Secretary-General's press conference following the opening of the 2009 Substantive Session of the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC)
Geneva, Switzerland, 6 July 2009SG: Good afternoon ladies and Gentlemen. It is a great pleasure to see you again. I think I have been visiting Geneva almost every month. It is a great pleasure to meet you as often as possible.
Before I talk about my activities of the past few hours in Geneva, I wish to stress a few points about my just-completed Asia trip, in particular my two-day visit to Myanmar.
First, I went to Myanmar to convey to the highest authorities of Myanmar the concerns and expectations of the international community for democratization and the protection of human rights; the immediate release of all political prisoners, including Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, and the free participation of all political parties and citizens in the political process; a resumption of substantive and time-bound dialogue between the Government and Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and her National League for Democracy; criteria for free, fair and inclusive elections in 2010, including a timely publication of the electoral law, the establishment of an electoral commission and a firm date to hold the elections. Only then will the elections be seen as credible and legitimate.
On the humanitarian front, I raised the practical issues of access, in particular the issuance of visas to aid workers; and the expansion of humanitarian assistance beyond the Irrawaddy Delta where I visited Kyon Da Village to see the results of recovery and reconstruction work.
It is now up to the leaders of Myanmar to set in place the elements necessary for the election to be credible and legitimate. And I'm going to follow up to see how the authorities will act on the issues that I have raised in our discussions.
Now, let me turn to today's very important meetings. The Global Review of Aid for Trade could not have come at a more critical moment for both international trade and the development goals. The aid-for-trade initiative has made real progress in the three years since its launch. The April G-20 Summit pledge of $250 billion for trade financing could lead to a significant increase in the $25 billion that aid-for-trade received in 2007.
Despite these encouraging prospects, our development goals, as noted in the recent report on the Millennium Development Goals, are thrown into question by the economic crisis. This crisis has had a severe impact on demand. It is now widely predicted that global trade will decline by 10 per cent this year. Unless the direction of the crisis is reversed soon, it will further unravel the progress that developing countries have made over the past two decades in reducing poverty. That is why I am urging donor countries to meet existing pledges on aid for trade. And that is why the United Nations continues to stress aid for trade as a crucial component in improving trade competitiveness of developing country producers and exporters.
In my address to the United Nations Economic and Social Council's Annual Ministerial Meeting this morning, I noted that the crises of the past 12 months – the energy crisis, the food crisis and the current economic crisis – have caused widespread hardship and grief.
And yet, if unaddressed, these crises will pale in comparison to the growing impacts of climate change which pose a grave threat to all the Millennium Development Goals. This is why we must “Seal the Deal” in Copenhagen in December. Later this week, I will be calling on all world leaders at the G-8 meeting in L'Aquila, Italy, to be bold and ambitious. The time for good rhetoric and half measures is over. All countries must do their part, and G-8 leaders should lead the way. Now this means more ambitious emission reduction targets, committing to serious financing and technology transfer. It also means working out concrete modalities and ensuring that adaptation does not become an orphan of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) negotiations.
G-8 leaders must also fulfill the commitments they made at the Gleneagles Summit in the summer of 2005. Those commitments do include raising annual aid flows to Africa, and yet aid remains at least $20 billion below the Gleneagles' targets. I therefore call again for solidarity and special attention on the plight of the poor – those least responsible for the crisis, and those least able to bear its impact. I made the same appeal in April at the G-20 London Summit, and I will do so again at the G-8 meeting two days from now. I will remind the G-8 leaders of the specific commitments they made to increase financial and technical support to developing countries by 2010 to achieve the Millennium Development Goals. I will also urge them to set out, country by country, how donors will scale up aid to Africa over the next year. The credibility of the international system depends on whether donors deliver. The United Nations, for its part, will continue to do its utmost to speak up for those most in need.
In the meantime, we must also confront other pressing issues. That is why, later today, I will be chairing a meeting of potential donors to enhance the global response to the H1N1 flu. The World Health Organization (WHO) is tracking H1N1 closely as the virus evolves. At this very moment, countries in the southern hemisphere are particularly hard hit. Argentina alone reports over 2,800 cases and over 40 deaths. And Argentina is not alone.
