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Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon

Off-the-Cuff

Secretary-General's press encounter following Security Council meeting and consultations on the Democratic Republic of the Congo

New York, 5 March 2013

SG: Good afternoon, Ladies and Gentlemen.

Please excuse my voice.

I just briefed the Security Council on my special report on the Democratic Republic of the Congo, including the Framework Agreement reached nine days ago in Addis Ababa, where I joined the leaders of 11 African countries for the signing ceremony.

Let me reiterate two points:

First, the approach to the situation that I am proposing has a number of important features crucial to peacemaking in Africa’s Great Lakes region.  It brings together all the relevant actors.  It includes innovative oversight mechanisms.  And it provides for credible enforcement.

Second, we are under no illusions about the difficulties ahead.  Heavy fighting in the past days in North Kivu involving national troops and armed groups is only the latest reminder of the fragility of the situation.

The United Nations has done its utmost to broker an agreement that can finally break the horrendous cycles of violence.  The onus is now on the signatories to show strong, consistent and sustained leadership.

The United Nations will serve as a guarantor of the agreement, together with the African Union, the Southern African Development Community and the International Conference on the Great Lakes region.  I will also soon appoint a Special Envoy.

Let me turn now to some other highlights of my trip, from which I returned two days ago.

I had productive discussions in Dubai and Abu Dhabi, including with the Vice President and Prime Minister of the United Arab Emirates.  I also toured the International Humanitarian City, used by the United Nations and others as a logistics hub from which we provide quick relief to millions of people in need around the world.  Among the beneficiaries at the moment are Syrian refugees and displaced people, whose numbers are rising dramatically. I was very much impressed by the way this International Humanitarian City was operating to deliver immediately, whenever there is a need, to places where it is needed, mostly now to Syrian refugees and displaced people.

In Vienna, I attended the Alliance of Civilizations forum.  I have been encouraged to see rapidly growing engagement in this initiative, which is crucial to solving so many 21st century challenges.

While in Vienna I met with Austrian President Heinz Fischer and Foreign Minister Michael Spindelegger, and held a number of other bilateral meetings.

In Switzerland, I brought together the leaders of 15 peacekeeping operations and 15 special political missions.  Altogether, more than thirty Representatives and Special Envoys participated. We discussed how to strengthen our work at a time of growing demands and declining resources.

I had a long meeting with Joint Special Representative, Dr. Lakhdar Brahimi, about the crisis in Syria.  We believe there is a small but important window of opportunity.  Both the Government and the Opposition have indicated a willingness to engage in a political dialogue.  The United Nations stands ready to facilitate such a process.

This is the only way forward.  The humanitarian situation is catastrophic. War crimes are being carried out with alarming frequency.  The impasse in the Security Council remains deeply disturbing and difficult to understand.  All those with influence must do their part to pursue a political solution.

In Geneva, I attended a Human Rights Council forum aimed at ensuring that human rights figure prominently in the post-2015 development agenda.  I also delivered the annual Sergio Vieira de Mello lecture.  This year is the tenth anniversary of the Baghdad bombing where de Mello and another [21] UN staff were tragically killed.

Let me now say a few words about yesterday’s election in Kenya.  As you know, I spoke to President [Mwai] Kibaki last week.  I have been encouraged thus far by the largely peaceful and orderly process, despite some incidents of violence and some technical problems.  We have all seen the inspiring images of Kenyans turning out in large numbers, with great patience, to exercise their democratic rights.

I know the Kenyan people are now eagerly awaiting the final results.  I appeal to them – and in particular the candidates, political leaders and their supporters -- to maintain the same calm and patience, to allow the electoral commission to complete its tallying of the votes, and to refrain from any pronouncements that could undermine its authority or cause tension.  A peaceful, credible conclusion to the election is within Kenya’s reach and would be a significant step for Kenyan democracy and stability.

Finally, I am sure you have noticed the extraordinary enthusiasm filling the halls of the United Nations this week.

The Commission on the Status of Women is holding its largest-ever gathering devoted to ending violence against women.  A critical mass is here in force – Governments bringing specific commitments; civil society groups bringing energy and ideas. 

A new movement involving millions of people is taking shape before our eyes, saying “no” to silence, “no” to stigma, “no” to sexual violence in conflict -- and “yes” to equality and empowerment.  I am with them, 100 per cent.

Thank you for your attention.

Q: I would like to ask you about this morning’s Security Council meeting. The United States tabled a draft resolution which seemingly promises quite strong sanctions against North Korea. What’s your take on that?

SG: I know that Member States of the Security Council, particularly among the permanent members – they have been discussing and consulting on the contents of the draft resolution. And it is my understanding that they had good consultations this morning and they are almost [ready] to take action. But I also understand at the same time that there needs to be further consultations. I sincerely hope that the Security Council will take necessary action as soon as possible. The recent conduct of nuclear weapons [test] by the DPRK was clearly in violation of relevant Security Council resolutions.

And at this time, I would like to add some more with regard to the announcement by the DPRK authorities about what they say about the Armistice Agreement. I am deeply concerned about that kind of very provocative rhetoric by the DPRK. As I have been consistently stating, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea should fully comply with the relevant decisions of the Security Council and refrain from further provocative acts. This year marks the 60th anniversary of the 1953 Armistice Agreement of the Korean War. I reiterate the validity and importance of this critical agreement. I strongly urge the Pyongyang authorities to reverse course to build trust that will lead to durable peace and stability on the Korean Peninsula. Thank you.

Q: Venezuelan leader [Hugo] Chávez has been officially announced as passed away. I was wondering if you could talk about the man, his legacy, his appearances here at the UN. Did you speak with him often? Whatever you could offer at this time. Thank you.

SG: This is the first time that I hear, from you, that he has passed away. As President of Venezuela, he has been making his own contributions to his own country’s development. At the same time, as Secretary-General, while I will be able to issue a more formal statement, I would like to convey my deepest condolences to the families and people and Government of Venezuela on the loss of President Chávez. You will have a further statement from me.

Q: I wanted to ask you about these rapes in Minova [in eastern DRC]. I wanted to get your direct answer on this. There is something called the human rights due diligence policy – the UN is not supposed to support units of the FARDC [Congolese armed forces] who engaged in abuse. But your own DPKO [Department of Peacekeeping Operations] has said that there were 126 rapes in Minova in late November… It’s been 3.5 months and Mr. [Hervé] Ladsous [Under-Secretary-General of DPKO] has said they know identity of the perpetrators. How can it be implemented so that those who engage in abuse don’t receive support from MONUSCO or yourself? Thank you.

SG: This Framework is going to address comprehensively all of the situations. Of course sexual violence is one of the areas the United Nations will continue to address. This is not only in the DRC, [but] all around the world in conflict areas. The human rights due diligence policy will be always applied, wherever the United Nations will be operating. And I have been discussing this matter, directly myself and through my Special Representatives, on ending sexual violence in conflict zones, to give political priority, highest political priority, at the leaders’ level to eradicate sexual violence and protecting the human rights, human dignity, of civilian populations. The Framework for the security, cooperation, and development of the DRC is focusing on this issue. Of course, peace and stability will be the key concerns and priority. But to have peace and security, we need to protect the civilian population, particularly women and girls whose human rights have been abused during the last many, many, many years. We will do our best, our utmost efforts, to eliminate this practice. Thank you very much.