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Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon

Off-the-Cuff

Secretary-General's remarks at press conference after meeting with regional leaders of Central America [with Q&A]

Guatemala City, 16 March 2011

Good afternoon ladies and gentlemen,

We have just had a very productive discussion with leaders of this region.

I thank all the regional leaders for putting such priority on this meeting.

They made time in their busy schedules to demonstrate how much they value the United Nations. They showed their shared commitment to our common efforts.

The United Nations highly values cooperation with regional organizations as envisioned in the Charter of the United Nations.

I briefed the leaders on unfolding events in the Arab world and North Africa, and especially on Libya.

Arab leaders must heed the voices of their people.

There is no place for violence. Excessive force against non-combatants, the civilian population, is a crime against humanity under international law. Those responsible will be held accountable.

We also spoke about Haiti. I thanked the leaders of the region for their response to the earthquake, and briefed them on our response.

The population of Haiti's camps is half what it was immediately after the crisis last year.

People are being fed, more than a million people a day.

There are signs that the cholera epidemic is finally coming under control.

And recovery and reconstruction efforts are gathering momentum.

The rubble is being reused, recycled or disposed of at an increasing rate.

I also expressed the hope and expectation that the run-off presidential and legislative elections will proceed smoothly in a credible, objective and democratic way.

We all want to assist in reconstruction and development in Haiti. For that, the country needs a stable and effective government.

The main part of our discussion was on how Central American governments are working to consolidate democracy.

We discussed the progress that has been achieved since the peace accords.

We also discussed the challenges facing the region, especially tackling organized crime and impunity.

The United Nations initiative against impunity in Guatemala has generated considerable interest from other countries who would are considering adopting the model.

Crime is not just a national issue. Organized crime is a regional phenomenon that needs a regional response alongside national efforts.

We look forward to the International Conference on the Regional Security Strategy for Central America and Mexico, which will be held here in June.

The region also faces the challenges of poverty and inequality. We discussed how fiscal reform and increased investment in state services can help.

Finally, we discussed climate change and sustainable development.

This region is among the world's most vulnerable.

Each hurricane season brings renewed suffering.

Each country needs national prevention and preparedness strategies to cope with inevitable impacts.

The United Nations stands ready to continue to assist all these issues: peace, justice and human rights poverty reduction education food and nutrition security women's and children's health and increasing resilience to economic shocks and natural disasters.

Once again, I thank the regional leaders who came today for their engagement.

Thank you very much and muchas gracias.

Q: You mentioned that you remain concerned about persistent impunity in the country. Does this mean that Guatemala has not demonstrated progress to eradicate it? Do you consider that two years more in the mandate of the International Commission against Impunity in Guatemala (CICIG) is a sufficient period to achieve this goal?

SG: In close coordination with the United Nations and particularly with CICIG, the Guatemalan Government has made tremendous improvements in fighting against impunity. The UN Charter in principle does not allow any impunity. The perpetrators of crimes must be brought to justice and I have strongly encouraged the Government of Guatemala to strengthen its domestic judicial systems. This afternoon, I am going to announce some additional financial support to be provided by the Peacebuilding Fund. And I hope that with this additional support, not only will this strengthen CICIG's performance, but that the Government of Guatemala's operational capacity in addressing and establishing rule of law and bringing an end to impunity will be further strengthened. In that regard, I would hope that the Government also appoints qualified, distinguished lawyers and judges and prosecutors to their domestic judicial organizations.

Q: During the meeting today, was there any group request to replicate the model of CICIG in other nations or any specific proposal concerning the fight against narco-trafficking in Central American countries?

SG: I know that there are some countries in the region who wanted to have a cooperation of similar organization like CICIG in their own countries. I think this is a good initiative, to establish the rule of law and again bringing an end to impunity. The UN will consider their offer in close coordination with the countries concerned.

Q: Regarding the situation in Libya, several governments have urged the Security Council to enforce a no-fly zone over the country. What is the UN position on this and will the Security Council enforce the no-fly zone?

