Secretary-General's joint press encounter with Mayor of Montreal [scroll down for Q&A]
Montreal, Canada, 12 February 2016
Monsieur le maire,
Mesdames et Messieurs,
Je remercie M. Corderre et les Montréalais de leur accueil chaleureux.
Je suis très heureux d’être de retour à Montréal, ville internationale qui incarne l’esprit des Nations Unies.
Je suis très reconnaissant à Montréal d’être la ville hôte d’une de nos institutions spécialisées, l’Organisation de l’aviation civile internationale, ainsi que de plusieurs autres entités des Nations Unies.
Ladies and gentlemen,
I am very happy to be here on my fifth visit as Secretary-General of the United Nations.
I am back to the beautiful city of Montreal – I am back because Canada is back.
This has been a very productive visit. I have had excellent meetings with senior Government officials, including Prime Minister [Justin] Trudeau.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Before I continue, let me say a word about the talks on Syria.
I welcome the decisions made by the International Syria Support Group to facilitate humanitarian access to besieged and hard-to-reach areas in Syria and on a nation-wide cessation of hostilities, which was agreed upon yesterday.
Tens of thousands of people there are in desperate need of life-saving aid, and the entire country urgently needs peace.
As the Secretary-General, [I am committed to make sure that] United Nations will continue to provide humanitarian life-saving assistance, while engaging and facilitating Syrian-led peace talks.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Yesterday, I had the opportunity to meet with a group of Canadian high school students. I was deeply impressed by their awareness of global issues – and their spirit of solidarity.
These young Canadians are carrying on this country’s proud tradition of multilateralism. Canada is a leader on the global stage – and Montreal is a leading city.
Mayor Coderre was at the historic Paris Climate Conference in December last year. I deeply appreciate his strong engagement and leadership. As Secretary-General, I feel very much [appreciative] to have such a dedicated and engaging Mayor along with the United Nations on global sustainable development and climate change.
Local initiatives, engagement and leadership are essential to address climate change. That is why I highly value Montreal’s first-ever Global Warming Adaptation Plan.
We are now preparing for the United Nations Habitat III conference on human settlements in Quito in October. Montreal helped the world to get ready by hosting a preparatory conference here last October last year.
This afternoon, I look forward to meeting the students and faculty at McGill University. I will speak about the importance of young people in tackling the major threats in our world. And I will hear from the students there about their aspirations and concerns.
Although my visit to Montreal and Canada is short, I am confident that with so much Canadian goodwill, we can strengthen the very important partnership between Canada and the United Nations for our common future.
Thank you. Merci.
Q: [Question on Syria]
SG: We are working for success and although the situation is very complicated, at least on three dimensions we have to address this Syria issue. First, most importantly, we have to help facilitate Syrian parties to get together, sit down together and discuss all pending issues – that’s what the United Nations has been doing since 2012.
I have appointed three special envoys, including my distinguished predecessor Kofi Annan, Lakhdar Brahimi and now Staffan de Mistura. Three special envoys have been working to facilitate this dialogue and it has been quite difficult as you have observed.
Second – while this fighting has been continuing for five years, and next month they are now entering into the sixth year - so many millions of people have been affected, so many people have been killed. Therefore, for the United Nations and the international community, it is absolutely important that we provide lifesaving humanitarian assistance. Because of the dire situation and dangerous security situation, it has been quite difficult but we are very committed – [as are] very committed [organizations of the] civil society, like Red Cross and Red Crescent and Médecins Sans Frontières, there are so many, so many organizations that have been risking their lives.
And thirdly – how to address ISIL, terrorism and extremism. While this situation has been continuing without a political process, political solution inside, this has provided the perfect breeding ground for extremists and terrorists. Now it has spread all throughout the country and all the countries in the region so we have to take all the measures to defeat and counter these terrorist attacks.
Those are the three dimensions that we have to work on – all should go hand in hand, in parallel. There is no such time to wait – we have to continue all the time, [all] at the same time. That is what the United Nations is doing but it’s not that easy – it is very hard.
Q: [On Syrian refugees in Canada]
SG: Considering the number of refugees and displaced people, who have fled their country and who have been affected and displaced inside, I think there should be some shared responsibility among the countries. Most of these 4.5 million refugees are hosted in Jordan, Lebanon, Turkey, Iraq and other countries. [Inaudible] But Turkey has been paying out of its own budget – almost $10 billion so it has reached an untenable situation and that is why the United Nations has been convening a donor conference last week in London. We convened a donor conference mobilizing more than $11 billion for Syrian refugees – and that is why I have been urging the leaders of Europe and those countries who have the capacity to help, including Canada.
I deeply appreciate and highly commend such compassionate leadership and generosity and sense of solidarity shown by the Canadian government by accommodating 25,000 [refugees] – this may be a small number but it’s a huge, huge solidarity.
I met some of them yesterday – about 40 people yesterday. They were very happy, very relieved knowing that their lives now are sure to be protected and their human dignity is now being supported. This is what I think the international community should show.
We are one humanity and we have to show shared responsibility – only through shared responsibility can we resolve this issue. And that’s why in September, I am going to convene a summit meeting at the United Nations to discuss global migration and refugee issues.
Off-the-Cuff on 12 February 2016