Our gathering this afternoon will focus on meeting the needs of developing countries in the face of H1N1. We must make certain they get what they need. That will require funding for medicines, vaccines and other response measures. In short, we must remain vigilant and we must ensure all are protected regardless of where they live or how wealthy they are. Human decency and global solidarity demand that we pull together for the poorest and most vulnerable among us. They demand that we ensure a truly powerful global partnership for health. I am very encouraged by the response from donor countries and agencies and I look forward to meeting them later today.
I thank you for your attention and now I will be happy to take a few questions, thank you.
Q: With reference to the H1N1, according to your agencies, what are the shortfalls in funds required to make sure that the poorest countries get sufficient vaccines supplies and also anti-virals in the event that the pandemic spreads exponentially around the globe?
SG: As you know, the confirmed cases have risen sharply, even though the number of deaths had been rather mild. But that should not be taken for granted. We are now mobilizing all resources possible. For the remainder of this year, from now until the end of this year, it is our estimate that we may need at least over $1 billion. The funding has not been flowing as we had expected, and when I had the meeting with CEO's of pharmaceutical companies in May, they were committed to manufacture and provide vaccines.
Now, the first vaccines may be available during the month of August. So that is fine. But we need to get more resources available. That is why I am meeting the potential donor country representatives – some ministers and ambassadors – this afternoon, together with Dr. Margaret Chan of WHO. And I am going to appeal and urge the importance of global solidarity at this time of global crisis. This pandemic flu is also sort of a global crisis, which needs a global response through global partnership and global solidarity. Thank you very much.
Q: I have a question on Gaza. Today we are having the public hearings in Geneva. We have the United Nations report. We have the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) report, the Amnesty International report and the Human Rights Watch report. So, do you think these reports will have any influence on concrete measures or will they remain on the shelf – as only an intellectual human rights exercise? I am asking you, Secretary-General, would these reports urge you to move to the Security-Council, to have a concrete steps, like a tribunal on war crimes and compensation and others steps?
SG: As you know, I met Judge Goldstone last month in Geneva and I have encouraged and supported his very difficult but noble mission. As you know already, he has been having public hearings on the ground, and he's going to have another public hearing in Geneva. There have been many human rights-related agencies and organizations who had been investigating and making reports on this. All these reports should be complemented and should be used for the international community to take concrete action.
Your question referenced whether this will have to remain on the shelf [as] an intellectual exercise? No. My answer is no. I have also taken necessary actions and implementation action for the board of inquiry, which I have instituted. I have discussed this matter already with very senior Government officials of Israel. I am going to closely coordinate with Member States [on] how we can make progress on this issue.
Q: On nuclear disarmament, the Presidents of Russia and the United States are meeting in Moscow to discuss further steps in nuclear disarmament. What is you message to the two leaders? And, secondly, do you think that the planned United States defence shield against missiles is an obstacle on the way to a nuclear-free world?
SG: It is a very encouraging development of the situation, that the leaders of both the United States and Russian Federation had a first meeting in London last April. Now they are in Moscow for another very important summit meeting, where they will discuss nuclear disarmament. The whole international community is now going through a very encouraging period. The Conference on Disarmament has also taken [a] very important step by agreeing to a programme of work for the first time since 12 years. And they have agreed to establish a Working Group on the prevention of fissile materials. These are all very encouraging developments of the situation and I am very much committed to work together with key players on this.
Nuclear disarmament, the world free from nuclear weapons, and a world were do not have any concerns about the proliferation of nuclear weapons and materials – this is the world which we are now aiming to achieve. We must seize this opportunity. And through these diplomatic negotiations, among the parties concerned, I sincerely hope that we will be able to have a substantially successful outcome in next year's Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) Review Conference. This is the right time. This is exactly what the international community needs to meet the expectations of the world.
Now for your second question, I think that is a bilateral issue which President Obama and President Medvedev will have to discuss.
Q: Monsieur le Secrétaire général, des émeutes extrêmement importantes ont frappé la Chine, ont fait 140 morts, plusieurs centaines de blessés. J'aimerais savoir si vous avez des recommandations à faire aux autorités chinoises pour la gestion de cette crise et éventuellement pour prévenir d'autres évènements de ce genre ?
