Press Conference by the Secretary-General of the United Nations (Unofficial transcript)
New York, 21 March 2005SG: Let me first wish our Iranian and Kurdish friends a very Happy New Year - Nowrooz Mubarak.
I expect you all heard my speech a few moments ago, and I hope that you also had a chance to read the report. In fact, I gather some of you even got hold of it much sooner than we had intended. I assure you that it was not deliberate leak on our part, but I am glad that the report has aroused so much interest.
The only thing that I want to do this morning, before taking your questions, is to explain briefly why I am issuing the report at this time.
The General Assembly asked me five years ago to review progress on the Millennium Declaration, and had decided to meet to discuss it at summit level here in September. But frankly, I do not think a mere review would have done justice to the present world situation. I feel strongly that there are decisions which urgently need to be taken in the areas of development, security and human rights, and changes that need to be made in the structure of the United Nations itself if we are to make the most of the opportunities in the next 10 years and to save millions of people from death and disaster.
For instance, if Governments take the decisions that I am suggesting in this report, I believe we will have a much better chance of turning the tide against HIV/AIDS and malaria in the next 10 years; a much better chance of containing the spread of new infectious diseases, whether natural or man-made; a much better chance of averting an attack by terrorists using nuclear and radiological weapons; a much better chance of preventing countries like Haiti, Afghanistan and Sierra Leone from sliding back into chaos or crisis; a much better chance of reaching a common understanding on how to deal with recalcitrant regimes like that of Saddam Hussein; and a United Nations that is much better able to take effective action - through a strengthened Security Council and a new and authoritative human rights council, both working closely with regional organizations - to put a stop to major crimes against innocent people, such as those we are witnessing in Darfur.
This report is the programme of action I have been working towards over the past two years. It is aimed at making sure that the commitments made to fight poverty are really carried out in a way that brings results. It is aimed at healing wounds in the international community left by the Iraq war. And it is aimed at restoring the credibility of the United Nations as a leader in the worldwide struggle for human rights. By publishing it now, I am giving world leaders six months to consider and debate it with their peoples, in the hope that they will come here to New York in September ready to take the necessary decisions.
It is now your turn.
Q: Welcome to this press conference, on behalf of the United Nations Correspondents' Association.
On the issue of State terrorism: normally, of course, in this house that is a reference to a single country. But everyone knows that it could easily be applied to many other countries, and it would not be hard to find people who are ready to accuse all five permanent members of the Security Council of State terrorism. With that in mind, how can you possibly think that you can agree on a definition of terrorism and a convention on terrorism — which countries would know could be used as a club against them?
SG: I know this is an issue we have been discussing here for a long time. Let me state that we have already passed 12 conventions on terrorism. We are now looking at a comprehensive convention. I think that the report of the High-Level Panel on Threats, Challenges and Change offers us a basis to move forward, making it clear that, whatever the cause, attacking, killing and deliberately maiming civilians or non-combatants is not acceptable, and is terrorism pure and simple. Yes, there is argument about States and the States' use of force. That is already taken care of under international law. International law prescribes how States can and should use force. If they break the law, they can also be held to account. So that side has been taken care of. What we need to do is to come up with a definition that is generally acceptable. I hope we can all agree that deliberate targeting of innocent civilians and non-combatants is simply not acceptable.
Q: About half the proposals would probably — well, let me start again. The United States would probably object to about half the proposals, particularly the new proposed Ambassador to the United Nations. Have you discussed that with officials from the Bush Administration? Or what is your feeling about how they would react? Can you do this without them?
SG: We have had constructive discussions, and the discussions continue. I think there are many things in the report that should please many States, including the United States. You have to understand that we are 191 Member States, and I was dealing with problems of all regions — problems that affect all Member States. I did not tailor the report to fit a region or a country or a group of countries. But I hope that, when Governments review the report and the package put forward, they will conclude that it is in their interests. That does not mean that I expect them to approve every recommendation or every word. But I think there is a lot in there, which I hope they will approve, to strengthen the Organization and their own cooperation.
Q: In your report you advocate the strengthening and revitalization of the General Assembly. Yet you talk of it as the chief deliberative policy-making organ of the United Nations. But, as Secretary-General of the United Nations, what message are you actually sending to the 191 members of the Assembly when, only last week, you refused to visit the wall being built by Israel on occupied Palestinian land, where there is a clear, unequivocal mandate by the General Assembly to cease immediately the construction of that wall and to actually dismantle the parts already constructed?
