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Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon

Off-the-Cuff

Secretary-General's joint press conference at African Union [unofficial transcript]

Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, 31 January 2010

[with the Secretary-General were: B. Lynn Pascoe, Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs Alain Le Roy, Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations CHOI Young-jin, Special Representative for Côte d''Ivoire, Cheick Sidi Diarra, Under-Secretary-General, Special Advisor Said Djinnit, Special Representative for West Africa Ibrahim Gambari, Joint AU-UN Special Representative, UNAMID, Kim Won-soo, Assistant Secretary-General, Special Advisor Haile Menkerios, Assistant Secretary-General for Political Affairs Ahmedou Ould-Abdallah, Special Representative for Somalia Jeffrey Sachs, Special Adviser on Millennium Development Goals and Martin Nesirky, Spokesperson for the Secretary-General]

SG: Good afternoon, Ladies and Gentlemen of the media. It is a great pleasure to meet you again.

Thank you for coming.

I am pleased to be joined by my senior advisers and special representatives in Africa. I am sure that they will be in a better position to answer any specific questions you may have.

I know this is a crucial time for Africa.

After all, in just a couple of hours Ghana and Egypt will play in the final of the African Cup of Nations! This is a crucial time.

I wish both of them the best of luck.

I am sure you are focusing fully on the African Union until then?

The African Union summit does indeed come at a crucial time, involving vital areas of regional cooperation.

My visit and discussions here have focused on three broad challenges.

First, development. The 2015 deadline of the Millennium Development Goals is fast approaching. We must push as hard as possible to mobilize behind the MDGs. That is why I have designated this year as the year of development, with a focus on Africa. We will have a special summit in New York in September.

Today, I announced the creation of the MDG Advocacy Group -- eminent personalities from all walks of life [who will raise awareness] and sound the global call for action at the September Summit.

My hope is that the summit meeting will generate a concrete plan for advancing action. It is important that African leaders attend -- and participate actively between now and then. I have asked them to do so, and I am confident they will.

Climate change is a second important focus of my visit. I also discussed climate change and its impact on Africa, as well as the important role that African leaders can play in supporting the Copenhagen Accord.

In partnership with the African Union and the African Development Bank, we have established the African Climate Policy Centre right here at the UN Economic Commission for Africa. This will help strengthen capacities to develop National Action Plans and to fully engage in highly technical international climate negotiations.

The third priority is the critical issues of peace, security and justice. Over half of the elections occurring in Africa this year and next will take place in countries where the United Nations has a peace-keeping or peace-building role.

Elections in Sudan are just three months away, and there is, of course, the North/South referendum next year. The international community must work together in Sudan to ensure the full implementation of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement. We must work to maintain peace and stability in Darfur as well as the broader region.

Today, I shared my intention to appoint Mr. Haile Menkerios as head of UNMIS – here is Mr. Menkerios - at of the end of February with a view to facilitate the political process. As you know I have already appointed Mr. Ibrahim Gambari to head UNAMID. He has already taken up his position, together with AU. It is a joint appointment.

As we move forward, we recall that peace cannot be sustained without justice. This is something I stated very clearly this morning at a high-level meeting on Sudan hosted by the Chairperson of the African Union Commission.

At the meeting, there was consensus on several key issues. First, the sense of urgency – this is truly a critical year. Time is running out.

Second, there was a shared view to prioritize key areas – the election, the North/South referendum, and ensuring that preparations for the post-referendum period should start now.

Third, a broad view that much more must be done in the Darfur peace process.

Finally, an endorsement of our envoys on the ground.

I also urged African leaders to join me in the first review of the International Criminal Court to be held in May in Kampala, Uganda.

I am also putting a global spotlight on empowering women, expanding opportunities and ending violence.

This morning, I announced my intention to appoint Ms. Margot Walstrom, Vice-President of the European Commission, as the Special Representative of the Secretary-General to tackle sexual violence against women and children in conflict situations.

We must do all we can to end this horrifying abuse once and for all.

So we have a full agenda. Africa is one of my top priorities – and I will keep the attention and focus on the people and the enormous potential of this great continent.

