Secretary-General's press conference - full transcript
Tunis, Tunisia, 22 March 2011SG: Mesdames et Messieurs,
Hanee'an li Shaabi Tunis, wala siyyama Al Shabab, wa Aasha Baladukum [J'adresse mes félicitations au peuple tunisien, plus particulièrement à la jeunesse. Vive la Tunisie!]
C'est d'ici qu'est partie la vague de changement qui déferle actuellement sur le monde arabe. La Tunisie a montré au monde que le cri d'un homme réclamant justice et dignité pouvait rallier toute une nation.
Une nouvelle Tunisie, unie, est prête à voir le jour, et un bel avenir s'ouvre à vous.
Je suis venu ici pour vous manifester notre solidarité. La communauté internationale tout entière est avec vous en ce moment historique.
Je suis, aussi et surtout, venu ici pour écouter. Pour connaître les préoccupations que vous inspire l'avenir, et pour vous offrir l'aide de l'Organisation des Nations Unies.
Aujourd'hui, j'ai rencontré le Président, le Premier Ministre et le Ministre des affaires étrangères pour la période de transition. Je me suis aussi entretenu avec des membres de partis politiques et de la société civile et de jeunes dirigeants.
Ces jeunes sont le plus grand trésor de ce pays. Ils ont des idées, de l'énergie et des idéaux. Il faut que leur voix soit entendue alors que vous préparez votre avenir.
Tunisia led the way in revolution. It is now leading the way to a democratic political transition.
Already, you have a map for the path ahead.
The UN will work with you, if Tunisia needs assistance and requests it.
We have vast experience supporting elections, building transparent and trustworthy institutions, advancing socio-economic development, reducing inequalities and creating jobs.
A team of UN electoral experts is already on the ground. We stand ready to do much more.
The region needs a prosperous, democratic Tunisia.
And the world needs a prosperous, democratic region -- a region where elected authorities answer to the people, where justice rules and rights are respected, where national wealth is used for the people, where all men and women live with dignity, freedom and opportunity.
Before turning to your questions, let me say a brief word about Libya.
In my meetings today, I praised Tunisia for its enormous generosity in helping thousands of people who fled across the Libyan border. You organized an effective humanitarian response almost overnight, and you deserve great credit.
You organized an effective humanitarian response almost overnight, and you deserve great credit. You have shown real compassion to refugees and returnees facing hardship, and e are grateful for all that you have done. The UN has been assisting the Government of Tunisia in its remarkable efforts and we stand ready to provide continued assistance.
The international community, consistent with Security Council resolution 1973, has acted in Libya to save lives. The leader of a nation was deliberately and indiscriminately killing his own people. He was deploying his army against unarmed civilians. That is why the League of Arab States requested the Security Council to act.
Security Council resolution 1973 significantly advances an emerging humanitarian doctrine: the responsibility to protect. This doctrine grew in turn out of the terrible massacres of the previous decade, in which the international community had been accused of doing nothing. Those massacres included the genocides in Srebrenica, Rwanda and even Cambodia. After those terrible incidents, the world said, “Never again.”
It is imperative that on this measure, the international community speak with one voice. Thousands of lives are still at stake. We could well see a further humanitarian emergency.
We are moving quickly to take effective action. On Saturday, I met in Paris with world leaders to coordinate our plans. This was also high on the agenda of my talks in Cairo and here in Tunis.
Tunisia is standing with the international community and the United Nations at this critical time for the region. I am grateful for this support.
The UN will continue working urgently to bring an end to the fighting, find a political solution and provide humanitarian relief.
Once again, let me say: we are at an historic moment. Democracy is on the march across the Arab world. It is in the interest of the international community and the United Nations to help you on your way.
Thank you. I will now take a few questions.
Q: Despite the UN Security Council resolution 1973, people are still being killed right now in Libya. What happens if this doesn't work? What happens if Qadhafi doesn't go? And my second question is whether you have had any contact at all with Libya diplomatically, and specifically if you have had any contact with Ali Treki, who Qadhafi wants to be his representative at the United Nations.
SG: I am confident that this situation will end by the action taken by the international community. The Security Council resolution 1973 was adopted by the determined will of the whole international community. Colonel Qadhafi, he cannot and should not and must not fight alone against the whole... He cannot do that. And it is again absolutely necessary for him to fully comply with Security Council resolutions. That is what they specifically announced ; that is what they officially informed me. The Prime Minister informed me that they would comply with the Security Council resolution. They would stop fighting. Now, second question: I have not met Mr Ali Treki.
Q: (in Arabic) Where was the UN when Tunisia was under oppression and dictatorship? Where was the Organization when it adopted the proposal of the International Year for Youth and where was it when political life was (inaudible)? Thank you.
SG: I am surprised to see, while staying in Tunisia, and while meeting with civil community leaders, as well as youth groups, that there is some serious misperception among some of the people about the role of the United Nations. Why the UN has been so slow while your people were shouting and working for this freedom, and why was it so late, and why was it silent? That I do not first of all agree with all these misperceptions. The United Nations since at least ten years ago, we have been continuously raising these issues to all Arab countries through our United Nations Arab Human Development Reports since 2002. Successive reports have been delivered and conveyed and discussed with the Arab leaders. It is they who have not heeded our continuous urging. And I have been speaking with leaders in the region all the time, through public statements and private dialogue and I have been urging them that we are seeing these winds of change that are sweeping around the region. The people of Tunisia should be proud that it was here in Tunisia that the movement began, giving a big impact to all of the countries across the region. The United Nations will continue to promote the fundamental principles: human rights and ensure freedom of speech, freedom of assembly and dignity of human beings. This is a fundamental principle and goal of the United Nations, which I will continue.