SG: Let me say that I hope the Member States and the members of the General Assembly will appreciate my proposals. I am urging the General Assembly to adapt its procedures and its agenda to focus on important issues of the day. Quite frankly, as it is now, they spend lots of time discussing issues that are of interest only to those in the room: it has no impact on most of the people outside the General Assembly and this building. So I am encouraging them to really focus their discussions on issues of the day.
As to your question about my visit to Palestine, I think that the General Assembly resolution on the decision of the International Court of Justice is clear, and they did give us a mandate to establish a register of claims, which we are doing. I do not think the General Assembly, or any member of the Council, believes I am not fulfilling that mandate, or that I have abrogated it by taking, or not taking, a certain action.
Q: In your report you call for increased development assistance, to 0.7 per cent of gross national income. What indication are you getting from major donors that they are ready to meet that, and what effect would that have on, say, Africa if countries did actually step up to the plate? And, if countries do not step up to the plate, are they stingy?
SG: You love that word, don't you? Let me say that I am encouraged by recent developments. About five countries in Europe have already met the target, and many other donors have come up with a timetable to meet that target. So we are really moving in the right direction, and I would urge others who have not done so to do so. But it is not enough to increase development assistance. It has to be “front-loaded” so that we will be able to meet the Millennium Development Goals by 2015. That is why we find the International Finance Facility proposed by Chancellor Gordon Brown to be a wonderful proposal. It could help front-load development assistance to allow us to meet those Goals.
Obviously, it is up to each Government and its people to decide how much development assistance they will give. But as Secretary-General, and knowing the problems we face in the world, I continue to encourage and urge all those with capacity to give, and to give generously. I think the peoples of the world would want to help. They showed that throughout the tsunami crisis. Nobody had to ask them. They saw it on television and made their own personal contributions. I can tell you that it shocked many Governments — Governments that thought their populations would be unhappy if they were to make contributions to this or that crisis when they may have needs at home. And so I urge Governments to really be generous and to give generously, because, in helping to establish a safer world, we can all sleep better at night.
Q: As to the reform of the Security Council, I would like to know your sense about how long it will take to conclude that reform. How do you see Brazil's chances of getting a permanent seat?
SG: Would you like me to start with the first or second part of the question? Let me say that I hope we will be able to conclude it this year. Obviously, it has been on the agenda for a long time. But this year I sense a greater enthusiasm and interest on the part of Member States. Everyone has accepted the need for reform. Now we need to try to come up with concrete proposals to do that.
Brazil is one of the countries that has indicated its interest in becoming one of the proposed permanent members. I would hope that, in the discussions that are beginning in earnest as of today, that question will be answered.
Q: I have a question on the same subject. There are few issues that engage the national aspirations and competitive instincts of powerful Member States here more than Security Council reform. As you know, for many years it was assigned to the Open-ended Working Group, which became known as the never-ending committee. Do you really have any kind of assurances that this intractable problem can be solved, as you request in the report, before the meeting in September?
SG: It is possible. I am hopeful that it can be done. There have been intensive discussions among the Member States. There are intensive discussions at the regional level, whether at the African Union or among other groups. I would hope that the Member States or their Permanent Representatives will work hard to come to an agreement on this so that, when they come here, heads of State can bless it, and we can move forward on that. I think the September timetable is reasonable. The report is out. In fact, they began their negotiations and discussions as soon as the report of the High-level Panel came out. So we will have had nine months of discussions by September. By then I think we should be able to come to a conclusion. I am hopeful that Member States would want to agree.
Q: One of the focal points of Security Council reform is whether new permanent members will have the veto power or not. Why is there no veto power offered to any new member?
SG: I think the issue has been discussed thoroughly, and I believe the general sense is that additional vetos will not be acceptable to the membership. You have those who would want to take away the vetos which exist today and are not willing to create new ones – and they are not going to be able to take away the existing ones. And therefore, the general sense is that we can have permanent members without a veto. But even if you get that, you are making the Council more democratic and more representative, and thus it will gain in greater legitimacy with these decisions.
Q: Mr. Secretary-General, to what extent do you believe that, fairly or unfairly, some of the things that have been going on at the United Nations – the problems with oil-for-food, the Ruud Lubbers situation and [unintelligible], and attacks that are focused on you – sort of damage the opportunity for you to sort of lend moral authority, your clout, behind this? And how much does success of these reforms really sort of – how much does your standing as Secretary-General and your reputation depend on implementation of these reforms?
