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Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon

Off-the-Cuff

Secretary-General's press conference at the African Union Summit

Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, 29 January 2012

SG: Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen.

It's good to be in Addis Ababa and with all of you, once again. This is my sixth African Union summit meeting, and it is a real privilege to be here for the first time in this beautiful new complex. This is a special press conference for me each year. I'm always joined by such a large team -- some of the best and brightest minds of the United Nations on Africa. I am impressed to be here with my senior advisors.

We have many Special Representatives and Advisors based in Africa, as well as top officials from Headquarters spanning all aspects of our work. We have in fact the most number of Special Advisers, Special Envoys and Representatives based in Africa and dedicated to African affairs.

This is one more reflection of the priority we put on Africa. We work with the leaders and people of this continent on all fronts, from development to peace and security to human rights. My speech today is focused on United Nations ever-deepening cooperation with the African Union. This issue was also front-and-centre in the Security Council earlier this month. Last year, Africa was the epicentre of an earthquake for social justice, democracy, respect for human rights and dignity. From Tunisia to Cote d'Ivoire, Egypt and Libya to South Sudan, the shockwaves are still being felt around the world.

At our press conference last year, I urged leaders to listen to the voices of their people. I called on them to take bold measures to reform before it is too late. Today, those changes are taking place, with or without those leaders. But we are only at the beginning. Our job, our obligation, is to be there for the people on the long road to lasting peace and prosperity, to dignity and justice. As I said this morning, different organisations with different membership and perspectives may sometimes have different approaches to solving problems. We saw some of this with respect to Cote d'Ivoire and Libya.

The real test is how we manage those differences. The bonds between the United Nations and the African Union are strong and growing stronger. As we look ahead, development will be critical. There is good news, growth in Africa is expected to almost double this year. But we also know that chronic unemployment and poverty continue to feed instability and fan tensions.

Challenges such as building a more prosperous economy, empowering people and fighting climate change are all linked. We cannot make progress in one without making progress in the others. That is why I have made sustainable development my number one priority for the coming years.

Tomorrow I look forward to receiving the report of my High-Level Panel on Global Sustainability. We will be joined by Panel co-chair President Zuma of South Africa here in Addis Ababa and President Halonen of Finland by video message. We will take those recommendations back with us and to the Rio+20 conference on sustainable development later this year. And I urge all the leaders today at this summit, to join me in this effort at the highest level.

Ladies and gentlemen,

Let me close with an issue of more immediate concern. The situation in Sudan and South Sudan has reached a critical point. It has become a major threat to peace and security across the region. It is the responsibility of the African Union and its international partners, including the UN, to intensify common efforts to resolve outstanding issues and build confidence between the two countries. I'm discussing these issues with the leaders of the African Union here in Addis, as well as other concerned leaders and I will raise these matters urgently with the Security Council when I return to New York.

The longer these issues remain unresolved the greater the tensions will grow. The international community needs to act, it needs to act now.

Thank you, now I'll be happy to answer yur questions.

Q: I have two very brief questions. I wanted to know what your reaction was to the outgoing AU chairman comments, the ICC being unjust and calling on African countries to consider establishing their own court. Because they see the ICC as unfair and targeting Africans. The Arab League chief is now heading to the Security Council to brief Security Council members on the Arab League plan. I'd like to know what you're reaction is to member states especially those member states who continue to veto these resolutions on Syria – Russia and China?

SG: For your first question, the International Criminal Court?that is an independent international judiciary organisation., completely independent from the United Nations and the African Union, that was established by the will of the international community. Therefore their work and their decision should be fully respected. The international community has an obligation, all Member States have an obligation to fully cooperate with the ICC. I believe that the ICC makes decisions and judgements on the basis of their professional integrity, on the basis of all the cases that are concerned [with]. On this Security Council debate on a particular situation like Syria or wherever, I'm not in a position to say anything about exercising a veto right. That is their decision, based on their own assessment of the situation.

Q: Regarding South Sudan, since you made that the last point in your speech, you had to beg governments for helicopters to go to Pibor recently during the violence there. I know that there have been some issues with Russian helicopters. Since you are here right now, have you spoken to any African countries or contributors regarding more helicopters or any more equipment to help in emergency situations like this?

SG: In my remarks today, in this press conference and during my statement this morning, I raised the seriousness of the issues in Sudan, and particularly the relationship between South Sudan and Sudan. This has to be resolved as soon as possible. I had a meeting with President Salva Kiir of South Sudan this morning, for quite a long time - fifty minutes or so - and I've been discussing this matter with Prime Minister Meles Zenawi of Ethiopia, President Kibaki of Kenya. But I'm going to continue to discuss this matter, because I believe that African Union leaders should play a more important role in addressing their regional issues. Of course the United Nations in a broader sense has responsibilities also, if and when a certain situation is a threat to international peace and security. First and foremost both leaders of South Sudan and Sudan, they have to resolve all the pending issues, the pending issues of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement, including the status of Abyei, sharing the wealth. We are deeply concerned about the humanitarian situation at this time. The situation in South Kordofan, Blue Nile is very worrisome because of the access problem. Tthe international community, UN, NGO and humanitarian workers haven't been able to have proper access there. The fighting between the tribal communities also creates a lot of humanitarian crises at this time. So I hope on these issues that African leaders will pay more attention while they are meeting in a summit form like this. This is good opportunity for them to talk and discuss more on the Sudan issues.

