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Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon

Off-the-Cuff

Secretary-General's press conference

New York, 17 September 2009

Good morning, ladies and gentlemen, and welcome to this press conference.

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It is a great pleasure to have this press conference on the eve of the General Assembly and Climate Change Summit and I am happy to share some thoughts on how the General Assembly and Climate Change meeting will go and on all other matters of our mutual concern.

As you know this morning, two vehicles reportedly with UN markings, were used in the suicide attack at the AMISOM [African Union Mission in Somalia] compound earlier today.

Nine peacekeepers, including a former Deputy Force Commander were killed.

At least thirty wounded personnel are being evacuated for medical treatment.

We are investigating. I expect a preliminary report shortly.

I condemn this attack, this terrorist attack, in the strongest possible terms.

The United Nations is mobilizing all possible measure to evacuate the wounded and support AMISOM. I am soon going to speak with the Presidents of Uganda and Burundi, and the African Union Chairman.

I express my deepest condolences and sympathies to the victims and families of those killed. I honour their service and bravery.

Ladies and gentlemen,

This year, we have so many important events and meetings on the margins of the General Debate. If I may just cite some expamples: the Security Council Summit to address nuclear non-proliferation and nuclear disarmament, the Quartet meeting on Middle East Peace process, the UN-REDD event aimed at Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation in Developing Countries, the sixth conference to facilitate the early entry-into-force of the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT).

We also have the 60th Anniversary of UNRWA, the 60th Anniversary of the Geneva Convention, the Ministerial meeting on the Alliance of Civilizations, the ministerial meeting of the Group of Friends on Myanmar, the summit meeting of the Group of Friends of Democratic Pakistan, the UN-ASEAN ministerial consultation, the UN-CARICOM mini-Summit, the UN-EU ministerial consultation, and many other summit level global health related events hosted by other world leaders, just to name a few!

I have asked some of our senior officers to brief you on the matters of their respective jurisdictions over the last few days, but I also wanted to meet with you before the busy period ahead.

Let me get right to the point.

I believe we are at a crucial moment leading up to what promises to be a critical year for action by the global community?a year which requires decisive movement on a variety of fronts.

I call it a time for renewed multilateralism that delivers for real people in real time, with real results.

I will speak in more detail about this next week.

But let me point to three reasons why I believe the upcoming General Assembly is so important.

First, leaders are coming to the United Nations to address the defining challenge of our times - climate change.

No issue better demonstrates the need for global solidarity. No challenge so powerfully compels us to widen our horizons.

The Summit on September 22nd on climate change will be the largest ever gathering of Heads of State and Government on climate change.

The purpose is to focus minds and generate action.

The current slow pace of the negotiations is a matter of deep concern.

There are only 81 days to until we go Copenhagen – and only 15 days for negotiations. Time is short. The negotiations are incredibly complex.

Earlier this month, I visited the Arctic. There I could see for myself the melting glaciers. It was a frightening experience for me. Climate change is happening faster than we realized.

Our Summit is about building the bridge to Copenhagen.

We want world leaders to show they understand the gravity of climate risks, as well as the benefits of acting now.

We want them to publicly commit to sealing a deal in Copenhagen.

And we want them to give their negotiating teams marching orders to accelerate progress toward a fair, effective, comprehensive and scientifically ambitious global climate agreement in Copenhagen.

Second, the international economic and financial crisis.

We are now one year on. There is talk of green shoots of recovery, but our data show another picture.

We are still not out of the deep woods – and this crisis is layered upon the food crisis and the pandemic crisis.

We are finding that it is not the chronic poor who are most affected, but the near and working poor, whose lives had improved significantly over the last decade.

The near poor are becoming the new poor.

Over 100 million more people are expected to fall below the poverty line this year.

We simply must amplify the voices of the vulnerable and ensure that the world follows up on its pledges.

At the G-20 Summit in Pittsburgh and here at the United Nations--we will hammer this point home.

I have written to G-20 leaders earlier this week and asked for their commitment to protect poor countries through the crisis, and accelerate action on climate change and achieving the Millennium Development Goals.

To make the right policy responses, we must know, in real time, what is happening on the ground.

This is difficult because we don't yet have all the information we need.