SG: We have seen many domestic, very violent domestic issues all around the world. Wherever this is happening or has happened, the position of the United Nations and the Secretary-General, myself, has been consistent and clear – that all the differences of opinion, whether domestic or international, must be resolved peacefully through dialogue. Governments concerned also must exercise extreme care and take necessary measures to protect the lives and safety of the civilian population and their citizens, and also protect their properties, and protect the freedom of speech, freedom of assembly and freedom of information. This is the basic principle of democracy and this is what I am urging, again, to all the countries of the world.
Q: Monsieur le Secrétaire général, vous parlez souvent, et ce de plus en plus, du multilatéralisme. Monsieur, le Secrétaire général, amèneriez-vous, un jour, ici, le Président Obama des Etats-Unis d'Amérique pour nous parler de cette vision partagée. Aussi vous parlez d'un monde plus pacifique nécessaire. Verra-t-on un jour dans ce contexte un Secrétaire général plus affranchi de risques d'insécurités, qui pèsent lourd dans un budget de développement?
SG: I expect I will have an opportunity of meeting President Obama in a bilateral setting during the G-8 meeting. Now, if you have closely followed all the crises, whether these crises are of [a] global nature or of [a] regional nature, those crises, in terms of complexity, dimension and background are all quite closely interconnected. These crises cannot be solved independently, among so many multiple crises. We cannot just take out one crisis and try to resolve this one. That is why I have been urging that we need multilateral collaboration, global partnerships, in a multilateral setting. We need a renewed multilateralism, in fact a new multilateralism. Not just by political commitment and political will; [but] also necessary resources and also principles – basic principles of international community.
Without this emphasis and significant role of multilateralism it may be extremely difficult to provide a solution to multiple crises. For example, if we look at the case of climate change, if we are able to resolve this issue, then we can have, first of all, a faster recovery of the economy, through green-growth economy, cleaner technology and green economy. And if we can have a very early recovery of the current financial crisis, then we can have, again, an employment surge and continued job growth. This will have the necessary tools, like financing and technologies, to address climate change. Therefore, all theses crises are interrelated, whichever may come first. Therefore the solution to one crisis may lead to solutions to all.
But for these solutions, because of the magnitude and complexity of each and every crisis, we need really concerted multilateral support. That is why I have been urging and emphasizing the importance of renewed multilateralism. And I am going to continue to urge world leaders to devote more resources, more political will on multilateralism, rather than looking at their own domestic boundary, domestic policies.
Q: Mr. Secretary-General, the President of Honduras was not allowed to enter into the country yesterday, and the first civilian deaths occurred during a demonstration at the airport. First, what is your feeling about the degrading situation in Honduras? Do you think that the President must go back to the country or must accept the situation as it is currently? And, if I may, do you think that the United Nations can establish a measure like the Organization of American States, to expel a country in which there has been a “coup d'état”?
SG: First of all, I am very saddened by the loss of lives in the course of these demonstrations. Whichever country, wherever the cases may be, including Honduras at this time, they must protect the human lives and safety and security of all the citizens. And they should be allowed to express their free will, without being intimidated, without being threatened, by physical force. And they should refrain from using excessive force.
And, second, more importantly, this is a fundamental principle of democracy: when a leader is elected though legal procedures, through constitutional procedures, then his or her authority and mandate as a leader of a country must be protected. And any unconstitutional change of power is not acceptable. That is exactly what I have said in my statement, stating the position of the United Nations. I again urge that this issue first of all can find solutions through restoring the constitutional procedural first and foremost.
But how to resolve this issue? Yesterday, we have seen the attempt by President Zelaya to return to his home country, who was blocked by the current authorities. There may be some kind of physical difficulties, therefore I am going to continue to closely follow the situation and I appreciate the role and the measures taken by the Organization of American States (OAS). And I sincerely hope that OAS at this time will take the necessary leadership role to find a peaceful solution to this issue, whereby the constitutional order can be restored.
Thank you very much.