From here, this afternoon, I leave for Cyprus. I am going in order to extend my personal support to the Cypriot-led talks to reunify the island. This is a process led by Cyprus. Leaders have made significant progress. Now they are at a critical juncture. I am going to urge the leaders to accelerate their efforts. The world is hoping for peace. The United Nations will provide all the support we can.

Thank you very much and I will be happy to answer your questions.

Q: Thank you, your Excellency.

Secretary-General, the Sudanese people used to have great expectations that the United Nations would support the unity of that great country so, what have the United Nations done to achieve these results?

Secondly, your call on African leaders to support the ICC is against the position here in Addis Ababa last year. Why does the United Nations always not take up issues in certain areas of the world like in Iraq and Gaza? Thank you very much.

SG: First of all, full and faithful implementation of the CPA is in the best interest of the Sudanese people and the countries in the region and even for African countries. They have taken a long time to agree to this Comprehensive Peace Agreement. The United Nations has been working very closely in strong partnership with the African Union to implement this CPA. First to bring peace and stability in Darfur, together with the African Union, we have deployed UNAMID forces. This is the first ever joint peacekeeping operation. All the peacekeeping operations except the one in Darfur [are] United Nations peacekeeping operations, but this one in Darfur is a joint United Nations-AU peacekeeping operation. We have paid great focus on that. We have been working very closely to see the CPA. The result of the CPA would be unity [inaudible] but of course the United Nations stands ready to respect the outcome. Whatever the outcome of this referendum may be we will respect. But ideally speaking, national unity should be the most ideal one. But it depends upon the south Sudanese. They have the right to choose and decide their own future. That is exactly why the African Union and the United Nations feel that we are now going through a crucially important time to prepare for, first of all election this year, just after three months, and referenda next year - one for South Sudan and in Abyei. We will continue to work very closely. That is the commitment and priority number one as far as the United Nations is concerned on African issues.

On ICC issues, you should know that the ICC is an independent judiciary institution with a mandate distinct from that of the United Nations. My position and the position of the United Nations has always been consistent, that peace and justice must go in parallel. Peace without justice cannot be sustained. Likewise, without peace and security, justice may not be achievable. Therefore these very important and fundamentally important principals should go hand in hand, and that is what the United Nations will continue to respect and cooperate with the international community.

Q: I have two questions. One, if you can be more specific, what will be some of the first tasks you will give Margot Wallstrom, what do you expect her to be able to do, and secondly, why did you choose her?

SG: That is basically one question!

First of all, this appointment comes at the request of the Security Council resolution. The Security Council has in the past taken many important resolutions regarding putting an end to violence against women, sexual violence against women. I have interviewed many very capable and distinguished candidates, and finally three names came to me for final interviews. I have interviewed three finalists who were successfully selected by the selection committee. It took several months. We paid great attention to this. I thought Ms. Margot Wallstrom could be the best candidate with her vast experience as Vice President of the European Commission, and also with a strong personal commitment and experience she has accumulated during her public service. I am quite convinced that she will bring a wealth of experience and a strong network. She is the one who would be quite active in promoting the importance of putting an end to violence against women and children and girls, particularly in conflict areas, and I am sure that she will be a very successful leader in promoting the world's political will to have a common effort to address this issue.

Q: I would like to ask, what kind of cooperation exists when it comes to the pressing challenges on the African continent with China?

SG: I am not here speaking for the Chinese Government, but the African Union maintains many strategic bilateral and multilateral partnerships. The most important would be the strategic partnership with the United Nations and also with some other regional organizations. At the same time, the African Union maintains many important bilateral relations with many important Member States of the United Nations. I know that the Chinese Government has been working very closely with most of the African countries and the Chinese business communities also have been putting much investment in many of the African countries to help them boost their economy.

China is one of the permanent members of the Security Council. For that, China has a great responsibility and interest in maintaining peace and stability and development and protection of human rights in Africa. Therefore it would be quite natural that China has such strong ties with African states.