SG: Let me say that, obviously, we have had a lot of criticism lately, particularly in this country. But we have important work to do, and we have carried on with that. The proposals I have put forward are in the interest of the Organization. And you must also remember that the genesis of these proposals goes back several years, long before the criticism you refer to emerged. So it is not linked to that. I think it is in everyone's interest that we strengthen this Organization, we adapt it to meet the challenges of the day. And if you look at the record – the question of review of the Millennium Development Goals and the report – the decision was taken five years ago when the Declaration was made.
On the question of collective security and the need to look at it, [this] came out of my speech of September 2003, so there has been a long-range plan ahead of this. I hope that we would approve it and strengthen the Organization. As Secretary-General, I will be extremely pleased if I have something to do with that.
Q: In your report, the language on terrorism is exactly the same language you used in your Madrid presentation, which led many countries – not the United States, but actually developing countries, African included – to call for, to speak about, your resignation and to urge that you resign because they were quite unhappy with the way you handled this. Now, you called on that to cut through the political debate on terrorism, the right to resist occupation and the State terrorism. Are you insisting right now that, no matter what, you will not cut through the debate? And secondly, you also called for some sort of right to international military interference, in effect, if one reads what you are saying, when countries do not live up to the standards. Now, who is going to put the criteria? That is quite controversial. What are you going to do about this?
SG: You have offered information here that I am not aware of: that countries were so unhappy about my statement on definition of terrorism, which came out of the report of the High-level Panel. I have not heard from these Governments. You obviously have. But I think the report really makes a strong argument, and I hope that the Member States will take it seriously and move on with the question of definition, and do what they have to do.
Your second question refers to the responsibility to protect and the argument that each Government has a responsibility to protect its own citizens. And in situations where genocide or ethnic cleansing or crimes against humanity are going on and the Government is either unable or unwilling to do it, the international community has the responsibility to step in – and that, as a last resort, the Council may authorize the use of force. This is a decision the Council will have to take. We have faced similar situations in the past, and we are facing a similar one in Darfur today. We have also, in that report, put out certain guidelines for the use of force that I hope will be helpful for Council members. It is the Council that will have to take that decision.
Q: [Unintelligible], Mr. Secretary-General, that you stood against the war in Iraq, because that was, from the American point of view, bringing down a dictator.
SG: As I said, that is a decision for the Council to take. The Council will have to make the judgement that either the country has failed to protect its people, and they will have to step in and do it.
Q: Mr. Secretary-General, you have called for the Human Rights Commission to be disbanded because that organization has been much criticized as a place where many violators take refuge and limit real condemnation of problems around the world. You are advocating that a new council be created, a smaller one. Have you received any assurances, perhaps, from regional groups that they would support a smaller council? I mean, generally we know that countries do not like to limit their access to decision-making machinery. So how do you see this occurring?
SG: I think, first of all, it is no secret that the Human Rights Commission can be much more effective. It is no secret that Governments get onto the Commission either to protect themselves or to ensure that others are brought to the dock, as it were. And it has become so contentious; and groups form to ensure who is going to be castigated and who is not. In the process, the rights of the individual, and the human rights that they are there to protect, often get lost. The Human Rights Commission has been trying very hard to work with Governments, to help the Governments strengthen their human rights machinery, to offer technical assistance, to send people to the field. They have human rights monitors in the Sudan and other places.
But that is not good enough. I think if we are able to transform that into a council with members elected directly by the General Assembly – two-thirds majority – with the understanding that those elected must have certain – must have credentials in the human rights area and commitment to be able to uphold the human rights standards, we are likely to do better. It is going to take some negotiations with the regional groups and the Member States, but I think if they think things through simply and sincerely they would agree with me that something has to be done to make the human rights activities of the United Nations much, much more active and effective.
Q: As someone who has been here for a few years, I come back to the difficulties that you face in getting 191 countries to basically put aside their national interests and say that it is far more important to sign on to this package, even if they vehemently dislike certain provisions. I am still wondering how in the next six months you are going to be able to achieve this.
As a quick second question, I wondered if you had any comment on your expectations for the upcoming report by Mr. Volcker.
