Secretary-General's press conference in the margins of the World Economic Forum
Davos, Switzerland, 27 January 2012SG: Thank you for your introduction. Good morning ladies and gentlemen, it is a great pleasure to see you again this year. The world has changed dramatically since last year's World Economic Forum. Revolution has swept across North Africa and the Middle East, bringing new freedoms, and democracy, but also new challenges as well. Issues of economic inequality and social justice have come to dominate the global debate. From North Africa to New York, Athens to Abidjan ? people everywhere are demanding change. They call out for dignity. They demand justice ? a better and more fair deal. They want jobs, opportunities and global markets that work for all people, not just elites. Ladies and gentlemen, just recently the world's population reached 7 billion. Five years from now, that figure will grow by 500 million. That means food, water, energy, jobs, sanitation for a half-billion people will be needed on top of current needs. This is a huge challenge. And we must rise to it. During the events of the Arab Spring, the United Nations called loudly on the region's leaders to listen to their people. I urged them to be bold ? to change, to reform, before it was too late. Some did, and benefitted. Others did not, and they have reaped the whole world. Today, I call on the leaders gathered in Davos to listen as well. I call on them to hear the voices of their people. And I urge them to do more to address their legitimate aspirations ? to do much more.
Two days ago at UN headquarters in New York, I presented to the Member States of the United Nations a comprehensive Agenda for Action for my second term as Secretary-General and also beyond. It is grounded in five imperatives ? five generational opportunities to create the future we want. Even though you must have already read them, I would like to just briefly repeat: first, by promoting sustainable development; second, by systematically privileging prevention – of conflict, human rights abuses and the impact of natural disasters; third, innovating on our core business of peace and security, humanitarian work, democracy and human rights; and fourth, by supporting nations in transition; and fifth, and by working with and for women and young people.
These are five areas where opportunity and need come together like never before. If we act together, we can wipe out deaths from five of the world's biggest killers over the next five years: malaria, polio, new pediatric HIV infections, maternal and neonatal tetanus, and measles. This unprecedented feat is truly possible. We can set the foundations for a new generation of sustainable development goals, building on the Millennium Development Goals, advancing our development agenda beyond 2015.
My meetings in Davos have focused on energy, health and the upcoming Rio+20 conference. Our goal is to mobilize global action and galvanize the power of global partnership. The CEOs and entrepreneurs at the World Economic Forum are key players.
That is why the United Nations has cut the ribbon on a new relationship with the private sector. We declare ourselves open for business. Businesses around the world are putting sustainability and social issues higher on their corporate agenda. We have promising work under way on energy access, health, water scarcity, human rights, gender equality and anti-corruption, much of it supported by the private sector. But we are far from the transformation needed. I urge the chief executives here in Davos – and everywhere – to join us.
There is a new business model emerging in the United Nations – where governments, private sector, finance, philanthropists and civil society come together to solve public problems. By working together, by dedicating our energies and resources to our common cause, we have the chance today to move the needle for generations to come. We can create the future we want. Thank you for your attention and I will be happy to answer your questions.
Q: It seems to me that we are facing a chaotic world after the crisis, especially in 2012 in terms of the economic situation, in terms of the political cooperation between different stakeholders. But I think the big theme of the winter Davos gives us a kind of viable solution, we have to find new models. So in terms of global governance, do you see any sign that we have found some clues of the new models in global governance? Thank you very much.
SG: Certainly, we are living in an era of uncertainty. The global economic growth has been slowing since the middle of last year, 2011, and I am afraid to say that all the predictions say that this trend may continue well beyond 2012, creating significant challenges for the wellbeing of millions, even billions of people around the world, particularly in the poorest countries. This is what we have to do. People have been discussing about how we have to address these challenges. The Davos Forum is a very good venue where government leaders, business CEOs, NGOs, come together and discuss about the new models and responses to these changing situations. That is why I am here and I am meeting a lot of government officials and business CEOs [to see] how we can strengthen our partnership, how we can work together in coping with this. You have seen the G20 meetings have been addressing these issues, but there were also concerns that the G20 countries have been dealing with their own economic problems. That is why I have been urging G20 leaders, that while I would welcome strongly for their stimulus packages to overcome this financial crisis, they should never lose sight over the plight and challenges of the developing world. Now this was the message that I have been delivering to world leaders. First we have to do all to save our planet, to revitalize our economy, to address all this social injustice, social inequality - these are the calls from many countries - both developed and developing world. You have seen occupy Wall Street, occupy Europe. These are coming from even the developed world now, not only from the developing world. That is why I am urging that we need to invest in sustainable development, that is why the UN takes sustainable development as a top priority in addressing these issues. There are many issues like climate change, food crisis, water scarcity, energy shortages and gender empowerment, oceans and cities - all these are inter-connected issues. And therefore in investing in sustainable energy, sustainable development, that will help revitalize economy, that will help protect this planet earth, that will spread the benefit of these modern technologies and development. That is my message. Thank you.
