contact with President Omar al-Bashir and whether you think that there is any prospect of political negotiations between the Sudanese Government and rebels ¨C main rebel factions. And could you also explain why it is you are not getting the 26,000 soldiers, the requisite number, in Darfur. Does it have to do with the reluctance of nation-States to actually [deploy] their soldiers there or is it a problem with the Sudanese Government?

SG: The deployment of soldiers, of 26,000, has been delayed; it is far behind schedule, unfortunately. But we have been accelerating this issue. I was briefed as of yesterday that we will be able to deploy 60 per cent by the end of this month and 80 or 85 [per cent] by the end of March.

There were some issues of cooperation with the Sudanese Government. There were issues of providing necessary payment and tools and resources by Member States. All this has caused much delay, unfortunately. I have been running here and there to accelerate this deployment process. I hope that, even though it may be a bit ambitious to reach 80 or 85 per cent by March next year, we are trying our best. Then, I think that by March next year we may be in a much better position.

The second issue is a little bit more difficult ¨C the political process. The African Union and United Nations Chief Joint Mediator, Mr. Bassol¨¦, whom I have appointed, has been working very hard to meet all the relevant and concerned party leaders and he has made considerable progress. But, regrettably, he is still not in a position to fully launch this political dialogue process.

Currently the Government has initiated a very important move and that has been much appreciated. And Mr. Bassol¨¦ met the representatives of JEM. And the French Government has always been urging Wahid Abdul¡¯s staying in Paris to actively engage in dialogue. It involves many different party leaders who are not well disciplined or well organized. It really requires time and patience. It is a very difficult process. As you may still remember that last year we launched a political process. Just with one political process, we have not been able to revive that process. But I am a little bit more hopeful than last year that we will try and move as fast as possible.

The third one is a bit sensitive at this time. Even so, it may not be exactly a legal issue at this time for me. But I hope that you will understand my situation, my position, as Secretary-General of the United Nations, when there was a request by the Prosecutor of ICC to indict President al-Bashir. I will not go further into details. This is a rather very politically, legally sensitive issue for me. Therefore I have not been in direct contact with President al-Bashir of Sudan.

Q: Concernant le Zimbabwe, la crise n¡¯est pas seulement sanitaire, elle est aussi ¨¦conomique et politique. Alors, j¡¯aurais aim¨¦ savoir quelle est votre solution sur le plan politique et est-ce que vous ¨ºtes d¡¯accord avec ceux qui pr¨¦tendent qu¡¯il faut que M. Robert Mugab¨¦ parte, quitte le pouvoir. Merci.

SG: I hope I have understood your question. I met President Mugabe about two weeks ago in Doha. It was very ... quite long and intensive. Very tense discussions. Just a t¨ºte-a-t¨ºte meeting with out anybody. I just chose to meet him in person to really appeal personally and press as hard as I could. I spoke really sincerely as a person and also as Secretary-General of the United Nations from the bottom of my heart ¨C very sincerely ¨C and engaged in many aspects including his legacy as a political leader in Africa.

The dialogue was very difficult and did not go well. It was my fourth meeting with him on these particular political issues and that time, I also discussed the humanitarian consequences. On humanitarian consequence, he agreed to most of my suggestions, allowing, without any hindrance, an unlimited access to a United Nations humanitarian assistance group to look after the humanitarian situation. And also he agreed to receive my Special Envoy, Mr. Haile Menkerios. But I could not get any positive response on the power sharing agreement which was agreed by him on 15 September. I urged him as hard as I could to honour his commitment, as a political leader and as President of Zimbabwe, to leave his legacy in a positive way.

My position still remains the same and I would like to take this opportunity as we are coming to the close of this year that he should really look for the future of his country and his own people ¨C who have been suffering too much too long from this political turmoil, now coupled with very serious humanitarian tragedies ¨C and I am really appealing and urging him again.

Q: The United States has been rather critical of the United Nations under the Bush Administration and has chosen to stay away from some United Nations initiatives, such as the Human Rights Council. Can you tell us, please, what you expect of the new United States Administration under Barack Obama. How do you see the United States role and United States engagement in the United Nations?

