Secretary-General's remarks at press conference (see below for Q&A)
Dhaka, Bangladesh, 15 November 2011Good evening, ladies and gentlemen,
Let me begin by thanking the Prime Minister, Sheikh Hasina, and her Government and people of Bangladesh for their hospitality and excellent arrangements during my stay.
Dhonyobad [Thank you].
I have had a short stay, but a full visit.
Yesterday I met with the Prime Minister and other senior Government officials. I visited your institute of peacekeeping and the research hospital, ICDDR,B.
I saw, on site, what it means to put simple solutions to work to save lives.
This morning, I met the founders of BRAC, your great NGO for health and development. Later I visited the Mobarakpur Community Clinic in Moulvibazar, where I met a group of young girls and adolescents.
I told them that the United Nations is committed to helping them get an education and enjoy good health because they are the future of Bangladesh.
There and elsewhere, I saw that the Bangladesh Government has been investing in people - investing in smart ways to save lives and give people hope.
It is no secret that, in doing this, Bangladesh has become a model to the world.
And that is why I am here.
Bangladesh is not only on the front line of development challenges.
It is on the front line of development solutions.
Bangladesh has risen from great hardship to build a thriving economy, a vibrant civil society, and a dynamic future.
And it is a tremendous global partner.
Number one in providing UN peacekeepers.
A leading voice for Least Developed Countries.
Out front in expanding girls' education and women's empowerment and reducing maternal and child mortality.
I am here to shine a global spotlight on that progress, particularly on all you have done to advance women's and children's health.
This is an engine for achieving the Millennium Development Goals.
Much of my time and discussions here have also focused on the priority of sustainable development.
Here, too, Bangladesh has much to offer the world.
Yesterday I attended the Climate Vulnerable Forum.
Bangladesh is among the countries most at risk.
But your vision and action has already saved tens of thousands of lives.
Bangladesh is also setting an example on carbon neutrality and green growth.
If we are to avoid dangerous climate change, all nations must act - now.
We must also make progress in the climate negotiations next month in Durban, and at the Rio+20 Conference on Sustainable Development in Brazil next June.
Ladies and gentlemen, let me conclude with a few words on the political situation in Bangladesh. Since 2008, Bangladesh has [made] great progress towards democracy. However, much more needs to be done.
It is particularly important that the next elections in early 2014 be conducted in a transparent and credible way. In that regard, I expect the political leaders to look beyond the party lines to the future of Bangladesh, to work together for the future of Bangladesh.
I leave here convinced that Bangladesh will continue to develop on its positive path.
And I look forward to visiting again.
Khuda hafiz Aabaar dekha hobe. [Good bye – until we meet again]
Thank you very much.
Q: You have just talked about the political situation in Bangladesh. The main opposition [has] already said it will not participate in any election under the party government. Without participation of the opposition, will the election be a credible one? Would that be acceptable to the UN?
SG: I know that there are differences of opinion on this matter. As Secretary-General, I would normally refrain from making any comments on all domestic political situations. This is your system, your choice. Therefore, whatever differences there may be between and among political leaders, I sincerely hope that all of these differences of opinion should be resolved harmoniously through dialogue between and among political leaders. This is exactly what I talked about with Prime Minister Hasina and also I talked to opposition party chair leaders yesterday.
Q: What is your opinion on what is going on in Syria? What is your message to opposition leaders, given that the crackdown continues against opposition activists?
SG: There was a very important agreement between the League of Arab States and the Syrian Government, particularly President [Bashar al-] Assad. I expected that this agreement should be fully implemented. Now that the Syrian Government has not implemented [it] and the League of Arab States' ministerial meeting has decided to suspend Syria from its membership, it is crucially important now that President Assad must immediately stop killing his own people and agree to implement this agreement with the League of Arab States. I have been continuously discussing this matter with the League of Arab States' Member States, particularly Secretary General [Nabil] El Araby and I sincerely hope that the League of Arab States will exercise their leadership so that this will be resolved as soon as possible. This is a source of great concern, not only for the region, but for all the international community, for democracy and humanity.
Q: Don't you think that NATO's attack in Libya, killing civilians, and the Security Council resolution, led to nations feeling insecure?
SG: As you know, I visited Libya last week, November 2nd. And I was very much impressed by the commitment of the Libyan leadership and people there. The Security Council has taken their decisions upon the recommendation of the League of Arab States and they have taken [into considerations] the eminent danger and threat to the lives of many civilian populations. At the time, Colonel Qadhafi was killing his own people, using all means of weapons. That is why the Security Council has taken decisive measures, including no-fly zones to save human lives. Now the path of the Libyan people is to build a new Libya and the United Nations deployed a mission there to support their efforts to establish public security, rule of law, protection of human rights and also socio-economic development. I told them that this is just the end of the beginning, not the beginning of the end. There will be much more challenges there. Therefore I'm encouraged that the new Prime Minister was appointed and he is going to establish his own cabinet within a week's time. I hope under the leadership of Mr. [Mustafa Abdel] Jalil and the Prime Minister, they will chart this course as soon as possible, including the parliamentary elections and the drafting of the constitution. The United Nations stands ready to work with them
Q: Will the United Nations mediate between the Bangladeshi Government and opposition to resolve the current standoff?
SG: In 2008, I visited before the election and I met the then-caretaker military leadership and advised them strongly to take this election in a credible and democratic way. I would dispatch some electoral experts and provide some technical assistance to them. If requested by the political leaders, the United Nations is ready to provide any technical, logistical assistance to help the 2014 election to be conducted in a credible and fair, transparent manner. This is what I discussed with the Prime Minister and also opposition political leaders.
Q: A large number of Bangladeshis working in United Nations peacekeeping missions. But there is no high-level representation by Bangladeshis in UN bodies. Do you have any plans to appoint Bangladeshi officials?
SG: We appreciate the contribution by Bangladeshi men and women all around the world, particularly in the field of peacekeeping operations. You are the number one peacekeeping troop-contributing country, [with] more than 10,600 people. This is very noble and we have also lost more than 100 people in the course of duty. We really appreciate [this]. We have very distinguished senior Bangladeshis working in peacekeeping missions: Major General Abdul Hafiz as Force Commander in MINURSO [United Nations Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara], Western Sahara, and also Ms. Ameerah Haq, who is working as the Special Representative of the Secretary-General at the rank of Under-Secretary-General. That is the highest rank as anybody can reach in Timor-Leste. They are making very excellent contributions and as I have met the military leadership. They also expressed their wish that more Bangladeshis should be appointed and I told them that we will discuss this matter as time comes on appropriate occasions. I will do my best. Thank you very much.