To address this gap, the UN system is working with Member States to create a networked 21st century capacity for real-time data collection, analysis and flagging of critical developments on the ground.

We are developing a Global Impact and Vulnerability Alert System? abbreviated as GIVAS--and I will report on the current situation of the poorest and most vulnerable to the General Assembly next week.

The Deputy Secretary-General will brief you and provide an advance copy on Friday, tomorrow.

Third, disarmament.

There is a crucial window of opportunity. The US and Russian leaders have pledged to cut their nuclear arsenals.

More leaders are speaking out. The wind is at our back.

With a strong push by the right leaders, we can bring the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty into force.

We can make much needed headway in nuclear non-proliferation and disarmament.

I am pleased that the Security Council?chaired by U.S. President Obama?will hold a summit meeting on September 24th to address this issue.

That same day, we will also host a special meeting to press for the early ratification of the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty.

Let me also touch on a few news items of this week.

First, the General Assembly adopted its first resolution on the responsibility to protect.

I strongly welcome their decision. I am particularly pleased that support came for Member States from every corner of the world.

We must press forward, united by the ultimate purpose of the responsibility to protect: to save lives by preventing the most egregious mass violations of human rights.

Second, Sri Lanka. I am concerned about developments regarding internally displaced persons, the political process and a possible accountability mechanism.

I am also deeply troubled by the continued detention without charge of the two United Nations staff members.

I have spoken directly with President [Mahinda] Rajapaksa about these pressing matters last Monday.

This week, I have sent the Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs, Lynn Pascoe, to Sri Lanka to follow-up.

I have asked him to deliver my letter to the President outlining the concerns of the international community and immediately report back to me.

We must also recall that two of our staff are currently being held hostage in Darfur.

I can assure you that we are doing all that we can to secure their release.

Finally, I want to commend the General Assembly for agreeing to my proposal to consolidate all four women-specific entities of the United Nations into a single one.

I have been pushing this initiative for two and a half years.

This will boost our work to promote the rights and well-being of women around the world.

For my part, I am proud to have appointed more women to senior posts than at any time in United Nations history.

This includes 9 women with the rank of Under-Secretary-General. The overall number of women in senior posts above the rank of Assistant Secretary-General has increased by 40 percent in the last two and a half years.

On a lighter note, you may have noticed that the recent list of the Forbes 100 Most Powerful Women in the world includes four leaders from the United Nations team:

Margaret Chan of the WHO

Helen Clark of UNDP

High Commissioner of Human Rights Navi Pillay,

and Anne Venemen, of UNICEF.

Such lists are, of course, incomplete. They and our entire team are making a profound difference. I will do my part to keep adding to the ranks.

As I say, we are entering the critical moment. Starting next week, the world will be watching.

The world's people expect the UN?together with world leaders?to address the great issues of our day. Climate change. The international financial and economic crisis. The food crisis. And so many other daunting challenges.

I am sure that with a strong commitment and united leadership, we will make this year's session a great success and I count on your support and cooperation.

Thank you very much. I will be happy to take your questions.

Q: We like your new format, in standing up, but that's okay. Mr. Secretary-General, on behalf of the United Nations Correspondents Association, welcome. My question is this: You seemed pessimistic about climate change, even if you dedicated a great effort on this subject. Am I wrong?

SG: I'm not pessimistic, nor can I say that I'm optimistic. As the Secretary-General, I'm doing my best to make this Copenhagen [conference] a great success, where the world will be able to agree and seal a deal on a comprehensive, equitable, balanced and fair climate deal. That is our political and moral imperative. And that is why we are convening a summit meeting on 22 September.

This is not going to be a negotiation forum. This is going to be a forum -- the largest ever forum -- where more than 100 leaders are gathered together at one time to demonstrate their political will to act as global leaders, not national leaders. I have been urging them to speak and to act as global leaders. Just go beyond their national boundaries. Work for the future of this whole world, all of humanity. That's the main purpose. I need their political impetus, their political leadership.

Q: Hi, I had a question about the prime minister of Japan's new commitments to climate change and am wondering what expectations you have of him at the upcoming climate change conference, and how important this commitment is to world leaders as a whole and moving forward the climate changes discussions.

