Secretary-General's Press Conference at Seoul Foreign Correspondents' Club [with Q&A]
Seoul, Republic of Korea, 10 November 2010SG: I was last here at the Seoul Foreign Correspondents' Club four years ago. It is wonderful to be back.
We meet at a critical moment. The spotlight is on Korea, and the first G20 Summit in an emerging market economy.
I grew up in a Korea destroyed by war. Today it is one of the leading economies of the world. Korea is a bridge between the developed and developing world. This role has never been more necessary and important. So there is something very special about this G20 moment.
I have just met President Lee Myung-bak. I commend his vision and leadership. At this Summit, the Korean Presidency is fully engaged with the United Nations and countries beyond the G20 table. This is as it should be – for the UN and the G20 are complementary, and the work can be mutually reinforcing. We can see this clearly when it comes to the global development agenda.
In September, at the United Nations, all the world's leaders agreed to a Millennium Development Goals Action Plan. It set out a common vision for overcoming poverty, and concrete steps to do so over the next five years. Now here in Seoul, the G20, under the leadership of the Korean Presidency, is taking up development issues for the first time. This is a huge opportunity.
For my part, I will do my best to ensure that the leaders of the world's biggest and strongest economies build solutions for the poorest and the most vulnerable people around the world into their plans. The need is now.
The global economic recovery remains fragile. 64 million people have been pushed into extreme poverty this year. Everywhere, there is economic insecurity and anxiety about jobs.
We cannot afford to think narrowly about development and economic growth. The driving question must be: What does it mean for people? That is what draws us to Seoul.
I start with a very clear baseline: All countries and all peoples have a stake in the management of the global economy. The voices of the vulnerable must be heard.
I bring three vital development messages to this G20.
First, we must keep our promise on the Millennium Development Goals. They are a blueprint for decent jobs, education, health care, women's empowerment, clean water, and a clean environment. The MDGs are about building sustainability, building global growth, building a better world. That is why, here today, I call the MDGs “weapons of mass construction.”
The economic crisis should not be an excuse to do less. It is a reason to do more. We must be accountable to the most vulnerable. Promises made must be promises kept.
Second, strategic investment. We must put the focus where it can go the furthest. The key is to invest scarce resources in areas that address the interconnections among problems. By dealing with key issues, we can help address them all. That is why we are highlighting priorities such as women's and children's health, and food and nutrition security.
Third, we must advance our fight against climate change. The more we delay, the more we pay. But by acting together we can open the door to prosperity, to job creation, to economic growth. By preparing for the long-term, we can prosper in the short-term.
I will continue to urge G20 developed countries to contribute their fair share to help developing countries mitigate and adapt to climate change. Fast-start funding will fast-track jobs.
Last Friday, I received the final report of my Advisory Group on Climate Change Financing, led by Prime Minister Meles Zenawi of Ethiopia and Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg of Norway. They offered a number of creative proposals for meeting the goal of raising $100 billion per year by the year 2020. It is challenging, but it is feasible.
Ladies and gentlemen,
We must keep our eyes on the big picture – on the lives and future of people. The way through economic hard times is through development. It will generate the decent work and dynamic economies that the world needs.
Sharing growth and its benefits more equitably is in the practical interests of us all.
Thank you, and I will be happy to take your questions.
Q: At the G-20 this week there are apparently two major items that are being discussed. One is the currency issue; the other is possible percentages on trade balances. I know you specifically may not be taking any particular position. But how optimistic are you that these economies with very disparate views can come together this week, or do you think that this G-20 meeting will end up being a waste of time?
SG: I have been closely following the discussions among the G-20 leaders on major issues, including currency issues and trade imbalances. And of course there are two other important issues – development and global financial safety nets. All these are very important issues. I do not want to go into details, into technical matters. But what we can see in the background of these issues is the interconnectedness of all these issues, including the currency and trade imbalances and development. All these issues are all interconnected. Therefore I hope leaders will discuss [this] in a more comprehensive and broad manner.