Q [translated from French]: One of the criticisms that is made of the United Nations is the fact that it is used today by Western countries, by powerful countries to intervene on the African continent like in Ivory Coast, Libya. What do you answer? And regarding the ICC, is Africa the only place where there are leaders to bring to justice? What about leaders in the Middle East?

SG: That is totally unjust, unfair criticism. If you look at what happened in Ivory Coast, Libya and many other places in fact, the leader who was defeated in elections [refused] to hand over power to the legitimately elected person, killing his own people. In Libya, again Qadhafi was killing a lot of people. In the end, the League of Arab States referred this case urgently to the Security Council. The Security Council after very careful deliberations on the situations have made the necessary relevant resolutions. In the case of Cote d'Ivoire, they specifically mandated the United Nations peacekeepers to neutralize the heavy weaponry systems which were killing people and even threatening the UN peacekeepers. In the case of Libya, by Security Council resolution 1973, they specifically mandated the international community to take all the necessary measures to protect the civilian population. Therefore any allegation, any criticism that the United Nations has been used to defend or to work for Western ideals -- that is totally not true.

Q: A couple questions on Sudan. It has been said by some analysts and you have said it now that it has reached a critical point and a failure to resolve it now could lead to a descent to full scale war. Is that your concern and how long do the parties have to resolve the issue? The second is you've mentioned it needs greater engagement from African leaders and the United Nations but there is high level engagement already from them. Could you be more specific on what you would like to see those leaders do and perhaps suggest some recommendations they could make that could help solve this dispute?

SG: That is also a great concern for me as Secretary-General. That's why I'm meeting as many African leaders as possible. We have at least four missions on Sudan and four Special Representatives devoted to Sudan issues, including UNAMID and there is another UN force, UNISFA, in the Abyei area. Therefore we have quite an investment in terms of resources and human power. Then we have the AU High-Level Implementation Panel, led by President Mbeki. We have Haile Menkerios who is now working as a Special Envoy. We have quite good systems and mechanism. But why then doesn't it make any progress? That's because of a lack of political will of both leaders, South Sudan and Sudan. President Salva Kiir, President Bashir, they should fully engage themselves and exercise their political will, making necessary compromise and [showing] flexibility. Particularly I'd like to urge President Bashir of Sudan to fully cooperate with the United Nations operations in Sudan. We have a serious impediment in the movement of United Nations peacekeepers in UNAMID and also in UNISFA because of lack of cooperation. And I urge him again to fully cooperate with the United Nations. That is the best way and shortest way to see the only resolution of these issues.

Q: I have two questions regarding Somalia and the UN deployment in Sudan. Can we say the UN is failing or has already failed in Somalia? Because before the UN was saying there was no peace to keep. Now that things are getting in order, can the UN step in to fill in the missing gap. There are suggestions that UNAMID which is the largest UN force anywhere yet is not providing its mandate as required in disarmament activity. Recently, the President of Chad got married in a political convenience marriage because UNAMID isn't providing what is necessary on the ground. What's your comment on that?

SG: On your first question on Somalia, the situation is still very volatile but I don't agree with you that that the United Nations commitment is failing. The United Nations is stepping up its efforts there. For the first time in seventeen years, the United Nations Office for Somalia, UNPOS, has deployed as of 24 January, just a few days ago, in Mogadishu. That is an expression of our strong determined will that the UN will be with the Somali people. As you may remember still, I visited Somalia last month, for the time again in 19 years as Secretary-General of the United Nations. That was also an expression of my own determined political will. We're working very closely. The international community is fully supporting the Somali Transitional Federal Government. We are going to have an international conference on Somalia, on 23 February in London. This evening, I'm going to have a meeting with President Sheikh Ahmed of Somalia, and we will discuss of course all the matters. I've been urging them to implement this Roadmap by the end of August. The international community believes that it will not be sustainable to further extend this Roadmap mandate and they have to have some unity, harmonious unity, among government and parliament, I am concerned that there is disunity in parliament too. We have to address Somali issues in a more comprehensive way. We have to address piracy issues, we have to provide opportunities, livelihood opportunities to Somali people so that they will be less motivated to go out to sea for piracy. This seems to be a very huge challenge, but the United Nations is leading the international community's efforts to help the Somali government. On UNAMID, as you may remember again, since I became Secretary-General, I have made Africa and the Sudan issue as the number one priority. I am sorry that we are still talking about Sudan and that his situation has not been much improved, but we are doing our best. As I said the UNAMID movement has been impeded by all sorts of restrictions by the Sudanese government. We are doing our best to provide necessary protection, to protect human life. There have been many important initiatives like Darfur peace process, which was signed a few months ago in Qatar. The implementation process has been lagging behind. That requires again political will. We have to have full cooperation with the Sudanese government.