SG: That's a very, very good question. It's very important for us, what kind of message the new Japanese Prime Minister [Yukio] Hatoyama is going to bring to the United Nations. In fact, soon after his election victory, I congratulated him over the phone and we discussed at length about his new policies. As you know, the Democratic Party of Japan under the leadership of Prime Minister Hatoyama has been making pledges that they will cut 25 per cent of greenhouse gas emissions by 2020, below the level of 1990. I urged him to keep his commitment. I know that he will keep his commitment and I expect that he will state this to the world. That will be a very good example by one of the biggest emitters and one of the largest economic powers in the world.

There are still countries that are reluctant to take ambitious mid-term targets. This is exactly the message, this is exactly the example, I expect the world is expecting from the new Japanese Government and the new Japanese Prime Minister.

Q: Mr. Secretary-General, you talk about you want them to get beyond national thoughts. But you see in the United States, for example, some of the leading Senators saying, “We're not going to cut unless China cuts.” And you see leaders in India saying, “We don't want our development harmed.” So what do you expect the dynamic to be on Tuesday that might change that? How do you expect to get over that problem in one day?

SG: First of all, I expressed a deep appreciation to the new U.S. Administration of President [Barack] Obama. He has made a strong commitment to work together with the United Nations and other world leaders to address climate change. The United States is one of the first and second largest emitters, which is also responsible for all this historical responsibility in the global warming effect. It has great political and historical responsibility. In that regard, it is quite encouraging that the United States has already taken some domestic measures by adopting in Congress this domestic energy bill. I expect that the Senate will take corresponding measures by the end of December this year.

Now China and the United States will be the two key countries which can make a great impact to this negotiation. However, I would stress that each and every Member State of the United Nations has a role to play. It's not only government. Civil society and non-governmental organizations (NGOs), even family members, they have all a role to play. Now this negotiation is going to be led by governments, and this campaign should be led by industrialized countries mostly, because they have historic responsibility. And they also have the capacity to address climate change.

The very fact that President Obama is coming to address the General Assembly in this Summit Meeting for the first time as President of United States – you have seen that former President [George W.] Bush has not come to this meeting, except by attending the private working dinner. Therefore, I expect and count on strong leadership and commitment of President Obama. That's critically important.

Q: How do you expect in one day to change that nationalism you are talking about? You were saying you want the leaders to go beyond nationalism. What's going to happen in that room that's going to get over that?

SG: The very fact that more than 100 world leaders from all around the world are gathered in one place – have you ever seen in climate change negotiations, that such a large number of Heads of State are gathered together in one place on one day?

Now, I'm encouraged that the awareness at the political leaders' level has risen significantly. Even two years ago, when we first convened this informal summit meeting on climate change in 2007, there were just a handful of leaders who were able to speak about climate change. Now I believe that almost all the leaders of the world, they realize that this is an issue of great urgency and this is a global issue. And this is a global issue requiring global partnership. That's what I expect. I expect that even though this not a negotiating forum, that the leaders will really demonstrate their strong political will for history. I hope their contribution will be remembered long into history, that they have contributed decisively to this process.

Q: On the issue of ending impunity, which I know is very dear to your heart, you have two requests this week of interest. One by Judge [Richard] Goldstone, asking you to play a role in evidence that was found by the Commission that Israel has committed war crimes. And the other one was by the Syrian Foreign Minister, asking you to investigate the investigator of the [Rafik] Hariri assassination. Will you be doing either? What role and what input and what do you think of both requests? Are they within your domain?

SG: I believe that accountability for violations of international human rights and international humanitarian law is essential to both protection of human dignity and the quest for sustainable peace and security. In that regard, I have been supporting Judge Goldstone's Mission to investigate any violations of human rights and humanitarian laws in Gaza. As this report was released yesterday, I have directed our staff to have a detailed review of the recommendations of this report and we will discuss this matter when we have fully reviewed this report.

Yesterday, I had a telephone conversation [with Judge Goldstone] and I was informed by him of broader outlines of his report before he had released his report publicly. And we will continue to discuss with him.

