Secretary-General's press encounter following the opening of the Peacebuilding Commission
New York, 23 June 2006SG: [inaudible] I think it is an important day for the UN. This fills a gap that we have had for a very long time, and I really believe that, with the support and the enthusiasm shown by the Member States, this Peacebuilding Commission should be able to assist countries in conflict from moving from conflict to peace and stability. And I hope today they will select two countries which will be the first candidates for the attention of the Peacebuilding Commission.
We are looking forward to a dynamic Commission, and of course I have here to my right Carolyn McAskie, whom most of you know, who is the first head of the Peacebuilding Support Office.
I will take your questions.
Q: Mr. Secretary-General – North Korea. What do you think should be the way to go? How do you think the Security Council should respond? Last time it was a press statement, and some people agree that it's not strong enough. What do you think should be to way to go, to prevent?
SG: As I have said recently, to be testing that kind of missile in a region like the Korean Peninsula, at a time when we have lots of difficult issues, and the six-party talks have stalled, it is not a wise thing to do to, and North Korea must listen to what the international community is telling it. As far as the Security Council is concerned, I will leave the Council to make its own judgment.
Q: Can you tell me about Darfur? Where we are heading?
SG: Well, you know my Under-Secretary-General Jean-Marie Guéhenno led a joint assessment mission with the African Union. They met with President [Omar al] Bashir. I myself spoke to President Bashir after their meeting. We have not got the agreement of the Sudanese government yet, but the dialogue continues, and I look forward to seeing him again at the African Union summit in Banjul next week. I hope we will be able to pursue the discussion, not only with me, but with other African leaders. I have tried to get across the message that we are coming in to help the Sudanese authorities and the people of Sudan, the people in Darfur, and quite honestly, if they had been protected, the question of UN deployment would not be necessary. But of course there are several things we need to do. We need to maintain the pressure on the rebels that are outside the agreement to sign the agreement. We need to strengthen the African Union forces to be able to continue their work and there will be a pledging conference next month, and I hope donors will give, and give generously.
We also need to ensure that we have the resources to sustain our humanitarian work and in the meantime keep up our discussions with the Sudanese authorities to deploy UN forces.
Q: Where do you see the problem that the Sudanese do not actually agree with the agreement that the United Nations has given them?
SG: I think Mr. Jean-Marie Guéhenno, who led the team, will be coming back in a day or two and will be able to give us a full report and brief the [Security] Council and hopefully the press as well.
Q: Mr. Secretary-General, in other words President Bashir gave Mr. Guéhenno a definite “no”.
SG: For the moment, yes. For the moment he said “no”, and you remember he even said it publicly before ? He did say it to Mr. Guéhenno, and I got the same message, but we have agreed to continue the dialogue, and also to meet in Banjul.
Q: Mr. Secretary, is the UN trying to take away guns from Americans?
SG: That thing couldn't be further from the truth. When we talk about small arms and the damage they are doing around the world, we all need to look around us. We are often concerned about weapons of mass destruction, and yet most of the killing taking place today, whether in Darfur or Congo or elsewhere is done by small arms. And I think it is legitimate that the UN, as an international organization of sovereign states, that has concern for the welfare of the people and is out there to protect them, would want to do something about small arms, would want to bring some order into this area. We are not out to take guns away from Americans. The intention is to ensure that guns do not get into the wrong hands and are used for the civil wars that we see around the world.
Q: On another note, can you tell us how you found out, your reaction, and your thoughts looking forward on your nation's team in the World Cup, the results of yesterday's game? [laughter]
SG: I had an arrangement. I was stuck in the plane, so I couldn't watch it until I came back to New York. But I got a message on the plane - actually my Envoy for Sports, Peace and Development, [Adolf] Ogi, sent me a message through the captain saying, “Ghana leads, two-one, by half time.” But of course they kept me in agony. I didn't know what had happened in the second half. It was only towards the end [of the flight] that the hostess came and said, “The game is over, Ghana won 2-1.” I think they have been playing very well. I saw the game, taped, and I was pleased with the way they played. I know the US played well, but they lost to a better side. This is what happens in soccer.
Q: Did you tell Ambassador [John] Bolton that?
SG: I haven't told him, but if I get a chance I will tell him, and I think, since I am a better expert on soccer than he is, I hope he will accept my judgment.
Q: Chances against Brazil for the team?
SG: You never know. I don't think my boys have reached their limit yet. [laughter]
Q: Sir, with reference again to Sudan and Darfur, there was a report a couple of days ago from the Jewish Telegraphic Agency in which Mr. Bashir was quoted as saying that the UN's interest in taking over the force in Darfur, replacing the African Union force, was only because of the Jewish community, particularly in view of the large rally at the end of April. Do you have any particular comment on that, sir?
SG: First of all the African Union itself took a decision to a transition from the African Union force to the UN, and the Security Council has passed a resolution asking us do that, and objectively the situation on the ground in Darfur is not defensible, given what is happening to the IDPs [internally displaced persons], and the difficult situation on the ground, and so I think there is a universal agreement that you need a stronger force in Darfur, and that is what is driving the UN action.
Q: Mr. Secretary-General, this is also on small arms. Earlier in the week I asked your spokesperson about UNDP-funded disarmament in Uganda of pastoralist tribes that use the guns really to defend their herds. I guess what I want to ask is, although we are still pursuing it, there seem to be abuses in the programme; we have asked how much funding UNDP provides for the disarmament of pastoralist tribes. I will say that for four days we have been unable to get even a number about how much is funded. So I guess, this idea of freedom of information act, which I once asked you about before?is it your sense that a UNDP agency should be able to, in four days, disclose how much it is funding a programme?
SG: I am not sure I would tie that to a freedom of information act. I am not sure whom at UNDP you asked, but this kind of information is generally open; the UN peacekeeping budgets are open, and the amounts of money we spend on disarmament efforts are public information, for the public. So I really don't know whom you asked in UNDP, and why you haven't got it. And really, don't expect me to give you an answer. But I wish you pursue it. They should be able to give it to you.
Thank you very much.