The G-20 has established themselves as the premier forum to address the economic and financial crisis. In fact, during the last four summit meetings, they have been effectively coordinating to address this imminent crisis. Now, I am concerned that there is some divergence of opinions among the G-20 over these issues, as you have just mentioned. But I believe that still it is absolutely necessary that the G-20 leaders are united and coordinate their policies. This is a time for unity and unity of purpose.
Therefore, I am convinced that this summit meeting under the leadership of President Lee Myung-bak – who has been himself engaged personally in managing and addressing all these concerns, telephoning many world leaders to address these issues, most recently at the Gyeongju finance ministers and Central Bank Governors' meeting, to make good and smooth preparations for this – so I am very hopeful that this G-20 summit meeting will be a great success in addressing not only this imminent financial and economic crisis, but also addressing development issues and climate change issues and trade imbalance issues, which will [provide] a great sense of hope to many poor and most vulnerable countries.
Q: You mentioned that G-20 and the UN play a mutually complementary role in development. In this regard there are some concerns there could be some overlap. I'd like to know about the division of labour. And as a Secretary-General of the United Nations, what type of advantages or disadvantages do you experience as a Korean, since Korea is a divided country?
SG: On your first question I'd like to emphasize and reaffirm that the United Nations and G-20 are working together in a mutually reinforcing way. As you know, last September I convened the Millennium Development Goals summit meeting, where world leaders have recommitted their leadership to achieve these Millennium Development Goals by 2015. They have adopted a very concrete, very workable and deliverable plan of action. Now I expect that after this summit meeting in Seoul the leaders of G-20 will adopt a very concrete plan of action. This is what President Lee said, that he is looking forward to adopt multi-year plans of action. These plans of action to be adopted by the G-20 will work as a very strong complementary boost to the plan of action adopted [for] the Millennium Development Goals. The United Nations is the lead agency with various experiences and expertise. We have all agencies working for development all around the world. We have accumulated such experience during the last 65 years. Therefore I am sure that these plans of action of the G-20 will be a very strong boost so that the international community can achieve the Millennium Development Goals by 2015. I am very encouraged by such a prospect.
As to my role as Secretary-General, being a Korean, whether it has a disadvantage or advantage – I'd like to see it in a positive aspect. As you said, I am from a country divided. At the same time, I am from a country which has experienced abject poverty to, now, economic and political maturity. By any standard, Korea is now standing within the 15 largest economies in the world. That is a source of pride for me working as Secretary-General. As I have seen all this tragedy of Korean division and the Korean War, I can have a better understanding and appreciation on all these peace and security and conflict issues. And as I am from a country which has established itself as one of the world's biggest economies, I can play a bridging role. I can explain our experiences to many developing countries and to many countries which aspire to achieve, first of all, economic and social development, and who also aspire to establish peace and security in their own countries. Therefore my own experience being a Korean is very much positively influencing my job as Secretary-General of the United Nations.
Q: Among the agendas, you numerously stress the importance of development as well as the importance of the Millennium Development Goals. I'd like to ask a question regarding North Korea. As a UN member, I understand that North Korea should also be included in the development of the action plans for the Millennium Development Goals. So what are the previous and future plans of the United Nations to resolve the poverty and development issue in North Korea? And regardless of the nuclear issue, it is necessary for the UN to play a role in these development issues in North Korea. I also would suggest that you might have personal obligations as a citizen from a divided country to work toward for peace and unification and poverty reduction, especially in North Korea and peace and security on the Korean Peninsula.
SG: The DPRK is a member of the United Nations and thus has been participating in these discussions of Millennium Development Goals and many other peace and security and human rights issues, which are key pillars of the United Nations. It has several dimensions when it comes to the issue of DPRK. As they have tested nuclear weapons, it has very serious security aspect issues and as a party to the Six-Party Talks. We expect that they will return to the Six-Party Talks and cooperate fully in realizing a denuclearized Korean Peninsula.
As Secretary-General of the United Nations, I expect that both South and North will be able to address peace and security issues and address humanitarian issues which have been caused because of the division of the Korean Peninsula during the last six decades.