Now, on the other issue, I think the Special Tribunal for Lebanon was established by the decision of the Security Council and I have spent years and months and years discussing with the Member States of the United Nations and finally we have fully instituted this Special Tribunal. I have full confidence in Prosecutor [Daniel] Bellemare. He has been doing a great job, with a strong sense of integrity. This is what I believe he will continue to do.

Q: Just to clarify, the request by the Syrian Foreign Minister was for you to investigate Detlev Mehlis, the former head of the investigation. Is this something that is within your domain or not?

SG: This is not within my domain.

Q: Mr. Secretary-General, you are going to be presiding over many, many meetings and you are going to be in the middle of an event that involves quite a number of leaders, some of whom are quite controversial at the moment, including [Muammar al-] Qadhafi of Libya and President [Mahmoud] Ahmadinejad of Iran. Perhaps you might be literally walking a minefield, in terms of logistics of meetings with countries that they might not necessarily be in good terms with. I wonder if you can tell us whether you plan to meet bilaterally with either Mr. Qadhafi or Mr. Ahmadinejad and if so, and I assume that you will talk to them at some point, what your messages are going to be about their roles in the international world and on major issues.

SG: One of the most important roles and responsibilities of the Secretary-General of the United Nations is to engage and meet the leaders of all the Member States of the United Nations. As you may remember, I have been meeting with all the leaders, including those leaders that you mentioned, many times in the previous years and previous months on matters of common concern and on the matters of peace and security. If there is any request, I do not see any reason not to meet with them. Meeting in person and trying to resolve the differences of opinion, whatever the differences of opinion may be, is desirable in resolving all these issues.

Q: But in terms of, for instance, President Ahmadinejad, obviously the UN has some concerns, you have some concerns. What would be your message to him?

SG: I have met him several times already in multilateral settings and in my office at the United Nations. And we have mainly discussed Iranian nuclear development issues. I have been urging all the time that the Iranian Government should fully comply with relevant Security Council resolutions. And I have been urging them that it is their responsibility to prove that their nuclear development programme is genuinely and truly of a peaceful nature. That responsibility falls on them, and I had told them that the international community still does not have confidence on that.

Q: You think there is a double standard in honoring the credentials of President Ahmadinejad after the controversial election and all of the human rights violations against the protestors as it followed? While at the same time, as I understand it, the credentials of the Honduran Ambassador has been denied. Can you comment on the apparent inconsistency?

SG: First of all examining the letters of credentials is done by the Credentials Committee appointed by the General Assembly. I respect their decisions.

Q: Mr. Secretary-General, while the peace process is in tatters in the Middle East, and the inhumane suffering of the people in Gaza and the siege continues, we were pinning hope on the meeting that is going to be held here in the United Nations between President [Barack] Obama, President Abu Mazen [Mahmoud Abbas] and Prime Minister [Benjamin] Netanyahu. However, Abu Mazen said very clearly that he will not join such a meeting unless a freeze on settlements is actually enacted. Now many would say that this freeze is not a condition but an obligation under the road map and under international obligation, which Israel should have implemented anyway. What would you do to ensure that such a meeting takes place, taking into consideration the present situation of the President of the Palestinian Authority?

SG: I will try to meet individually those leaders – President [Mahmoud] Abbas and Prime Minister Netanyahu when they will be in New York. My position at this time is that this tripartite meeting will provide good opportunities for leaders of both Israel and Palestine, and of course the United States, to address all the pending issues, to address differences of their policies. I know that there is still serious gap in bridging the differences. And the United States President's Special Envoy, Mr. [George] Mitchell, has been tirelessly discussing this matter. He is still in the region. I sincerely hope that we will see some positive outcome from this meeting. I am going to participate, and in fact convene a Quartet meeting, and I am also going to meet with the Arab Follow-up Committee members next Saturday. The Quartet meeting will be held on Thursday next week. Therefore, this will also provide a good opportunity, a crucially important opportunity for Quartet principals to engage among us and together with Arab leaders.

Q: How can you ensure that this meeting will happen – the trilateral meeting – taking into consideration the Palestinians' request for the freeze to take place first? Do you think they will maybe soften their position when you talk to them? How can ensure it?

SG: I don't know if I have a responsibility to ensure it. But I will try my best to facilitate this.

