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Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon

Off-the-Cuff

Secretary-General's remarks at New Delhi press conference [scroll down for Q&A]

New Delhi, India, 27 April 2012

Thank you very much for this opportunity.

I am very pleased to be in India.  This is my third trip as Secretary-General of the United Nations.

Visiting India is always a homecoming for me.

New Delhi was my first diplomatic posting exactly 40 years ago. I started my first diplomatic service here in Delhi in 1972.

Every time I come back I see amazing progress.

This country proves the power of unity in diversity.

When India succeeds, it shows the way forward for other countries.

Last month’s announcement that India is polio-free gave hope to the world.

I had the chance to congratulate Health Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad on this accomplishment during our talks yesterday.

Today, I discussed India’s role in the world and the region with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh; Foreign Minister S. M. Krishna; Speaker of Lok Sabha, Meira Kumar; and Chairperson Shrimati Sonia Gandhi of the United Progressive Alliance.

I also had the privilege of speaking at Jamia Millia Islamia University.

I am here to thank the Government and people of India for their strong support for the United Nations’ goals and objectives and for their warm welcome and hospitality.

This country is a top contributor to United Nations peacekeeping, the UN Democracy Fund and is actively pursuing South-South cooperation.

Tomorrow, I will go to Mumbai to highlight the important work India is doing to promote women’s and children’s health. I will visit a number of facilities to see for myself what progress is being made, and to speak to the staff and patients about their concerns.

I will be joined by the Director-General of the World Health Organization, Dr. Margaret Chan; the Executive Director of the UN Population Fund, Mr. Babatunde Osotimehin; the Executive Director of UNAIDS, Mr. Michele Sidibe; the Deputy Executive Director of [the United Nations Children’s Fund] UNICEF, Ms. Geeta Rao Gupta; and My Special Envoy, Mr. Ray Chambers, for Malaria.

Together, they represent perhaps the most senior delegation of UN health officials on a visit by a Secretary-General. 

We are here in India to highlight your progress and to make a strong push for the health of all people in this great country. We want to engage India even more in our global campaigns.

That is my larger message here.  As much as India is doing, I believe it can play an even greater role on the public stage. 

India has lessons for many other countries.

As a current member of the Security Council of the United Nations, India is a leading voice on issues of international peace and security.

As one of the most successful emerging economies, India has relevant experiences to share with developing countries through South-South cooperation and can continue to help lead as we prepare for the Rio+20 United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development.

As the world’s largest democracy, India can share its success in democratization with the countries of the Middle East, North Africa and elsewhere. 

As a diverse, pluralistic society, India can show the way to building inclusive, tolerant societies.

As I said in my university address and in my meetings with government leaders ­– we value the cooperation between India and the United Nations in the area of human rights and look forward to strengthening our efforts as India works to tackle its own challenges.

Before I take your questions, let me touch on a few more issues.

First, the situation in Syria.  I am gravely alarmed that despite repeated commitments to end violence, the killings continue without relent.  Shelling and explosions in residential areas go on.  UN Military Observers report of heavy weapons in population areas.  This is in clear contravention to what the Syrian government has already agreed.

The continued repression of the civilian population is totally unacceptable.  It must stop immediately. The Government of Syria must live up to its promises to the world. 

Now, turning to regional issues.  From here, I go to Myanmar.  I am visiting to recognize the significant progress that has been made on democratic reforms and national reconciliation efforts.  

The international community is responding positively, but much more needs to be done.  The UN is committed to helping at this critical time and ensuring that the momentum continues.

Another important regional issue is the post-conflict situation in Sri Lanka.  Both India and the United Nations have been consistently urging the government and other stakeholders in Sri Lanka to address the important issues of accountability and political reconciliation.

And finally, I am pleased by the continuing efforts to improve relations between India and Pakistan.  This has broader significance for the region and for global peace.  I realize that there are many outstanding issues, but I encourage the leaders of both countries to persist in these efforts.

Thank you very much. I am happy to take your questions.

Q: It appears that North Korea is preparing for a third nuclear test.  I am wondering what your concerns are about this, given that they did have a rocket launch a few weeks ago and it was a failed attempt. There are plans they say in the coming days for a nuclear test of some sort.