SG: I think, on your first question, let me say that I'm not saying that it is going to be easy. It's going to take lots of work: lots of work here in this building, with the Permanent Representatives; lots of work with capitals, with the heads of State and Government; lots of work by certain envoys that I hope to send out; lots of work by some members of the Panel that I would also want to use; and I'll be on the phone also, quite a lot. And I believe that, as difficult as it is, the Member States – the majority of the Member States – will come to conclude that what is on the table, what is proposed, is in their long-term interest and go along with it.
On the second one, I have no expectation. I will wait to see the report, which I understand will come out by the end of this month.
Q: What would you say specifically, Sir, to the American people to try and convince them, who have been so disappointed the past couple of years with what they have seen here, to restore the good will of this Organization and to convince them to get behind your proposals?
SG: I think that the argument that comes through the report is very clear: that we live in an interconnected world, in a world where we face many challenges, many threats – threats that no one country, however powerful, can face alone – and that we need to work together to contain these threats, whether it is terrorism, non-proliferation, or environmental degradation and poverty that leads to failed States. And we also know that ignoring failed States creates problems that sometimes come back to bite us. So I think the collective effort of all of us working together is in the national interest of individual Member States. I think that an effective and functioning United Nations is in the interests of the United States and its people, as it is in the interest of other nations and their peoples.
Q: Earlier, in your opening remarks, you talked about how to deal with regimes like Saddam Hussein's. From that perspective, do you think the United States dealt with the Saddam Hussein regime in the correct way?
SG: I think that is an issue that has been debated in this Organization for a long time, and I don't think that we need to reopen that debate.
Q: Do you think that you have enough time to implement all your suggestions and to communicate with the Governments?
SG: I don't think I will have enough time to implement all the proposals, if they are approved. But I would be able to implement some; I would be able to set the Organization on a course. And I would also be able to leave plenty for my successor to do.
Q: What role do you foresee in the future of the Security Council for regional organizations like the European Union, and what kind of role do you see in the upcoming debate for initiatives like the platform “united for consensus”?
SG: I think the regional organizations obviously already play a role in the work of the Security Council in the peace and security area, where we work with them to deal with conflicts or in peacekeeping operations. Today we are working very closely with the African Union in Darfur. We are working very closely with the Organization of American States and CARICOM in Haiti. So we are already working with them. If your question relates to decision-making by the Council and whether the regional organizations will have a decision-making power – some had suggested some time ago that the European Union, which is coming together, should have one seat. This is a non-starter. I do not think that countries with permanent seats are going to give them up and hand over a permanent seat to the European Union for them to collectively exercise the decision-making that is required in the Council.
And so, apart from that, regional organizations have become very active in the reform process. The African Union, for example, has come together and taken a common position on the reform package, which has been communicated to me, and I expect them to continue to work with us through the year as we seek to get them implemented.
Q: Two quick questions, Sir. Do you see right now any real progress between Israelis and Palestinians, since you have been in the area? Second question: Would you say, Sir, that the Syrians at this point are helpful to the UN, and where do you see Lebanon going from now and from what you know?
Spokesman: Stick to the report, please.
SG: He is saying we should concentrate on the report, and then I will come back to those questions outside.
SG: But you have already asked three questions. Go on.
Q: On the report: There is so much talk now on the human rights issue. In the Middle East, as you know, human rights and the change is the talk of the day. Can we fairly say now that opposition groups in the Middle East area, in the Arab world, in the Islamic world, where there are so many issues of this kind, what can they expect from the UN with the new proposals? Do they have any mechanisms to have access to you and get some help?
SG: You have a very broad definition of the reform proposals on the table.
Let me say that, on the question of development of democracy and human rights, we do have a mandate to be able to assist Governments that are trying to strengthen their institutions, improve their democratic practices and reform their human rights structures. We do quite a lot of that through UNDP, and we monitor elections where the Governments have asked us.
We recently were very active in two successful elections in the Middle East: in Palestine and in Iraq. And so those efforts will continue. And, of course, I do hear from people – individuals write to me or approach me or the High Commissioner's Office – and those avenues will always be open.
On the question of Israel and Palestine, let me say that I walked away with the impression that there was a great deal – there was optimism. We still have many hurdles to jump. Optimism on both sides – I saw President Abbas and Prime Minister Abu Ala and several of the ministers on the Palestinian side, and on the Israeli side I was able to speak to Prime Minister Sharon, Deputy Prime Minister Peres and the Foreign Minister and others: the Speaker of Parliament. They would all want to see progress move forward, but, of course, they are also concerned that measures be taken to implement the Sharm el-Sheikh agreement which the two leaders signed. And I think that Egypt and Jordan are to be congratulated for arranging that summit.