Q: Mr Secretary-General, a deep split has emerged in your mission in Afghanistan. Peter Galbraith, the Deputy Special Representative, has left the country because of now publicly-expressed differences on the approach to the elections with Kai Eide, his boss. Do you still have confidence in Kai Eide, and is it realistic for Peter Galbraith that he will ever return to Afghanistan as a UN Deputy Special Representative?

SG: I am aware of the concerns and media reports about an alleged rift in UNAMA's leadership. I would like to reiterate my continued full support for and confidence in my Special Representative, Mr. Kai Eide. Peter Galbraith remains an integral part of the mission leadership. With hotly contested elections there and considering the magnitude of challenges and all these controversies over fraud and rigging of elections there, you may expect that there may be certain differences of opinions even among the UN staff when they are discussing within their mission. Unfortunately, this has been known to the public but I still have a strong confidence and trust in their integrity, in their leadership, and I understand that Peter Galbraith is going to join Mr. Kai Eide when they come for the briefing to the Security Council meeting. The leadership of UNAMA remains committed to supporting a credible election outcome that is supported by the voters.

Q: The follow-up to my question that you did not answer, Sir, is whether is it realistic now, given the public differences, for Peter Galbraith to ever return as Deputy Special Representative in Afghanistan?

SG: He is still the Deputy Special Representative. That will be my decision at the end.

Q: Mr. Secretary-General, there is a country where people are dying by the hour and by the day and that is Afghanistan -- both soldiers as well as civilians. Do you think that an international conference on the problems of Afghanistan could be held that could come to some kind of arrangement and, in your view, what is the prospect that such conference will be held in the near future?

SG: This is a source of concern still, that with massive international assistance and cooperation – militarily, politically and economically – the people of Afghanistan have not been able to see stability, politically as well as in their security. We should appreciate the sacrifices and contribution by many troop-contributing countries who have been sacrificing themselves for the peace and security of Afghanistan and also in the region, in general. We hope that with this election, which will have to be credible and transparent, the next President, whoever it may be, should have strong leadership through good governance. In that regard, it was quite timely and appropriate that the leaders of France, Germany and the United Kingdom have proposed a United Nations international conference, which I have fully welcomed and I am going to discuss with the leaders of major players in Afghanistan to discuss the exact venue and timing. That will provide added opportunity and support to the people of Afghanistan.

Q: Mr. Secretary-General, this question is about the meeting of the Friends of Democratic Pakistan that is going to take place at the sidelines of the Summit. It is being said that you may not find the time to go there?

SG: I will participate. I am going to participate.

Q: On the finances that it going to be collected for it. So far, what is happening is that there are a lot of pledges, but nothing is coming through. How can you impress upon the nations to follow through on the pledges at this point in time, because Pakistan, given the situation of IDPs [Internally Displaced Persons], really needs the money more than ever before.

SG: You should know how committed the United Nations is, has been and will be in ensuring the peace and stability as well as the democratization of Pakistan. That is exactly why I have appointed a Special Envoy for Humanitarian Affairs and I have also appointed a Special Adviser for these political issues. I am encouraged that this Summit level meeting for the Group of [Friends of] Democratic Pakistan will be held on the margins of the General Assembly. Through this meeting, I would sincerely hope that they will find, first of all, political support for President [Asif Ali] Zardari, who has been leading his country under very difficult circumstances. They have been fighting against terrorism. They have to establish their socioeconomic development. They have to also democratize their country. They need our support at this time. The peace and security in Pakistan has regional implications there and also the fighting against terrorism will also have regional implications: peace and security even in Afghanistan and other regional neighbors. Therefore this will be a very important meeting.

Q: All of the issues that you mentioned on your agenda for these two weeks have huge financial implications. You need a lot of financial resources here to deal with many problems the world is facing. How will you convince the world leaders, during these two weeks, to commit more financially, since I believe that the UN is pretty much not there, as far as the targets go?

SG: It is true that experiencing this international financial and economic crisis, we are concerned that this crisis may impact the major goals and projects of the United Nations, particularly the development pillars. That is why I have written a letter to G20 leaders this time again. In my letter, I have asked the G20 leaders, first of all, to deliver this $1.1 trillion they had pledged last April in the London G20 Summit meeting, and especially $50 billion for the poorest countries. And they should also honour the Gleneagles commitment to increase ODA [Official Development Assistance] by 2020, particularly for African countries. We should have reached by 2010 $150 billion, with $65 billion for African development. And they should also accelerate their actions to achieve the Millennium Development Goals. And they should set the stage for significance progress on climate change, providing financial and technological support.