SG: The Security Council, in its recent presidential statement after the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea - DPRK - has launched the missiles, what they called the ‘satellites,’ that is a serious threat to international peace and security.  The Security Council, in its Presidential statement, and myself, in my statement as Secretary-General, have clearly urged them not to take any further provocative actions, including nuclear tests.  I sincerely hope that the authorities of DPRK will heed the calls of the international community to promote peace and security in the Korean Peninsula.

Q: In your meetings today with the External Affairs Minister and the Prime Minister, the issue of terrorism came up and you spoke about efforts by the UN to start a way of tackling terrorism. You also spoke about funding with them.  The Afghanistan-Pakistan issue, as India said - as the Indian Prime Minister said and as the External Affairs Minister told you - is a cause of serious concern in India.  Would you like to talk about that and what you think the UN can do about it, particularly in the case of all those people who can be put on the lists but there are one or two countries who are opposing it?

SG: Terrorism cannot be justified under any circumstances, for any justifications, any reasons.  It should be eliminated and stopped.  The United Nations has been [making] all of its possible efforts, together with the international community, to prevent and stop, to fight international terrorism.  The United Nations General Assembly, on 9 December 2006, has adopted a comprehensive counter-terrorism strategy and the Secretariat has also established a Task Force. 

We are comprehensively addressing this issue. In reality, unfortunately we have been experiencing and suffering from many such terrorist activities.  India was also targeted, particularly during the Mumbai terrorist attacks.  I hope and I urge that all the perpetrators of these crimes and the terrorists should be brought to justice as soon as possible. 

I understand that the Indian and Pakistani Governments have been discussing this matter very seriously - how to bring this matter to a close for a better and improved relationship.  This is important.  In any case, the international community must be united in addressing these issues.  It cannot be done by any single country. There should be regional and international cooperation.  This terrorism unfortunately has become a trans-border crime.  We have to be united to address these issues.  The United Nations will continue to lead this campaign.

Q: My question is on Syria.  What do you think of the immediate next steps forward, in the light of the violence that you yourself outlined in your statement, in the light of Kofi Annan’s report before the Security Council earlier this week?  Once again, there are a number of countries which are now questioning whether his plans for Syria can now actually succeed.

SG: How to work together with the members of the Security Council, as well as other stakeholders of the international community, in addressing the current unacceptable situation in Syria has been one of the top priority agenda [items] which I have discussed with the Prime Minister and the Foreign Minister and other leaders. 

First and the foremost, the Syrian Government must stop violence.  I have conveyed my message to President Assad and I know that Joint Special Envoy Kofi Annan also has been doing [so], that they must exercise maximum restraint in this situation.  There were two clear and firm Security Council resolutions and they have authorised the deployment of a 300-member supervision mission. Then they have to abide by all these resolutions, and first, stop killing; and secondly, engage in inclusive political dialogue for a political resolution reflecting the wills and aspirations of the Syrian people. 

Too many Syrian people have been killed and Syrian people have been waiting too long. Syrian people have been suffering too much, too long.  This has reached an unacceptable, intolerable stage. Now, as Secretary-General, together with Kofi Annan, our priority is to accelerate the deployment of the supervision mission of 300 people.  With the deployment, I hope this will change the dynamics on the ground, but even before the arrival of this supervision mission, they must stop violence so that humanitarian assistance can be delivered to many people.  At least one million people have been affected by this situation. There are tens of thousands of refugees who have fled to neighbouring countries - Lebanon, Jordan, Iraq and Turkey.

The United Nations has been mobilising all possible resources through the former United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees and UNDP, UNICEF and the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, OCHA, and all are now being mobilised, working together with the Red Cross and Red Crescent in Syria.  I sincerely hope and urge again Syrian authorities to fully cooperate and first, stop killing and fully cooperate with this Security Council plan and Kofi Annan’s six-point plan.

Q: How do you view the current situation in Afghanistan and do you see a role for the United Nations in Afghanistan after the withdrawal of US troops in 2014?

