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Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon

Off-the-Cuff

Secretary-General’s remarks to press at High-level event on Women in Power and Decision-Making in Santiago [with Q&A]

Santiago, Chile, 27 February 2015

Buenos días. 

Es un gran placer estar en Chile. [“Good day. It is a great pleasure to be in Chile.”]

This is my third visit to Chile.  I was last here in the aftermath of the terrible earthquake.  It is particularly meaningful to be here on this day that marks five years after that devastating event. 

I am honoured to once again express my solidarity with the Chilean people.  Your impressive efforts to recover and rebuild clearly shows your strong spirit of resilience.     

I am especially pleased to be here to take part in today’s High-level Conference on Women in Power and Decision-making.

I want to recognize and commend the leadership of President Michelle Bachelet. 

In 2010, I was honoured when President Bachelet accepted my request to be the first to lead the newly created UN Women.  She has inspired millions – and left a great legacy for women and girls worldwide.

As President, Ms. Bachelet continues to press for women’s rights nationally and internationally.  This conference is a clear demonstration of that commitment.

I am proud to champion this cause as one of the UN’s top priorities.

This year marks the 20th anniversary of the adoption of the Beijing Platform for Action. It remains the international blueprint for gender equality and women’s empowerment.

Over the past two decades, important progress has been made but it has been slow and uneven. 

We must unite to end violence and discrimination against women and girls.  We must work together to empower women and expand opportunities in politics, business and beyond. And we must back up our resolve with resources because we know investments in gender equality yield great returns across society.

This is a vital year for advancing all of these goals. 

The international community is hard at work on establishing a new sustainable development agenda that builds on the Millennium Development Goals and that will help shape policies and social investments for the next generation. 

I often say that this is not a time for tinkering, it is a time for transformation. 

To be truly transformative, the post-2015 development agenda must prioritise gender equality and women’s empowerment.  Women’s voices and full participation is central. 

I want to thank Chile for its contributions to these discussions.  I also want to commend Chile for hosting a vital regional conference on financing for development, which will take place next month. 

As a member of the Security Council, Chile is showing leadership in addressing conflicts and forging peace.

I also thank the more than 400 Chileans serving in UN peacekeeping missions – especially through vital contributions to stability in Haiti.

I applaud Chile for continuing on the journey towards a more just society that respects and protects the rights of all, regardless of their gender, ethnicity, culture religion or sexual orientation.

Once again, I am very pleased to be here and to take part in this very important conference.  It is my firm conviction that women must be at the decision-making table at all levels.  We all must do our part to break the glass ceilings and open the doors of opportunity.  I am honoured and proud to add my voice and full support to this vital cause.
           
Thank you very much.

Muchas gracias.

Q: What do you think are the biggest threats to world peace at the moment and how do you assess the situation in Venezuela?

A: A: We are living in an era of turmoil and violence.  Our ability -- our leadership -- seems to be tested.  At this time of turmoil and difficulty, I urge world leaders to unite and show their leadership through solidarity.  We have to look at why we are seeing so many conflicts around the world at this time – starting from regional conflicts, violence against women and marginalized groups of people, extremism, terrorism – all these are coming from lack of respect and mutual understanding, respect for others. 

That is why I am urging world leaders – it is not only political leaders, business leaders, social and community leaders, religious leaders-- they should all show a heightened, elevated level of tolerance and understanding. 

Lack of tolerance, lack of mutual understanding – for other’s beliefs, for other’s thinking, for other’s tradition (and) culture --  that is the source of trouble. 

The Security Council has been dealing with Charter-mandated primary responsibility to maintain international peace and security, and they have also been dealing with gender issues.  Because of the lack of opportunity for women and other marginalized groups of people, that has become the source of grievances.  If we do not address this issue, then this situation may fester and develop into a terrible crisis and conflict.

That is what I have emphasized during my meeting at the White House Summit on Countering Violent Extremism last week.  I have urged world leaders to show their leadership, to address all these issues at the roots and unite and show national, regional and global solidarity.  Not a single country at this time can [confront] this matter [alone].

Now coming to your last question – the situation in Venezuela – I have been very closely following the current situation there.

I hope that all these issues – whatever the causes of these demonstrations – should be resolved thorough dialogue, in a peaceful way.  I am very sorry for the causalities that happened – my sincere sympathies and condolences for (the victims).  At the same time, I am asking the government and all the parties concerned to sit down together and resolve this issue. 

I know that UNASUR and the Vatican have been helping this process. I hope with their direct dialogue, consultations and also facilitation by the regional organization like UNASUR, I hope there will be a harmonious resolution of this issue.


Q: A debate is currently going on in Chile on abortion, what is your view on this issue? Do you view it as a question of health or women’s rights?

A: President Bachelet this morning in her speech said human rights are also women’s rights, and women’s rights are also human rights. Health of women is also part of human rights. When a pregnancy is involved and a very serious threat to life is involved, when a woman is violated, raped, victim of violence, we should take all necessary measures to protect the life and the dignity of women.

As President Bachelet said this morning, there may be very different views and tradition or different reasoning on this delicate issue of abortion. But as far as I’m concerned, as Secretary-General, and also as a man, a father, a husband and a grandfather, I believe that women’s health, women’s rights and dignity should be the choice of women involved. And Governments have the responsibility to respect that.


Off-the-Cuff on 27 February 2015