So while there is a sense of optimism, they also realize that it is fragile, and both sides have to work very hard. And the international community should play its role in assisting the Palestinians in strengthening their security apparatus and their reform, and in ensuring that their economic and social structures are strengthened. They are going to need quite a bit of financial help from the international community but, of course, they will also need to transform their economy into a viable and a vibrant one, with access to markets outside.
On Syria and Lebanon, I think, from the discussions my envoy has had with President Assad, whom I hope to see tomorrow in Algiers, we are making progress. They have committed to full withdrawal, and we will be working with them to ensure that it is done. I think Lebanon will soon be going through elections, but they first have to establish the new Government. They have to establish the new Government and then move on to elections, but we need to make sure that the withdrawal is managed and organized in such a way that the Lebanese security forces move in and fill the vacuum – make sure that no vacuum is created. And so we are making progress, but we need to handle it very carefully.
Q: (spoke in French) Would the peacebuilding commission that you propose replace peacekeeping missions, or would it work together with that department? Another question: by proposing to replace the Commission on Human Rights with a smaller council, are you motivated by a concern for effectiveness, or do you simply see a certain number of countries which join the Commission to protect themselves and ensure that this sort of thing no longer occurs?
SG: (interpretation from French) That commission would not replace the Department of Peacekeeping Operations, because it would focus on, let us say, post-conflict economic development and would work with the countries concerned and with donor countries to work out a reconstruction programme; it would be working with the World Bank and donor countries. Thus, it is not the same thing.
With respect to human rights, it is not to exclude certain members and to focus on certain States that have already been designated that would take a place in the council. But the point is to make the council much more effective and much more real, because they have a lot of work to do. The Commission meets for six weeks per year; the council will meet throughout the year, like the Security Council, to truly monitor the issues of human rights worldwide. It is my hope that this will be much more effective and much more useful for the Member States and for everyone.
Q: On Security Council reforms, the developing countries believe that the increase in the permanent membership of the Security Council will increase the [unintelligible] power, especially Europe will get inordinate representation in the Security Council. They are calling for a consensus wherein they support Plan B, which is increasing the non-permanent members, essentially, and permanent members on a rotation basis. Do you have any preference for any such formula, or do you think some sort of consensus will be arrived at?
SG: I think the Member States are discussing this issue very actively. You talk of developing countries opting for Option B, but there are many developing countries also opting for Option A. This is the negotiations and discussions going on now. I hope at the end of the day they will come to an agreement, which hopefully could be arrived at by consensus. But as I have indicated, lack of consensus should not be a reason for postponing the issue. We have a mechanism for bringing discussions to closure, and if after healthy discussions the President believes that that mechanism should be used, he should use it.
Q: What about the position that Europe will get more representation than it has?
SG: I think the whole package, as it now stands, is intended to redress a certain imbalance in the Council by - If the membership were to agree to six new permanent members, without veto, where are these members coming from? Two are from Africa, two from Asia, and one from Latin America – five of the six will come from regions and areas that we believe are underrepresented. Of course, one goes to Japan, which is also in Asia. So you have a situation where, yes, Europe may have four permanent seats, but the others will have about three, [unintelligible]. As of today, they are not there.
So really, I think we should look at the positive side, the problem we are trying to address. I think if we are able to reform the Council as proposed, the other regions and the Third World will be much better off than they are today.
Q: In the light of pushing for reforms and assessing the work of the UN bodies and those affiliated with them, how do you assess the work of the War Crimes Tribunals, particularly for war crimes in former Yugoslavia? As you know, there are those who are arguing that the Tribunal became slow, expensive and even a bit unproductive. What are the lessons for future?
SG: I think the Tribunals have turned out to be very expensive. We have not always succeeded in getting the main culprits into the dock. We have not succeeded because they have not been picked up either by their Governments or those who have the capacity to pick them up. If they are not arrested they cannot be put on trial. You know that the Security Council has given the two Tribunals up to 2008 to complete their work, and they are pushing ahead very hard to try to do that. But of course it's going to be extremely difficult. Let's take the Yugoslav Tribunal. If, come 2008, they were to complete their work without ever having had the chance to put on trial Mladic or Karadzic, would people in the region and around the world believe that the work is completed and justice has been done? These are some of the dilemmas we have. I hope between now and then this problem will be resolved. The Prosecutor is trying very hard to get the Governments in the region to work with her to ensure that all the indicted are arrested and sent to The Hague, particularly the main leaders of the groups.