SG: The situation in Afghanistan is a source of concern, as we have seen in the recent multiple attacks by Taliban against diplomatic and international missions in Kabul and in other different cities.  That has given some strong sense of alarm and concerns on whether this international alliance’s troop withdrawal by 2014 will give enough security to the Afghan people.  I believe that this will be a very important subject of discussions in a NATO summit meeting in Chicago next month, in which I will be participating. What is important at this time is that while the international alliance will be moving towards a 2014 deadline to withdraw their troops, then they should be fully engaged with the Afghan Government to strengthen the capacity of Afghan national security forces and police forces.

At the same time, there should be a long-term socio-economic development plan so that the Afghan people can stand on their own feet. This is quite important. The United Nations has made it quite clear that while the ISAF and NATO forces will be responsible for transition in  the military dimension, the United Nations will be responsible for transition in civilian areas.  At the same time, they should be a reconciliation process going on.  I am afraid that these reconciliation talks which barely started must have been affected by these recent security concerns.  Reconciliation should also continue.  There are several countries, neighbouring countries, particularly Pakistan, and also India is neighbouring country who can play an important role and there should be full cooperation and also improved cooperation between and among regional countries to help Afghanistan so that it can have a smooth transition.

Q: India has recently tested an inter-continental ballistic missile, it has acquired a nuclear submarine. How do you view the emergence of India as a stronger military power? Secondly, India has been holding the presidency of the Security Council as a non-permanent member. How do you see its performance and its role?

SG: On your first question, I encourage India to pursue a bilateral and multilateral dialogue, with nuclear-weapon-processing States, to permanently eliminate the threat posed by nuclear weapons. As I said before, this could include verifiable and non-discriminatory controls of missiles and other nuclear weapon delivery systems. I’d like to remind you that there are relevant United Nations Security Council resolutions, including number 1887, which was adopted in 2009, which re-affirmed that the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and their means of delivery constitute a threat to international peace and security. Again, dialogue would serve to reduce the potential for tension and [provide] incentives for engaging in arms race.

And I’ll answer your second question. I’m very much grateful to the Indian Government’s and the Indian delegation’s activities in the Security Council as a non-permanent member of the Security Council. They have shown great leadership in addressing all peace and security issues and also human rights issues, particularly during a time when there has been a dramatic transformation in Arab countries through the Arab Spring. The Indian delegation has shown such great wisdom and resilience, as well as very principled positions in addressing these issues. I am looking forward to continuing working with the Indian delegation. 

Q:  Mr. Secretary-General, in the past decade or so, the UN has not had as much success as the world expected it to in solving the world’s problems. This is because you represent an old world order trying to deal with 21st century problems with a 20th century set-up. Power has shifted to Asia, Africa and Latin America. But that change is not reflected in the UN system. During the rest of your time at the UN, how do you rate the chances of the UN system being changed and being expanded in both sectors, in both permanent and non-permanent categories?

SG: Clearly we are living in a rapidly-changing world, in terms of power politics, in terms of the socio-economic field, in terms of global communication, ICT.  So, old models do not work at this time. Doing “business as usual” will not bring us anything in addressing many global challenges. We are facing many difficult global challenges. Not a single challenge can be dealt with by any single country, however powerful, however resourceful, a country may be. That is why the whole international community, the Member States of United Nations should be united and should have a common vision and should have a commitment to address these issues altogether.

I am quite encouraged that these days, Asian countries are rising and speaking out and taking a greater role. There are many Asian countries - particularly emerging powers like China, India, Indonesia, there are many other countries - whose economic power and whose political profile have been rising. Their ideas and views have been reflected in our common discussions. It is not only Asia. Africans, they are showing their potential. African countries, despite this economic crisis worldwide, have been showing steady economic growth at an average of five to ten per cent.  This is quite encouraging.  Therefore, if we utilize this full potential and changing dynamics, I think we will be able to address all these issues.  What is important at this time is that we should [ensure that] political stability, economic development and human rights [are] sustainable. That is why I am emphasizing this Rio+20 summit meeting where we will address sustainable paths. We have to put this world on a sustainable path. There are so many serious issues: climate change; food security and the nutrition crisis; water scarcities and energy shortages; gender empowerment; oceans are deteriorating and the maritime environment; urbanization issues; and global health – HIV/AIDS, malaria, tuberculosis, and there are many human killers we have to eradicate. The United Nations is very much committed to make this Rio + 20 summit meeting a great success for humanity. We need all the countries to participate in this.