I expect that all these pending issues between the South and North should be resolved peacefully through dialogue, first of all between the South and North in a bilateral way and also through any regional framework.
At the same time there is very serious concern on the humanitarian situation in the DPRK. The United Nations has been providing humanitarian assistance to the DPRK. Most recently this year, the Director General of the World Health Organization, Dr. Margaret Chan, and this month, the Executive Secretary of the World Food Programme Josette Sheeran, visited Pyongyang and [held discussions] with DPRK leadership. We hope that the international community will be able to provide assistance, particularly for those very young children. In that regard, I am encouraged that President Lee [Myung-bak], despite all these situations and the relationship between the South and North, has pledged to provide and continue humanitarian assistance to these young children.
As a Korean citizen working as the Secretary-General of the United Nations, you should know that I am very much committed, first of all, to work and to facilitate the very peaceful relationship between the South and North, and in this region. I will spare no efforts to continue such work. Thank you.
Q: Mr. Secretary-General, do you think that the wealthier nations of the world which, particularly the United States, is asking for greater trade balance with poor regions? Do you think the richer nations of the world have the responsibility to accept trade imbalance as a means to lift poor nations out of underdevelopment and towards achieving the Millennium Development Goals?
SG: We are living in an interdependent world. We are facing many global challenges like climate change, abject poverty, and international terrorism. All these multiple crises will require multiple solutions. Thus it is necessary to have a harmonious and balanced growth in every aspect of our lives. That is why the United Nations is leading the Millennium Development Goals to be achieved by 2015, providing and helping them to reduce abject poverty by half by 2015, providing good job opportunities, women's empowerment and helping all these sick people, and preserving this world in an environmentally sustainable way. These are what we are trying to achieve through international coordination to achieve strong and sustainable growth.
To help poor people, the most vulnerable people, is morally and politically imperative. That is why all the world leaders have agreed on the Millennium Development Goals. Trade is one of the important areas, through which developed countries can assist the developing world. Aid-for-Trade, this initiative, is also a very important aspect where developing countries can benefit from the developed world.
To accelerate this process of helping poor people through trade, we must have this Doha Round concluded as soon as possible. It is quite frustrating that the Doha Round has been lagging without being able to be concluded for almost a decade. This trade issue has always been discussed at G20 summit meetings and I understand that trade will also be discussed tomorrow and the day after tomorrow.
Q. The UN could play a bigger role in the North Korean nuclear and human rights issue. When is there a plan to visit Pyongyang? The UN's role on human rights in China is viewed as half-hearted. I'd like to ask your opinion.
A. For your first question, the international community led by the United Nations and some other regional frameworks has been working consistently to address many issues of the DPRK, including nuclear issues. In the case of the nuclear issues, both South and North Korea have been negotiating and have adopted the joint declaration to denuclearize the Korean Peninsula, and they have the Six-Party Talks and they have adopted a very historic joint statement to accelerate denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula, where the DPRK has pledged to dismantle and abandon their nuclear programmes. The DPRK has gone through the Universal Periodic Review by the Human Rights Council of the United Nations, and I expect that they will implement all the recommendations of the Human Rights Council. As Secretary-General, I have stated on many occasions that I stand ready any time to take my own initiative, including my own visit to the DPRK, whenever an appropriate opportunity arises.
Second question, human rights: that is one of the three pillars of the United Nations Charter and thus I have been doing my best to shine a light on every corner of the world, even the darkest side of the world to shine light on human rights. Human rights are a universally accepted principle for human beings, thus all the people, regardless of their sex, age or ethnicity, their human rights must be protected. That is what I have been doing and what I will continue to do as Secretary-General.
As for this specific question to the case of China, I have already made my statement last Friday. The public record is clear. I discussed human rights issues in public and private settings with the Chinese leadership, and you have seen all my records which I have expressed in Nanjing University, in Shanghai and in Beijing, particularly this Central Party School. I can say again that as China pursues the path of political reform, I hope this Chinese Government will further expand the space for civil society and take other steps that reflect and uphold its commitment to international human rights standards.