Q: Your Deputy once told us, perhaps in a moment of candor, that she hoped the UN would never have the opportunity to have an oil-for-food programme or a programme of that size. Do you think your reforms can actually make the Organization better capable to handle a programme of that size?
And a quick follow-up: what do you hope to accomplish with a one-time buyout of senior staff members?
SG: Let me say that I think my Deputy was right in that it was a unique programme. It is not a programme that the UN was set up to run, and it was seen as part of the sanctions regime to get Iraq to comply. So in saying that she hoped that we never have to run that kind of programme again, I think she's quite right.
On the question of buyout, obviously we're going to look at – we are reviewing the activities of the Organization; we are reordering our priorities. We have also asked the General Assembly to review its mandate. Once that is done and we have set new directions, we will need to have the skills that match the new tasks. There are people that we may be able to encourage to leave so that we can bring in the talents we need.
Q: Last week in Russia they celebrated the twentieth anniversary of perestroika and glasnost. Do you think that the UN and the international system itself needs the same kind of perestroika and glasnost in a sense of really fundamental changes that are needed both in thinking and restructuring of the institution?
SG: You may call what is happening our perestroika and glasnost, and I hope that the Member States will see it that way and work with us to reform the Organization and bring it in line with the realities of the twenty-first century. I think it is also implied in your question that this kind of reform is not easy; it is difficult and brings some dislocations and discomfort, but it is necessary.
Q: One of the main problems or challenges at the United Nations that challenge the credibility of the United Nations is the implementation of resolutions and the double standards in pushing one resolution and putting aside another. Do you think that the reform you are calling for in the work of the Security Council will help solve this issue?
SG: Not necessarily; I don't think so. I think this is a problem that has existed, sometimes very difficult for us. I was in the region, I was in the Middle East and this came up almost every encounter, the question you have raised. I'm not sure that the reforms I have proposed would necessarily deal with that. Some of the resolutions passed under Chapter VII, there is an enforcement mechanism where we are sometimes able to enforce. Chapter VI resolutions require cooperation of the parties. Where that cooperation is lacking, it is very difficult to impose it. We don't have the means to do that. We can convince; we can cajole; we can encourage, but it is up to the parties to work with us. So the reform proposed will make the Organization more effective and, hopefully, stronger, but it will not necessarily resolve the issue that you raised.
Q: In your General Assembly speech you said that you were presenting a comprehensive package not open to ad hoc implementation. Also, in your report there is an undertone of skepticism. You point out major commitments that have been made and not implemented. Now, in correcting this, a major component, a major factor, would be the capacity of the Secretariat to speak truth to power – which it has never done. How do you see your reforms affecting that particular capacity?
SG: Well, sometimes we have. I am talking about speaking truth to power.
But let me say that it is going to require resources, yes. I have indicated that lots of promises have been made and have not been met. But I have also indicated that I sense a new spirit - for example, in the field of economic development and the willingness of Governments to engage and to do more. Prime Minister Blair just came out with a report on Africa. Several European Governments have indicated their willingness to increase development assistance. Several have already done it. They are looking at various options, including substantial resources, probably from the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund. Some are looking at innovative sources of financing, and they have mentioned all sorts of schemes, including, perhaps, one dollar on each international air ticket. So, there is a new mood there, and I think that if we work with them effectively, we may be able to get them to work with us in implementing all the commitments and the promises that have been made.
But, of course, there is also a requirement on the part of the third world countries to strengthen their institutions and improve governance for the commitment – the Monterrey Consensus, if you wish, and what we agreed in Johannesburg – to be met.
Q: On terrorism, did you come out with the official definition regarding Hizbullah? And when do you expect the Fitzgerald report to be released?
SG: I am not sure I understand the first question. Nor is it up to me to come up with a definition of Hizbullah. So, I do not know how to answer that question.
On the second question, I hope to be able to give the report to the Council this week - hopefully, Thursday this week.
Q: In seeking to revitalize the United Nations and advance global security and stability, you are stressing in this report, as you always have, multilateralism and development.