Q: Do you believe that the UN system will become irrelevant and other countries should go in for forums such as BRICS, G20 and others?

SG: BRICS and G20 - they are an important group of countries. What is important at this time, while we appreciate the G20’s role in addressing and overcoming economic crisis, and we also appreciate the emerging powers of BRICS. But all of these resources and powers and commitment should be united all together for common development and common sustainable development. That is important.

Never in the past has multilateralism been emphasized as much as it is now. During the Cold War era, there were superpowers and a Cold War mentality and systems. Now, all 193 Member States should be united. I am encouraged that the importance of multilateralism – where the United Nations is a centre of this multilateralism - has been and is being emphasized. That is where the United Nations stands in addressing many global challenges. India can play a very important role.

Q: What is the UN position on Kashmir as of now?

SG: I hope all these issues will be addressed peacefully, without violence, to reflect the will of the people there, without resorting to any violence and also fully respecting human rights and dignity.

Q: India and growth of India has fallen below seven per cent. The Standard and Poor rating has also put India’s growth in a negative perspective. When you met the Prime Minister today, did you tell him on reforms and also did you talk about rising corruption in India?

SG: India has been [recording] very impressive economic growth and very remarkable progress. India is a country - multi-language, multi-religious, multi-ethnic and [with] a huge population of 1.2 billion. Those are serious challenges. But India has shown such great wisdom and leadership in uniting all these people and different elements. That is what I call unity among diversity. You have been making successful, 11th  5- year economic plan, which has been carrying India to where you are standing now.

At the same time, I know that there are still many challenges. There are serious disparities between rich and poor, and there are still many people who do not have access to proper services, and all these basic-human services and support should be given to all the people. India is clearly a middle-income country. This is quite encouraging. You have been making good progress, you are strengthening economic cooperation through South- South [cooperation]. You have been providing $5 billion for African development .This is a great and remarkable contribution. All in all, India is now rising in world politics, world economics, and you are the world’s largest democracy. I sincerely hope that these kinds of good examples will be emulated by many, many countries in the world. That is my main message now.

Q: India has been pushing for a UN peacekeeping-like force, an independent force run by the UN which can help in the matter of Somali pirates and other piracy groups affecting the ships in that part of the region. Do you think this is a workable idea, and is the UN really working on it?

SG: I have discussed this matter with the Prime Minister and Foreign Minister. I am very sorry that many Indians have been kidnapped by the pirates off the coast of Somalia. This is not only the issue of Indians. We have to fight this piracy.

There have been many ideas coming up on how to address piracy - in a broader sense, how we can make our peacekeeping operation more mobile and more effective in addressing peace and security matters. There has been the idea of a stand-by arrangement, encouraging Member States to make some stand-by arrangement ready, so that any time when the United Nations needs to deploy peacekeeping operations, they could be deployed… When it comes to Somalia, there have been many, many countries, including India, who have been providing naval support, providing naval ships. More than 40 naval ships are operating in that area. But it has not been proven effective. This piracy has been continuing despite the international community’s efforts.

Therefore, at this time, we have to address this issue in a comprehensive way.  First, we have to reduce any incentives for Somali young people who would be motivated to go out to seek piracy. If we give them livelihoods, provide socio-economic development, incentives so they will be poor but they will be more important in their own country. Second, we have to find out some ways and means on how to handle those pirates. Once they are arrested, there is a serious legal and political problem to bring them to court, to justice. Who will be responsible for that and how can the international community have more coordinated operations in the sea, off the coast Somalia? Those are the issues that have been discussed many times by the international community. But unfortunately we have not been able to find any formula at this time. This will be our continuing subject for discussions.


Off-the-Cuff on 27 April 2012