Q: Do you think the business, the companies, the entrepreneurs need to do more to take social responsibility?
The US has announced an oil embargo against Iran, how do you see these rising tensions?
The Secretary-General spoke about some of the Arab leaders needing to be more bold in their approach, can you talk a little about the boldness you would expect to see from President Assad in Syria?
SG: Business responsibility, what we call corporate responsibility, this has become one of the important agendas. I am meeting today with many business CEOs who are the members of the UN Global Compact. There is a crucially important role to be played by business communities. They have the capacity in terms of financial resources, they have the capacity to innovate technologies, and they have a social and moral responsibility to spread all these messages of social equity as business CEOs. That is why I am meeting them and I am urging them to be part of the United Nations drive to realize social sustainable development In fact, many companies, they have been investing a lot of money in renewable energy, in improving efficiency of energy - this is the important part. I believe that energy is central to everything we want to achieve, it is central to everything we live [for] in this world. That is one thing. This global compact has 10 principles: it is good management, including human rights and social responsibility, anti-corruption, transparency, accountability. All these are very good principles by which these business should operate. In these times of economic difficulties, it is all the more important that business leaders should lead by example in addressing these issues.
On Iran, I have been speaking out many times, publicly [and] privately. There are five Security Council resolutions already adopted, including four resolutions on sanctions on Iran. What is important at this time is two things: first of all, Iran should fully comply with relevant Security Council resolutions. All the Member States of the United Nations have responsibility, political and legal, to fully comply with Security Council resolutions. They have not done [that] yet. And they had to prove themselves that their nuclear development programme is genuinely for peaceful purposes, which they have not done yet. I am deeply concerned by the report of the most recent International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) report indicating that there is a possibility of a military dimension in Iranian nuclear development programmes which they say is peaceful. The onus is on the Iranian side. At the same time, I am urging E3+3 and Iran: engage in dialogue. There is no other alternative in addressing this crisis than peaceful dialogue - peaceful resolution through a dialogue.
On the Arab spring, last year, we have seen remarkable situations - many people came to the street, yearning for democracy, freedom and dignity. That is why I have made helping those countries in transition as one of my five generational opportunities, because this kind of situation does not come often. It comes once in a generation or so. If you look [at] history, beginning from the end of the Second World War, you will see almost once in a generation, [an] epochal, historical development, starting from democratization process in Eastern Europe in the late 1950s, and in 1960s and 70s in Asia, including my own country. And then you have seen the fall of the Berlin Wall, the collapse of the Cold War in late 80s and 90s - it has come after a generation. So we have to seize this moment, we have to help those people, because they have been oppressed so long without any way to defend [themselves or] appeal. Now they have come out, women and young people, they are yearning for these aspirations. That is why I have been urging leaders to listen very sincerely, carefully to their aspirations. I am going to continue to do that and I am encouraged that when it comes to the Syrian situation, the League of Arab States has made a resolution, trying to resolve this issue through political process. The Secretary-General of the League of Arab States and the Qatari Prime Minister are coming to the Security Council to brief them. I hope that the Security Council will be able to act in a coherent and same voice.
Q: Can you say more about the position of women, which is one of your five point agenda, whether you are disappointed with international support for UN Women, and how you go about pushing that agenda in places in the developing world, or even places like China?
SG: One of the top priorities during my first time as the Secretary-General was improving the political, social and economic status of women. Women hold up half of the sky. More than half of the population of the world are women. Therefore, fully utilizing the potential of women can accelerate in addressing all these difficult challenges, including current economic and financial crises. I believe that the least utilized resources of this world are women - women's potential. That is why the UN has established UN Women. There is a very strong support from the international community to UN Women. Supporting any agency dealing with women is not enough. There must be fundamental changes in the mindset of the world leaders and world community. Particularly, we need the political leaders to change their mindset, otherwise it will not change. That is why, as Secretary-General, I have been speaking out very strongly and I have been leading by example. You come to the United Nations and see how the UN has changed. There were very few senior women who were in the decision-making process. I have appointed quite a number of women in Under-Secretaries[-General] positions. These are the senior most positions. We have one Secretary-General, one Deputy Secretary-General, then most of the senior most [positions] are the Under-Secretaries-General. Now you have many. There are at least seven women who are now commanding UN peacekeeping operations and political missions in the field. There were none. There were only two or three in the 60 years of history. This is a huge change. But changes in the United Nations are not enough, they have to change all throughout the Member States of the United Nations. Often, I have been challenging the leaders publicly or privately: You must change your system to allow women to proceed and take more important decision-making [roles in the] process, particularly in political positions like becoming parliamentarians or ministers or ambassadors. But more importantly, I am focusing on political opportunities, so that they can be part of this changing [of] the systems. That I will continue, and I need the support of journalists. You are the connectors of the United Nations, for myself. These messages should be connected to all throughout the world, particularly to the leaders. And I count on your support. I thank you very much.