Q: I understand that your Special Envoy has visited (inaudible) Libya. Can you update us on what he has discussed with you so far? And what were your instructions for him?
SG: As Special Envoy for Libya, he has undertaken responsibility to listen to all the people from both sides, the people from the Government side and the opposition side. That is why he went to visit and met with some of the leaders of the opposition. He will report to me. And I am going to report to the Security Council on Thursday afternoon, based on my meetings with the Egyptian and Tunisian leaders and based on my meetings with world leaders in Paris. And also, his report will be conveyed to Security Council members for further course of action.
Q: (in French) Russia demands an immediate halt to attacks against Libya. What is your opinion?
SG: The Security Council has adopted this resolution. Of course, there were some countries who abstained, but once it is adopted, all the members of the United Nations have an obligation to fully cooperate so that this resolution will be implemented.
Q: (in Arabic) My question is about the electoral process in Tunisia. You spoke with the Tunisian officials, either at the level of the interim President or the interim Prime Minister. What could be the role of the UN in the operation of elections? Would it be direct support, meaning supervision of the elections, or just financial and technical support?
SG: The United Nations has accumulated experience in providing technical assistance to many areas, particularly the electoral process. I have discussed at length with the President, Prime Minister and Foreign Minister on this issue, particularly how the UN can help effectively, so that the Tunisian Government can have very credible and objective elections. They are going to have an election on the constitutional assembly in July. This will be a very important political milestone where these deputies will draft a constitution and under the provisions of the new constitution, they will elect a President and new Government. Therefore this will be a very important occasion. The United Nations is committed and the Tunisian Government did welcome our offer. I have already dispatched some experts on the electoral process. Our contribution may be modest but very useful. It has been proven useful in the cases of Eastern Europe, Latin America, Asia and the Pacific. So I am sure the United Nations will continue to do that, including how to monitor this election as a credible and fair and objective one. And we will also discuss with key donor countries about the issue of providing some necessary financial assistance.
Q: My first question is about (inaudible question on Palestinians)? The second question, are you concerned about the Gulf countries, and what is your position about Yemen?
SG: The United Nations, please understand the United Nations is an international organization composed of 192 Member States. On certain issues, Member States have different views. On other issues, Member States have united views. Therefore, when Member States are not able to take measures on certain issues, that is what the United Nations is, and we are continuously and constantly trying to reach consensus. This is a process of reaching consensus. It may take some time. It may be very frustrating. We really want to see the Middle East peace process established, where Palestinians and Israelis can live side by side in peace and security. That is our goal. It has not reached there. The United Nations has continuously been working with patience. And as Secretary-General and as a member of the Quarter principals, I am continuing to do that. The inalienable rights of the Palestinians is firmly defended, promoted and upheld. And I am doing my best in the absence in a firm political agreement, in the absence of any such peace agreement, we are providing humanitarian assistance, so that the children and people of the Palestinians can be healthy, can be educated, can have necessary assistance. Of course, there is again some difficulties and limitations, but that is what I am continuing to do.
Q: I have just one question: I want to know, if Mr. Qadhafi attacks us, as Tunisians, as Arab and Maghreb cultures, how will the United Nations protect us? And second, all the Arab world is in a sort of revolution. We have a lot of atrocity nearby in Yemen, Bahrain, et cetera. Will the United Nations make a real intervention there?
SG: I just forgot to answer your second question, about the situation in Yemen. I have been repeatedly urging Yemen, Yemeni leaders and authorities and I have condemned their using live ammunition against peaceful demonstrators. This must stop. This is an unacceptable situation. They have to engage in inclusive national dialogue. They have to listen: what are the challenges and aspirations of those citizens? The leaders of any country have the responsibility to protect the lives of their people and provide all the necessary assistance, humanitarian, political and security. And I am continuing to discuss this matter with the regional leaders.
About your questions, how the United Nations can protect and provide assistance to the Tunisian people -- that was one of the important agendas which I have discussed with the Government. The United Nations is ready to stand behind the Tunisian Government and people in their noble efforts by channelling our future efforts. I have offered that the United Nations is ready to provide socioeconomic assistance. I have instructed my country team here. Again, look at what happened in Tunisia. The Tunisian people have experienced dramatic, exciting, very important changes. The United Nations will also adapt to this changing climate of Tunisia. The United Nations, all agencies, should also fully cooperate and fully provide necessary resources. We are ready to provide electoral assistance. We are ready to help the Tunisian Government in establishing the rule of law and also promoting human rights, promoting gender equality, gender empowerment, providing decent job opportunities for the young and giving hope to young people. And I have requested Government authorities to investigate into the crimes of the past administration and fight against corruption, and ask for accountability. For those processes, a democratic framework, with the assistance of the United Nations, will make Tunisia's future much healthier and much sounder. This is the way Tunisia's Government and people should help and achieve.
Q: Some cracks appeared amongst the coalition of the willing, with some members denying a great role for NATO. What are your thoughts on this? You mentioned there was a united will; is that really the case? And who should be leading the mission?
SG: I think that is a question that needs to be decided and consulted among the countries of the coalition of the willing. I have read myself some reports about the chain of command and who is to provide which. I hope they will have consultations among themselves. Thanks; merci beaucoup.
Off-the-Cuff on 22 March 2011