SG: I am quite hopeful with the new United States Administration ¨C when President-elect Obama is inaugurated officially on 20 January next year ¨C that we can expect an even stronger partnership between the United Nations and the United States. When I had telephone talks with President-elect Obama, he assured me that he will be a strong partner of the United Nations and he also assured me that he will work very closely together with me. At the same time he asked me to work with him closely as a partner, which I welcomed very much.

There are many important issues and agendas ¨C global and regional ¨C and also value-related issues where the active participation and engagement of the United States is essentially and crucially important. One area would be, as you just pointed out, the Human Rights Council. The United States has chosen to stay out of the Human Rights Council. I would sincerely hope that this Human Rights Council should be the Council of all the Member States of the United Nations, representing all the issues and wishes of the United Nations, and also the place and venue and forum where all the challenges and issues and concerns could be addressed. For that to be possible, then it is necessary and desirable that the United States takes part as a member of the Council. This is what I had been advising even the Bush Administration, personally and sometimes officially. But now I would expect and hope that the next Administration will seriously and positively consider my call on this matter.

I think it would be not only me; there are many, many countries and Member States who really want more active participation and engagement. As far as engagement is concerned, I am, again, optimistic and hopeful that President-elect Obama will be very much engaging on many United Nations agendas.

I had an opportunity of meeting Senator John Kerry yesterday in Poznan and I was very much encouraged by meeting him. He is going to be the next Chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee of the Senate and he assured me that, as next Chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, he will fully cooperate with the United Nations. And also it is my expectation that, again, the new Administration will be much more actively engaged with the United Nations, on climate change, the Millennium Development Goals, and many other major United Nations issues.

Q: If I could just go back to Africa for a second, and Congo, in 2009 what steps can we possibly expect to be taken for a better protection of civilians in the Democratic Republic of the Congo?

SG: The peace and stability and also the humanitarian situation in the Democratic Republic of the Congo remain one of the serious concerns of the United Nations and the international community. I regret that we have not been able to properly protect the civilians in the region. MONUC has and will continue to do their best within their resources and power to protect civilians in the region.

The ceasefire has been maintained between the parties and it is absolutely necessary that this ceasefire will have to stay as it is now. My Special Envoy Mr. Obasanjo has been very actively engaged with the parties concerned in the region, including General Nkunda of the CNDP, and he has been meeting many leaders in the region. I got the report just two days ago from Mr. Obasanjo that the talks have been stalled, unfortunately, regrettably, because of all these different positions. But, with the additional resources approved by the Security Council and full mobilization of resources and relocation, reconfiguration of MONUC forces in the North Kivu area, I think we will be in a much better position, first of all, to protect civilians from danger, and also to maintain peace and stability in the region. But it requires support and coordination and engagement of all the parties concerned.

You should understand the logistical and physical difficulties and limitations there. We are now talking about [an area] the size of a whole European country where we have only 17,000 peacekeepers whose mandate is very much limited. And I have been asking, based on the request of many African leaders, that there should be a very clear mandate given to MONUC peacekeepers.

This is, again, a very serious and important issue. I have been discussing this matter with the Security Council continuously and it will be on the top of my priorities.

Q: I was wondering, Sir, given that you have just been to Poland, if you have any concerns that, with greater engagement by the United States [there] might come a long list of demands from emerging countries like India and China to take binding commitments on CO2 reductions, and is that a recipe for a lot of conflict leading up to Copenhagen next year or do you think you can convince the United States Congress otherwise?

SG: I think since I have just come from Poznan it would be very useful and pertinent for me to share some observations and my own wishes and views how this should be led. I think we have had a very significant start to discussions in Poznan. Of course, as I said, the purpose of the Poznan Conference was to agree on all the methods. We had a good exchange of views on a shared vision for long-term cooperation. We had also agreed that this Copenhagen deadline should be kept. And we have agreed that the deal should be the one in which all countries should participate. The deal should be an inclusive, balanced, comprehensive and ratifiable one.

