12 October 2001


Press Release



The Secretary-General: This is truly an honour for the whole United Nations, its Member States, the General Assembly, the Security Council and, especially, its dedicated staff around the world.  They work hard every day to make the world a more just, more peaceful and happier place. Many of them risk their lives. They richly deserve this award.

A year ago, world leaders at the Millennium Summit reaffirmed the indispensable role of the United Nations as the common house of the entire human family. In a world which is growing ever closer and more interconnected and is yet still torn by brutal conflict and cruel injustice, this role is ever more important.

All of us who work for the United Nations should be proud today, but also humbled -- humbled because even more will be expected of us in the future. This award is a tribute above all to our colleagues who have made the supreme sacrifice in the service of humanity. The only true prize for them and for us will be peace itself.

Question: Today, it is a real pleasure to welcome you, because you have been a friend to the press and we have so many friends here at the United Nations.

Now you have a very powerful tool to go ahead in looking for peace. Do you have any initiative for Afghanistan and the Middle East?

The Secretary-General: As you know, the United Nations has been involved in both conflicts and we will continue our efforts.

In Afghanistan, I have just named Mr. Brahimi, who will be here towards the end of the week. I am sure the press will be able to talk to him next week. We have been involved over a period in trying to work with the Afghan parties in promoting a broad-based Government and, today, we are very actively engaged on the humanitarian front, as we have been for almost two decades, particularly in Iran and Pakistan. This effort will continue and, of course, as we move forward, there may be additional tasks that the United Nations will have to get involved in, such as rehabilitation. We are doing contingency planning, looking ahead and looking forward to working with the Afghan people to bring stability and peace to their country.

On the Middle East, we will continue our efforts and we will work with other leaders around the world, first and foremost to try and end the violence and the killing that are going on there and bring the parties to the table. That has always been our objective and we will continue our efforts.

Question: First, congratulations and, on behalf of my colleagues, I should also like to say congratulations to Fred [Eckhard, Spokesman for the Secretary-General] and all of his staff, without whom we would be sunk, and all of the people who work in this building.

I want to follow up on the last question. This does give you yet more stature and credibility. On the issue of the Middle East, you have been very circumspect up until now. And yet we see very little coming out of Washington, at least overtly, in terms of new initiatives to bring peace to the Middle East, to tackle the dictatorships and the oppression that provide some of the support on which Bin Laden relies.

Is it not time now for you to speak out? We heard the Mayor of New York yesterday rejecting a cheque because the Saudi Prince said it was time for a more balanced approach in the Middle East. It did not seem to me to be a particularly controversial statement, and yet the Mayor of New York rejected it. Do you not now feel that you have the power to speak out on this issue?

The Secretary-General: I have never hesitated to speak out and, on this issue, I am working with other leaders, particularly in Europe, Washington, D.C., the Russian Federation and in the region, in particular President Mubarak, King Abdullah and the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia. We will continue these efforts.

I made it clear not long ago that I believe that the time is here for the international community to make a collective effort to try and break the impasse, stop the killing and bring the parties to the table. I am reasonably confident that we will see some activities on that front.

Question: How soon?

The Secretary-General: I do not want to give you a time-frame, but I hope that we will not have to wait for long.

Question: For more than a year, you have been trying to get a peace-operations reform package through the membership. How do you think the prize is going to help you get what you want out of the membership of the United Nations?

The Secretary-General: I think the discussions are ongoing and the atmosphere is quite good. I suspect that by December we will have had the package approved. I think the membership also realized that we need to strengthen peacekeeping if we are going to take on all these additional responsibilities. Today we are engaged in major parts of the world, from the Great Lakes region to the Balkans, and, of course, we are heavily engaged in Afghanistan and could become even more involved. If you are going to do that, you need the means, you need the capacity, you need the organization, and my sense is that we will get the package approved between now and December.

Question: Congratulations. How far away is the United Nations right now from having the financial resources, the staff and the consensus of the Member States to do a full job of nation-building that President Bush suggested last night the United Nations undertake?