In addressing the climate change deal in Copenhagen, I think one of the key issues is how much is scaled up for financial support and technological support [that] industrialized countries will be prepared to provide. Those are some key elements which I am going to urge and discuss with G20 leaders.

Q: Mr. Secretary-General, you are very proud of your 'Cool UN' programme, which always seems to be in August and then you promptly leave on vacation or travels. Why, since you are very proud of this programme and also very keen on a climate change agreement, why, and I'm very serious about this, why would you not institute raising of the temperatures to literally put some heat under these world leaders? It's your house – this is your issue – why would you not consider doing this, especially for that day?

SG: I would ensure that, again, I will try to make this Climate Change Summit as eco-friendly [as possible], and minimize the carbon footprint. This will make it very eco-friendly, and [with the ] carbon footprint minimized. That is what we are going to do, leading by example. And as a part of my policies [of] leading by example, we have successfully done this 'Cool UN' campaign where all the staff have participated. I will continue.

Q: It's about Honduras [Manuel] Zelaya is going to be here next week as the officially recognized President for the United Nations. This week in Geneva there was controversy about the Honduras Ambassador because he was supporting, at the end, the new de facto Government of [Robert] Micheletti. Which is going to be your rule here next week with the presence of Mr. Zelaya - are you going to try to lead on behalf of the international community to try to make some steps to the return of Zelaya to Honduras. What is your point of view on that?

SG: As a matter of principle, as we have been publicly stating, that the constitutional process should be respected. When a leader [is] elected constitutionally, through a transparent election process, then his authority and office should be protected and guaranteed. This is the principle of the international community and the United Nations. For that, all the Member States of the United Nations have supported President Zelaya. I would like to reaffirm that again.

Q: Thank you Mr. Secretary-General. I wonder, within the Quartet meeting, whether you would ever discuss the proposal by Mr. Javier Solana to look into announcing a Palestinian State within a matter of two years, particularly in light of the ongoing differences between the Israelis and the Palestinians. And also, if you could update us if you are contacting any leaders in the region concerning the delay in forming the Lebanese Government - particularly Syria and Saudi Arabia.

SG: Establishing two States who can live side by side in peace and security has been the vision of the international community; it has been the stated policy of all the international community of the United Nations. Now, first and foremost, the leaders of both the Palestine Authority and the Israeli Government should engage in bilateral negotiations to create an atmosphere conducive to such an eventuality. And that is what the Quartet members will continuously promote and encourage.

Now, on the situation in other areas of the Middle East, we have seen encouraging developments of the situation in Lebanon. I again, sincerely hope that the Lebanese Government will be able to fulfill their aspiration to have a national unity government. The national unity government was formed with great political difficulty. Now that, through this election, when Mr. [Saad] Hariri was designated as the next Prime Minister, he should be able to form a national unity government. I was relieved then, when he was re-designated by President [Michel] Sleiman. I sincerely hope that all the political party leaders – they should fully cooperate and should exercise their flexibility for the future of Lebanon and for the overall peace and security in the region. That is very important. They have normalized their relationship [with] Syria – that is also very significantly important, to which I have been working very, very hard. I am going to discuss this matter with President Sleiman when he comes to the UN.

Q: Mr. Secretary-General, could you tell us what impact you think the recent report from the commission to reform the financial situation in the world will have on this particular General Assembly, and what follow-through actions will be taken?

SG: The UN had a very successful, very meaningful high-level meeting on the international crisis and the financial impact on development. I discussed this matter with the new President of the General Assembly yesterday - how the General Assembly and myself, as the Secretary-General, can build on that, so that the benefits of all this international economic recovery could be shared by all the members of the international community, particularly those developing countries, the most vulnerable countries. I am going to discuss this matter with Member States and, this afternoon, I'm going to have an informal General Assembly session with the Member States. I understand that this will be one of the important concerns and priorities of the Member States.

Thank you very much.