Cheikh Sidi Diarra: Yes, I would like to add to what the Secretary-General said. A few words, dealing with social-economic affairs of the Secretariat of the United Nations. There is a formal forum of consultations between Africa and China. This has been existing for the last ten years. The last meeting of the forum was held in Sharm el Sheikh at the end of last year. It was attended by President [Hosni] Mubarak and the Prime Minister of China. Africa and China have a special relationship. They have a strategic partnership. They decide on a three-year working plan on which they deliver and they choose specific priorities in Africa, namely, economic growth, health, education, but also consultation in the context of fighting the impact of climate change in the continent. We have also ODA on the part of China, and foreign direct investment coming from China.

SG: Thank you very much, and that is a very good idea that our senior advisers will share the burden. I think that they have better answers.

I would like to introduce Professor Jeffrey Sachs who joined late. He is my Special Adviser on MDGs. He is well known to African leaders, so if you have any questions on MDGs, you may ask him. There are many Special Representatives who are dealing with specific issues - they may be able to answer your questions.

Jeffrey Sachs: I just wanted to add a word, because I was coming from [Malawi's] President [Bingu wa] Mutharika's address, and the remarks that the Secretary-General made this morning about the importance of agriculture – an area where the Secretary-General has been leading very, very powerfully in the last three years internationally - were taken out by President Mutharika just now, when he said that a core goal for him, and he called on the African Union, was to achieve that Africa could feed itself and that no child would go to sleep hungry or die of hunger by the year 2015. And this is an area I was very proud of, because the Secretary-General has been leading strongly on this, on the green revolution in Africa. This was exactly the terms I heard here. So it was a very important meeting for Africa and for the United Nations. Thank you.

Q: [inaudible on Zimbabwe and Somalia]

SG: I will have a brief answer on Zimbabwe, then I will ask Haile Menkerios who has been dealing with this issue and he may be in a better position to answer. On Somalia I will try to answer.

I do not agree with you saying that the United Nations has been silent on Zimbabwe. When there was a crisis in Zimbabwe, I have been meeting with President [Robert] Mugabe many times, many times - at the United Nations, at the Africa Union and elsewhere. I have been urging him to democratize and fully respect human rights and humanitarian concerns. We still have very serious concerns, particularly on the humanitarian situation. On political issues, the leaders of SADC have been engaged with President Mugabe, and I also have been trying to facilitate this. The United Nations is now closely monitoring and trying to help in humanitarian matters.

On Somalia, I am not here to speak for Mr. Jean Ping. It is true that there was no functioning government for the past 18 years. During the past two years there is a functioning government and they have established the TFG [Transitional Federal Government]. They have been actively coordinating and engaging with the international community. I convened an international donors'' conference for Somalia in April last year in Brussels, and we are continuing to work with them, particularly together with African Union and the European Union to strengthen the capacity of AMISOM and to train the Somalia national forces and to provide the necessary humanitarian assistance. Therefore we are very closely, heavily engaged in Somalia to help stabilize the peace and security and help the humanitarian situation there.

Maybe, Mr. Menkerios, you have something to add?

Haile Menkerios: Something to add to your question was that Zimbabwe says the Lancaster House agreement that was made between Britain and Zimbabwe was not respected and that the United Nations was silent. This is a bilateral agreement between Zimbabwe and Great Britain. Many, many countries in the world have bilateral agreements and implementation depends on the two of them – whether it is implemented or not is not the prerogative of the UN, which deals with multilateral issues which are within the purview of the organs of the UN, either the General Assembly or the Security Council. This is a bilateral agreement. If they have differences between the two of them it is not necessary for the UN to speak about that.

On the question of conflict between Zimbabweans, however, the UN has not been silent. The Secretary-General had on several occasions raised his voice saying that there has to be a democratic process there has to be dialogue human rights must be respected, and he even offered his good offices for dialogue between the parties to the elections. That is why he sent me as his Special Envoy. But the parties did not accept the good offices offer of the Secretary-General [inaudible] accepted SADC and the Secretary-General sent me also to work with SADC and we helped broker the agreement that formed the government.

Q: Good afternoon, Sir. I have two questions. My first one will take you back to Somalia. We just saw WFP suspend its supplies to Somalia recently. Could you say what the immediate plan is, and what the causes?