In the most powerful Member of the United Nations, you are confronted with an Administration that has sought more frequently to stress militarism and unilateralism. In recent weeks, we have seen the appointment of an unreconstructed militarist and unilateralist as Ambassador to the United Nations and now an unreconstructed militarist and unilateralist to be the head of the World Bank.
Do you see in this reasons to be concerned that you will get the support that you need from the United States, from the Bush Administration, for these sorts of reforms, for the way that you would like to pursue your agenda? And if not, why not?
SG: I think, as I indicated, we are engaged in discussions. The discussions I would describe as constructive. We also had a very prominent American member on the panel, Brent Scowcroft, who has worked with us and also tried to explain it in Washington.
SG: You are being very frank this morning.
I think there is also lots of discussions going on between heads of State, from Prime Minister Blair to Lula, to Chirac, and all of us. So, there are movements. I hope that, at the end of the day, as I mentioned earlier, each Government will come to consider a strengthened United Nations in its interest, that each country will come to realize that sometimes the collective interest is the national interest and that we need to work together. So I am still hopeful that, at the end of the day, we will come to some consensus on the majority of the proposals that we have put forward.
Q: You mentioned your support for the International Criminal Court (ICC) and support for ad-hocs in the report. There is a debate going on in the Security Council on the Sudan and whether the ICC is the way to go. In the past, you have said that you think it is. Do you still think it is? And do you think that this Nigerian proposal for a sort of panel on reconciliation and war crimes prosecutions can work?
SG: I think in a way your question links up with one of the questions about the tribunals. I indicated that the ad-hoc tribunals have turned out to be very expensive. It takes about two years to set them up. Ideally speaking, the International Criminal Court, which is already in existence, will be the most effective and efficient way of proceeding.
I know the United States has difficulties with that and is discussing this with other members of the Security Council. I hope they will find a way forward because I think we are all against what is happening in the Sudan. We do not want to see the innocent suffer. The United States declared what was happening there genocide and, I am sure, having done that, would want to see the perpetrators brought to justice. We need to find a way of doing that.
On the Nigerian proposal, I have not studied it in detail. I will be having lunch with the Security Council today, and that is one of the issues I intend to explore with them.
Q: You were talking about the General Assembly, bringing it back to its former level of importance, what it should have been. And that is clearly supposed to be the democratic way of listening to the world's opinion. But when we have got something like Freedom House saying that 103 of the 191 countries are at least less than democratic, if not much more authoritative, how can resolutions be taken seriously by this body, when it clearly does not represent –most of the countries do not represent their people?
SG: I am not sure whether your statement is entirely accurate. At least we live in a world today where almost every country claims to be governing by democratic principles. Some are well established. Some are doing well. Others are struggling to establish it and need help. I think we should work with those fledgling democracies that need to be helped and not dismiss them because they have not reached a certain standard that we would want to see them reach.
I believe that the General Assembly, despite the flaws you have indicated, has in some situations has done very good work. What we are suggesting is that they adapt and change their mode of operation and focus on issues of concern, issues of the day, and not peripheral issues.
Q: Mr. Secretary-General, Washington has taken an intense interest in United Nations reform. There are several task forces and committees doing the same sort of work as the High-level Panel, and Representative Hyde is preparing legislation to withhold United States dues again to push reforms – no money until the reforms are implemented. Are those sort of efforts helpful for your reforms?
SG: The panel that has been set up – we are in touch with them. I think I going to have the opportunity of seeing the co-chairs in the not-too-distant future. We would want to discuss with them and be constructive, and I hope they take their effort in the constructive spirit. We would want to engage and discuss with them.
As to withholding dues or contributions until reforms are implemented, if that were to happen, I think it would be very unfortunate. We have been there before. We have been down that road, and it took many, many years to get it undone, and in the process created lots of difficulties for this Organization. Not only difficulties for this Organization but it also complicated relations among Member States: those that paid in full and on time and were constantly being asked to pay up and others that would decide to withhold to force their changes. I really hope it would not happen. It is not something I find necessarily helpful or universally accepted by the Members. Why should they? I would hope that, in doing that, one should look at the collective interest. One should look at the obligations of all the Members and the impact on other Member States and the programmes and the mandates entrusted to us, often as they are already without adequate resources. If one were to withhold the funds and squeeze the Organization further, it is going to be much more difficult for us to perform and deliver on those mandates.