Secretary-General's press conference [unofficial transcript]
Hanoi, Viet Nam, 29 October 2010SG: Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen of the media, it's a great pleasure to have this opportunity of meeting you, and share some thoughts during my visit to Viet Nam to participate in the ASEAN-UN Summit.
Before I begin, let me say just a few words. Like all of you, I am closely following the Indonesian tsunami situation. The tsunami by now has claimed the lives of approximately 400 people and the death toll is likely to rise further.
At this time on behalf of the United Nations, I want to express our deepest sorrow and send our heartfelt condolences to the victims and their families. We stand by the Government of Indonesia at this difficult moment.
Ladies and gentlemen, I have had a very busy and productive morning here in Hanoi.
After my arrival yesterday afternoon, I had very good talks with His Excellency the President of Viet Nam and also dinner. I had talks with Foreign Minister Pham Gia Khiem, and with His Excellency Mr. Nong Duc Manh, General Secretary of the Communist Party. We discussed Viet Nam's impressive progress on the Millennium Development Goals, and further cooperation with the United Nations.
Again as I said, I enjoyed dinner last night with His Excellency President Nguyen Minh Triet.
Later today I will address the ASEAN-UN Summit meeting. Let me say that for me this will be a special pleasure. While I have attended many ASEAN-related ministerial and summit meetings in the past in a different capacity, this will my first visit and participation in an ASEAN Summit in my capacity as Secretary-General of the United Nations.
This will be the third ASEAN-UN Summit.
My main point will be the central role to be played by ASEAN in addressing the global challenges we face today; how we can strengthen our partnership in working together in addressing many global and regional issues, as well as development issues.
Climate change, the food crisis, nuclear disarmament, the fight against poverty and disease. No one country can solve them alone and it is essential that we both broaden and deepen our cooperation.
I have watched ASEAN develop since its earliest days and I believe deeply in its potential for making significant contributions. [ASEAN] has made great progress in the past decade, especially. Regional integration has gained pace, including a measured outreach to many more external members and partners.
I can easily imagine a time in the not-too-distant future when we will see an ASEAN Economic Community, where all nations of the region fully share in the fruits of ever-closer cooperation and growing prosperity.
In partnering with ASEAN, the new report I am presenting today, “Striving Together: ASEAN and the United Nations”, points the way ahead.
In particular I look forward to strengthening cooperation across a broad agenda from development to human rights, from maternal and child health, to a democratic transition in Myanmar.
I expect the summit to map out concrete steps – a plan for common action to advance our shared goals. I would like to see the United Nations and ASEAN work more closely and effectively in preventive diplomacy, peacekeeping and peacebuilding, and I hope that we will have more peacekeepers from ASEAN nations, much as Thailand is now contributing one battalion of forces to the United Nations mission in Darfur.
Our successful cooperation after Cyclone Nargis can be a model for future collaboration. I welcome UN-ASEAN agreement on this issue and look forward to implementing a UN-ASEAN strategic plan on disaster management.
As the recent floods in Pakistan and Thailand illustrate, as well as the recent tsunami in Indonesia, the future will almost certainly bring more extremes of weather.
When it comes to safeguarding our people from the effects of climate change, the time for action is now.
Tomorrow I will also be meeting the Prime Minister of Myanmar, General Thein Sein, to share with him the UN's hopes and concerns for the coming election. ASEAN and the United Nations agree on the need for a credible democratic transition and national reconciliation in Myanmar.
It is not too late, even now. By releasing all political prisoners, the Myanmar authorities could help open the way for national reconciliation.
The period after the elections will be especially important.
It is a chance for the authorities to signal that they are open to real change. That they are ready to depart from an untenable status quo.
The United Nations stands ready to help Myanmar in any way we can, to move forward peacefully to a new era of democracy and development.
Thank you, ladies and gentlemen, I am ready to take your questions.
Q: What is your assessment of the role of Vietnam in the United Nations and what support can we expect from the UN in implementing the MDGs and coping with climate change?