My second question is about Haiti. We see a couple of African countries offering help and land to settle in. Do you think that is a good thing, and do you think it might cause conflict in the end? And what do you think is the plan for Haiti what should happen to get Haiti back on its feet?

SG: I will ask Mr. Ould Abdallah. Will you please answer the first question on Somalia?

Ahmedou Ould-Abdallah: [inaudible]

SG: On the second question on Haiti, as I said briefly in my statement to the African Union Summit meeting this morning, the African people have a special heart towards the Haitian people - their culture, and the history is deeply rooted in Africa and the African people. I am very grateful for such swift and generous support from many African people for Haitian people, including some offers for resettlement in African countries. That is quite welcome, very moving, very generous.

I met yesterday with President Mutharika of Malawi. He told me that the people of Malawi have collected a lot of humanitarian relief items, including rice, and we are now going to discuss about the logistics to bring those humanitarian assistance items. It is not only Malawi. There are many. Most of the African countries have offered help.

This outpouring of assistance from the international community is again very moving. We are now trying to effectively coordinate so that these relief items and money could be delivered without any waste of time, without hindrance to the people who need this. There are still hundreds of thousands -300,000 - people who have been displaced, who have lost their homes, and there are so many people who are housed in the camps.

The enormity and the extent of the damage and destruction is just beyond description.

However, the United Nations has been playing a primary coordinating role, together with many international major actors to deliver, first of all, humanitarian assistance - water, sanitation, tents and shelter. We are moving our emergency humanitarian response to an early recover phase and toward mid and long term reconstruction. We need to provide substantial support to help them reconstruct their society.

In the last week of March we are going to have an international donors'' conference at the United Nations. That will provide a very important opportunity for the international community to express their support. Before that, the United Nations, World Bank, Inter Development American Bank, and IMF will conduct a post-disaster needs assessment and on the basis of that I am sure that we will have a better picture how much, and how, and when we can launch reconstruction support. I am working very closely with the major donor countries, and particularly with the United Nations Special Envoy, former US President Bill Clinton. We are now using all necessary resources and materials. Thank you very much.

Q: Monsieur le Secretaire-general [inaudible on Somalia]

SG: Merci de me poser un question en francais. Permettez moi de repondre en anglais.

This piracy issue has been a very serious issue, but I am very grateful to many international partners, particularly the European Union and many individual countries who have supported the international community's efforts to eradicate piracy and piracy acts in the sea off Somalia.

Not only has it hampered smooth international commerce, it has caused a lot of security concerns to the international community.

With such massive international community efforts, unfortunately we have not been able to completely eradicate these piracy acts. In fact, the piracy in itself may be some reflection of the situation on the ground in Somalia. Because of instability and poor economy and very dire socio-economic situation, it might help provide a certain breeding ground for piracy. Therefore, piracy should be addressed in a broader and comprehensive manner.

That is why it is important that the international community should help the Transitional Federal Government so that they can restore themselves by strengthening their national institutions and their capacity – first of all to restore peace and stability and address their socio-economic situations. Until then, I think they need the full support of the international community.

The United Nations has been working very closely, first of all together with the European Union and Americans and other major donors who have been providing necessary financial support, training the Somali national security forces and police forces, and providing financial support to AMISOM. At this time we believe that strengthening the capacity of AMISOM would be the most effective way. We would try to increase the presence of the United Nations and then at a further stage we will try to consider whether the conditions would be right for a peacekeeping operation in Somalia.

Q: [inaudible, in French, on Cote d''Ivoire and Democratic Republic of the Congo]

SG: First, Mr. Choi, and then Mr. Le Roy.

Choi Young-jin: [inaudible in French]

Alain Le Roy: [inaudible in French]

Q: [inaudible in French] on Western Sahara.

SG: My answer will also be very brief. You will share with me deep concern about the current situation in Western Sahara.

We are now considering convening a resumed negotiation session in the middle of February, next month. My Personal Envoy, Mr. Christopher Ross, has been intensively engaging with the parties concerned. As you may know, the informal consultations of August last year in Vienna have proved to be very useful. We are now going to build upon his consultations with the parties concerned, and if everything moves well there is a possibility that resumed negotiations will take place around the middle of February.

Thank you very much.