SG: Since the beginning of this situation in Libya, I have been urging the leaders in Libya and in the region that they must protect the civilian population and they must ensure the free expression of their will, as well as ensuring the right of assembly and the right to freedom of expression. These are the fundamental principles of democracy. Killing unarmed Libyan people who are asking for genuine freedom is totally unacceptable. And as I said, killing unarmed civilians is a crime against humanity and those perpetrators should be brought to justice.

The Security Council has taken very important sanction measures two weeks ago and they are now discussing further measures, including a no-fly zone. I understand that even at this time, the Security Council is very seriously engaging in consultation as to what kind of measures and how this no-fly zone could be adopted. As you know, the League of Arab States has recommended that the United Nations Security Council should adopt the no-fly zone. It is up to the members of the Security Council as to what kind of a course of action will be taken.

As the Secretary-General of the United Nations, I have appointed a Special Envoy, Mr. [Abdul Ilah] Khatib, who is a former Foreign Minister of Jordan and who knows the situations in the region. I dispatched him on Monday to Libya. He had already engaged in dialogue with the Libyan leadership and he has been urging that the violence must stop. There must be an end to hostilities. I have also spoken to the Libyan Foreign Minister yesterday here in Guatemala and I have urged strongly that there must be a cessation of hostilities and this killing of people must stop. I am going to continue in parallel with the Security Council's further course of action.

Q: I would like to know your views with regard to the crisis that has ensued in Japan after the earthquake last week, in particular the nuclear emergency that has arisen and that has led the European Union to qualify the situation as “apocalyptic.”

SG: I know the whole world is deeply concerned about the possible nuclear safety problems in the Fukushima nuclear reactors. I have spoken with the Director General of the IAEA [International Atomic Energy Agency], Mr. [Yukiya] Amano, two days ago, and I spoke with the Prime Minister of Japan this morning here in Guatemala. I have been assured that they will take all possible measures and efforts to bring this crisis under control. I am, as you are, very much deeply concerned, and I am going to discuss this matter on an urgent basis after this press conference when I will speak with Director General Amano again. I am told that he is heading to Japan to work together with the Japanese Government officials to address these nuclear issues.

What I am told by the Japanese Prime Minister and Director General Amano is that the radioactivity has risen significantly and they are now taking all possible scientific and technical measures. I leave it to them, and as Secretary-General, I will continue to monitor and discuss the situation with the IAEA and the Japanese Government, as well as with some other key Member States who have the technology to help address this crisis. But I may have some more details when I talk with Director General Amano this afternoon here in Guatemala.

In addition to that, you have seen the devastation in Japan due to this earthquake and subsequent tsunami. I have discussed this matter with regional leaders this afternoon in Guatemala. All of these natural disasters which we are experiencing - which we have experienced in Haiti, Pakistan, and Chile - highlight the importance of disaster risk preparedness. The United Nations has taken the initiative since 2008. I have launched a global camp, a global initiative, to raise awareness of [the need for] disaster risk reduction. We have seen some success stories in some countries where many human lives and properties have been saved. Japan is very prepared for disasters. Even with such preparedness, this natural disaster, the sheer magnitude of the earthquake and tsunami, devastated many cities and took many people's lives. This is quite sad and troubling, but I am convinced that with the whole international community's support and cooperation and with the determination of the Japanese people, they will be able to overcome this crisis.

Q: I am from a country that has no army [Costa Rica]. Some months ago, an area of the country was invaded by Nicaraguan forces. This demonstrated the lack of effectiveness of international bodies. Does the Organization of American States have knowledge of this situation and what does it plan to do to protect our marshlands and our country?

SG: I know that the there is tension between Costa Rica and Nicaragua. All of the problems, all of the differences of opinions should be resolved peacefully through dialogue. I am encouraged that the International Court of Justice [ICJ] has recently rendered measures which were accepted by the two governments. I sincerely hope that with this ICJ judgment, the two countries will continue to engage in dialogue so that they will be able to resolve this issue peacefully. I again urge the two leaders to engage in dialogue.


Off-the-Cuff on 16 March 2011