The Secretary-General: I think we are quite some ways away from that. First of all, the Afghan people have a role to play in rebuilding their nation. We have been working with them over a long period, and I believe that as we move forward, their views and their desires must be respected. I also believe that any regime or any arrangements that are not seen by the Afghans as home-grown and that they do not accept as their own will be difficult. One cannot impose a government on the Afghan people. This is why we have been working with them over a period, and we are going to work with them. The process may be accelerated, given what is happening. The people themselves may decide the time has come for a change. I think we should be prepared to work with them and to help them through the difficult humanitarian phase, then through a transitional period, if they come together and work to form a broad-based government.

Of course, I think they are going to need lots of international assistance in rehabilitation and reconstruction. In that, I suspect the United Nations would also have a role to play. My feeling is that as we move forward, the Member States will be looking critically at this, and it will not surprise me if the Council were to give us an expanded mandate for Afghanistan.

Question: Congratulations. Even before 11 September, your plate was very full, particularly with the Middle East and trying to implement the very ambitious Millennium Summit agenda. How can one person take on all of that plus this global fight against terrorism? It seems really overwhelming.

The Secretary-General: Luckily, I am not alone. I hope the Member States will play their part. I think you referred to the fight against terrorism. That fight can be won only if each Member State plays its part. I think the Security Council has given us a very good basis for moving forward and has given us a foundation for the coalition we are trying to build. We are aware that some Member States may not have the capacity to even translate the Council resolution into law, and we have indicated that we will work with them and get them technical assistance to do what is necessary for them to play their part. So we can win if all of us, we in the Secretariat, work as hard as we should and the Member States move and implement the Council resolutions, as well as sign and ratify the conventions that the General Assembly has passed. But there the implementation is going to be key.

On the other issues, again, I will have to rely on the Member States. They are the partners of the stakeholders, NGOs, the private sector and the partners that we are working with these days. But you are right, our agenda is full. But we need to press ahead.

Question: Congratulations also. I would like to take some of these points a little further. First, if you would make a comment on the Mayor’s action regarding Prince Waleed.

I would like to ask you in particular, as you are seen as being hesitant to speak out on the Middle East, yesterday, President Bush went as far as I know he has gone in saying that in the final agreement of the negotiations between the Palestinians and the Israelis is a Palestinian State. He spoke of borders. You are more guided; you are actually freer because you are guided by Security Council resolutions. You have simply stopped at saying, “Back to the table”. Can you take this further now that you have spoken of the challenges and really articulate where you want this to go, rather than simply say, “Stop the violence and go back to the table”?

The Secretary-General: Let me first of all say that on your first question, I was surprised that that happened because I think we are all entitled to our freedom of expression. The Prince gave his opinion. I am surprised that the Mayor reacted that strongly and returned the cheque.

On the second question, I think there is a lot that goes on behind the scenes that is not always in the media. I think in the kind of work that I do, not everything should be put out there. There are many discussions and efforts going on in capitals and between us that have not gotten into the press yet, and in due time you will get to know about it. Also, you have to allow me to do it my way.

Question: On a purely personal level, could you describe for us your feelings leading up to getting this award, your feelings in getting it, and what are you going to do with the cheque?

The Secretary-General: Obviously, there had been quite a lot of speculation and discussion about who was on the list, who might get it or who would not get it. But, of course, these things are never certain until it happens. So we went to bed last night not quite sure what would happen. In fact, the first person to call me was Fred, actually, who woke me up and said “Congratulations”. Then things began to happen. But, of course, it was a wonderful way to wake up, good news to wake up to, given, as I said, the sort of business we are in. Usually, when you get a call that early in the morning, it is something disastrous. I also see it as a great encouragement for me personally and also for the Organization. In a way, the Nobel has reaffirmed the indispensable role this Organization should play in international affairs. But as an individual, Nane and I were very pleased.

Question: Do you find that after the attack of 11 September the United States has changed its mood towards the United Nations as an organization, not only paying back the money, but also in a mood way? Do you think the coalition can continue to hold?