Q: Thank you very much Secretary General. I have one question. What do you expect 2012 from United Nations, political economy and stability of Africa, particularly of East Africa, thank you very much.

SG: As I said, Africa has a good prospect of doubling its economic growth average. While the international community has been going through this very difficult financial, economic crisis, it has been mostly African countries that have been making good sound economic growth. But terms of totality, it is still in the African continent where most of the people [are] suffering from lack of economic development. That is why the UN has taken these Millennium Development Goals. And that is why this year I have reported to the General Assembly of the United Nations that we need to promote sustainable development. Most African countries are suffering from poverty, lack of sanitation, lack of proper health systems, and they are suffering from the impact of climate change and the food crisis. We have to address these issues in more comprehensively, in more integrated manner. Our first priority is on African development, sustainable development. I heard the leaders speaking that they are very much full of hope and expectation that one day Africans will be the ones living in a continent of potentiality and hope. That we have to realize, that's the vision of sustainable development. Tomorrow as I said, tomorrow morning with President Zuma of South Africa, President Halonen of Finland, I am going to receive their recommendations for sustainable development. All these recommendations are mainly focussing on African sustainable development.

Q: The question is that as Secretary-General of the United Nations, what was your biggest achievement in power in this position and what was your challenge as well. I thank you.

SG: The Secretary-General has in a sense broad responsibilities -- a lot of mandates, responsibilities. But the Secretary-General is just one person representing the United Nations. The United Nations as a whole, while we are broadly mandated for peace and security, development and human rights, we can act only when t[all] Member States supports.

And support from regional organisations like the African Union is also very important. That is why I have been participating in AU summit meetings six times. That is why the United Nations regards strengthening the partnership between the UN and African Union as one of the key elements of our success in implementing my responsibilities as Secretary-General.

But in addition to these regional organisations, there are many sub-regional organisations, and other key actors, leaders, whose support [is] essential to make my role as Secretary-General a successful one. Thank you.

Q: I just wanted to kind of add on what the lady said. I know you are doing a very good job, and earning a living as well because you get paid as Secretary-General. But, down there maybe the Third World and other parts of the world, people still think the UN is not doing business very well. They feel aggrieved. This is your second term. Do you think there is anything in your second term you are going to leave as a legacy or change things, or you think business will be as usual at the UN. Thank you.

SG: When you say business as usual, it is the last word in my dictionary. I really hate anybody, any organisation, performing their duties as “business as usual”. My staff must have heard hundreds of times that we should avoid doing business as usual. Again last week, before I came to Africa, I reported to the General Assembly about my five priorities for my second term. The first on my list is sustainable development. I have already explained to you, so I will not explain in more detail. The second one is prevention -- prevention of crisis, whether man made crisis or natural disasters. And thirdly, this is related to the core responsibility of the United Nations: to make this world a more secure and peaceful one. We have most of the peacekeeping missions based in Africa, operating in Africa. And fourthly I have made[a priority of] helping countries in transition. We have seen remarkable and unique situations happen last year. But people are still struggling these days. We have to help them so that they will be able to make their own future and the framework of their future. Lastly but not least, to promote gender empowerment and to work more for youth, young people. These are five priorities that I have set out as my action agenda. All of the Member States have appreciated my action agenda. That is a way to avoid any criticism that United Nations is doing business as usual. This will be far, far more ambitious and if you read my action agenda, you will understand how much the United Nations is committed. And again, as I said just two minutes ago, these action agendas can be implemented only when Member States fully support [them]. I need support from the African Union, I need support from the European Union, and I need support from many other countries in the world.

Q: Thank you. I have two questions. First is on Sudan. Both parties have taken unilateral actions, what do you think of these actions? And how do think it will affect the people in Sudan and South Sudan. And the second one is not related to Africa. What do you think of the suspension of the monitoring mission of the Arab League in Syria and how do you think you are going to find a solution for Syria next week, because Damascus has rejected an Arab League peace plan all the time? Thank you.

SG: On Sudan, I have explained at length, therefore I do not have much to add. Two leaders-- they are the directly concerned parties. They have to think about their own countries' future. That is their responsibility. It is not other leaders or other countries. But broadly, the African Union and leaders in Africa also have political responsibility to help them and facilitate those two countries to mediate and facilitate the resolution of the process. I have been urging the two leaders to demonstrate their political will, to make necessary decisions, because I believe that all the options are now known. Both sides know which are the options, what is on the table. It is a matter of choice. They have to make a choice, so that they can build their own future, for a better future. On Syria, I was also concerned about the League of Arab States decision to suspend the monitoring mission. But at the same time I know that this is a decision after careful consideration among the member states of the League of Arab States. What is important at this time is not the monitoring mission. The monitoring mission may be helpful is assessing the situation. But even before the monitoring mission goes there, the Syrian leadership should take firm action, decisive action at this time, to stop the violence. When it comes to violence I think that all the violence must stop. Particularly, President Assad as the leader of Syria, he has much more important responsibility to resolve this situation and engage in political dialogue. And first and foremost, he must stop immediately the bloodshed.