SG: I have had an extensive discussion with the Vietnamese leadership on how Vietnam and the United Nations can work together in addressing many difficult challenges including development and climate change. I commended the impressive progress the Vietnamese Government has made in implementing and trying to obtain the Millennium Development Goals. I expect that the Vietnamese Government, if they continue what they have been doing, will be able to meet all the MDGs by 2015. I urged very strongly the Vietnamese Government to do more in the area of HIV and also environmental sustainability. Viet Nam is one of the five countries in the world most affected by climate change, and we have to work, and the UN is ready to work very closely together with the Vietnamese Government, to address climate change The Vietnamese Government has also been playing a very important role in the peace and security area. Until last year the Vietnamese Government played [a role] as a member of the Security Council for two years, contributing greatly to maintaining peace and security of the international community, and you have also dispatched many peacekeepers to many conflict areas. We expect more from the Vietnamese Government. All in all, we are very happy that the United Nations and the Vietnamese Government have been maintaining such a strong partnership. And I am sure this partnership will continue to grow.
Q: Mr. Secretary-General. How effective do you think ASEAN has been in pushing for free elections in Myanmar, and more generally, how effective has it been in dealing with human rights abuses in the region, including those that go on in Vietnam?
SG: The United Nations and ASEAN have been working very closely to help the Myanmar authorities and the Myanmarese to democratize their society, and particularly to see this forthcoming election to be a credible, inclusive and transparent one. ASEAN has been participating as a member of the Group of Friends on Myanmar, which I have been chairing during the last two years. They have been making good contributions, individually and collectively, and I have been using the leadership of ASEAN that resolving and helping this Myanmar issue would not only be beneficial to the people of Myanmar, but will also have implications for the integration process of ASEAN - Myanmar being a member of ASEAN - and I'm encouraged by the strong support by ASEAN member states for the good offices role for me as mandated by the General Assembly. I will continue to do that. As far as the United Nations is concerned, now that elections are going to be held for the first time in twenty years, we are first of all, most immediately in the short time, we expect and hope that this election will be credible, inclusive and transparent. And secondly, the United Nations is also very much interested in seeing the post-election period, again, to be transparent, more inclusive and more participatory. How inclusive [a] Government they will form after the elections will be a very important [issue]. Now further, the United Nations will engage in a [inaudible] after elections in Myanmar, to provide social-economic development and assist in any way we can to further democratize the Myanmar society. Now, about the human rights issues, I commended ASEAN for the establishment of an interGovernmental commission of human rights as well as a commission on protection and promotion of rights of women and children. These are commendable frameworks and political will led by ASEAN leaders. I hope all ASEAN countries will continue to work together to promote and protect human rights for all in this region.
Q: What is the message of the United Nations to COP16?
SG: The United Nations, together with the member states, have been working very closely with member states of the Conference [of the States] Parties on Climate Change preparing for a successful Cancun conference. The negotiations have not been easy, but we have been making gradual progress. Though the Copenhagen meeting was not able to meet the expectations of everybody, it has provided a very important foundation which COP16 can build upon. We have been making tangible progress in five areas: climate change financing, adaptation, deforestation and forest degradation, capacity building, and technology transfer. Those are the five areas where we expect we can have progress in Cancun. It may be the case that we may not be able to have a globally binding, comprehensive agreement at this time, but that does not mean that we will not be able to have a globally agreeable binding treaty in the near future. We are working very, very hard. At this time, I would really urge national Governments to make firm commitments to mitigation targets. There are also some politically sensitive issues, including national mitigation target and monitoring and verification systems, and also the future of the Kyoto Protocol. Those three are very difficult issues but that does not prevent us from making gradual and tangible progress in sectoral issues, which I have just said, in five areas. I believe that member states [should] demonstrate their political will, even stronger political will. This is a global challenge. We have seen these days, most recently, the extreme weather patterns in this Asian continent. You have seen such heavy flooding, tsunamis, sea level rise. And all these are the consequences of climate change. Unless we address this issue quickly and properly it will be very difficult for us to preserve this planet earth in an environmentally sustainable way. Therefore, we need global solidarity, a global response in addressing a global challenge. That is only possible through strong political will. I would again urge leaders to come forward with strong political leadership.