Secretary-General: I think we are working very, very well with the United States Government and the United States Administration right now. I think some of you who saw the Town Hall meeting yesterday must have heard the comment by Secretary of State Colin Powell on the United Nations-United States relationship. Their new ambassador is here, the payment has been made, and I suspect that as we move forward payments will be made in time, in full and on a regular basis.

As far as the coalition is concerned, my expectation is that the coalition will hold. But, of course, when we talk of a coalition, you are going to have all sorts of arrangements. You have the broad coalition to fight terrorism, which, I have indicated earlier, should be based on the Security Council’s work and the work of the General Assembly.

On the military front, there is a narrower coalition. You are going to get into other areas, whether it is information-sharing or intelligence. Another group of countries will come together to do that. My sense is that this is a threat to all Member States and they realize that they need to come together to fight it. I am quite hopeful that for the long term we will have a viable group fighting terrorism, and in the end, we will succeed.

Question: Congratulations, Mr. Secretary-General. How does it feel to receive a peace prize in time of war, when the President of the United States has promised a campaign that will last for several years all over the world, including military action in different States and different places? How do you reconcile those?

The Secretary-General: First of all, it is in times of difficulties that you need to work harder to make peace. Let me also say that I see the war against terrorism also as a long-term struggle: as a long-term struggle in terms of making sure that terrorists are not given shelter, that their financial mechanisms are broken up, that they do not have the logistical support. It is going to take quite a while to ensure that all governments are working on that basis.

The military aspect, which for the moment we are focused on, I think is going to be a very small part of the fight in the long run. I know that the sentence in the United States letter to the Security Council that they reserve the right to go after other organizations and other States caused some concern here.

But from the discussions I have had, I have been told that this does not mean an intention of the coalition or the United States Government going around the world attacking governments and States. One has to approach this very, very methodically and pragmatically. And I suspect that is what we will see.

So I would not want us here to have the impression that this is a war that is going to embrace the whole world and that there will be military actions all over the place. That is not my understanding, and I hope time will prove me right.

Question: First of all, congratulations to you and the Organization. Now, the war on terrorism has been described as a new kind of war. Does this mean that there needs to be a new kind of diplomacy, a new approach to how you deal with world issues? And how are you going to deal with the sensitivities and alliances

-- and does that include dealing with what were previously considered “rogue States”? Then, how does that all come in to forming a lasting, stable government in Afghanistan as you move on with that?

The Secretary-General: How many questions have you asked?

Let me say that, obviously, if we are going to cooperate to defeat terrorism there has to be greater cooperation and greater contact between Member States. And that is already happening. In fact, what you have described is that greater interaction and greater contacts between Member States in an attempt to contain and defeat terrorism. I suspect that will go on.

That does not mean that there will not be tensions and some difficulties within nations, or even within the coalition, as we go ahead. But that is also natural, and I am sure one will find a way of resolving the tensions and differences and moving forward: because we are agreed on the common objective of containing terrorism. So I would hope that the sort of multilateral effort you are seeing will be sustained over time.

Question: Congratulations. The hot issue now is Afghanistan, Central Asia and the Middle East because of this terrorism. But we have some conflicts that are protracted: Angola is one of them. More than 20 years on, we still have no peace. Particularly in Angola, do you have any new ideas as to how to bring the parties together to bring about a political resolution of this problem?

The Secretary-General: We are pressing the parties, and in fact Mr. Gambari was there recently -- my Envoy, who is pursuing peace in that region. And he is going back there. Not long ago, there were indications that there may be willingness by the parties to engage. We are getting signals. We are getting signals that they may be ready to resume discussions and implementation of the Lusaka accords. But it is not firm, and I will be sending Mr. Gambari back to pursue this effort, and also with the neighbouring countries, to see how much more energy we can put into this. Until now, the two parties have refused to engage, and I have made it clear that it is difficult to make peace without talking to the enemy: after all, you make peace with your enemy, and not with your friends. And if one is going to make peace, it ultimately boils down to coming to the table, in a give and take. From the moment the parties refuse to talk, it becomes much more difficult. But I think, as I said, that we are seeing some cracks, and we may be able to exploit them and get them back on track.

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For information media. Not an official record.