This will be a very difficult process, as we have only just 12 months, just one year. To conclude such a complex, multilateral treaty will really require strong political will. The climate change challenge is a global challenge; it¡¯s not the challenge of only a few countries. And this requires strong political will with concerted efforts by many ¨C all ¨C the countries. There should be a deal by all for all. Any one country, however strong or powerful, or resourceful it may be, this cannot be done alone. So I think there was quite a consensus agreement that every country will get on board.

We got the very positive statement from the President-Elect of the United States Administration and this is very encouraging. And I was very encouraged when I met Senator Kerry as well as former Vice President Al Gore, who may represent the positions and inner-thinking of the Obama Administration. That was one good aspect.

The European Union, I hope by this time, they should have agreed to a climate energy package. I have been urging European Union leaders, through my letters to all 27 leaders, to agree on this, just to give us a very positive political leadership impact. And the European Union should take a leadership role in this process; and the United States should take a leadership role. India, China, Brazil and South Africa, those major developing economies should also take a leadership role.

There are three priorities at this time. First of all, there should be a definition of the mitigation commitments by the industrialized countries, a mid-term commitment, with defining mitigation efforts by the developing countries. And there should be some formal agreement to mobilize the full financial resources to enable adaptation and mitigation efforts of the developing countries, and also there should be some improved financial infrastructures to facilitate easy access of developing countries to this financial support, including the Adaptation Fund, when it becomes fully operationalized.

It is my sincere hope that, even this morning, when I was meeting with many key environment ministers over breakfast, together with the President of the Conference of the Parties, then I urged them to make the Adaptation Fund fully operationalized through this Poznan conference. Those are three priorities where we need some clarity. We may have to engage in a very serious, difficult process in the coming 12 months, and I really urge all the Member States to come on board, in this very important global challenge in addressing global issues.

And one again important notion that I repeat again is that, while I welcome all these national governments taking national stimulus packages to overcome this financial crisis, they should keep in mind, as a national priority, to earmark a certain portion of their packages to invest in [addressing] climate change, on the whole sector of climate change, so that we can overcome this crisis by turning it into an opportunity to [create] greener and cleaner energy and to green up the economy.

Q: I just want to follow up a bit on your comments on climate change. Specifically, in your meeting with Senator Kerry, did he outline any specific ... did he give any indication when and how the United States plans to re-engage in these climate change talks? And did you speak with the Polish Presidency during your meeting in Poznan regarding their reticence to sign on to an EU package addressing climate change?

SG: I was assured by Senator John Kerry that soon after takes office as Chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, he will use his leadership role to take charge of climate change issues. He has already engaged himself by speaking to many nominees ¨C nominated Cabinet Secretaries and presidential advisers ¨C and I was very much encouraged. He assured me that he will strongly support United Nations efforts to galvanize political will and also mobilize necessary resources. This was a very firm commitment and we have made quite a firm commitment to each other to work together closely.

Of course I had a bilateral meeting with President [Lech] Kaczy¨½ski of Poland. I know that Poland, which heavily depends on coal-based industry, [with regard to] energy policies has some very serious concerns on this process. And at the same time, through their consultation with many European leaders, including President [Nicolas] Sarkozy and the German Chancellor [Angela Merkel], they seem to be flexible in getting on board a European package. President Kaczy¨½ski said that they had agreed to a 20 per cent reduction by 2020 ¨C what¡¯s known as ¡°20-20¡±. This is under discussion and it is almost, I understand, agreed policy among the European Union [members], that they will agree to a mid-term target: 20 per cent reduction [in CO2 emissions] by 2020. This is encouraging. Now, it seems to me that the remaining issue among EU member states was how to coordinate, how much incentives should be given to certain countries which may have challenges and serious concerns on this matter. Therefore, I am very much hopeful and optimistic that they will be able to agree.

As a group of industrialized countries, and also as individual countries, the European Union by any standard has now emerged as the leading group of countries, so therefore they should bear a political and moral responsibility in leading this campaign. And this climate change option ¨C somebody may say that this may be an option but I think this is more than an option ¨C these are political and moral imperatives that everyone must agree on.

Thank you very much for this opportunity and hope to see you again.