14 October 2006


14 October 2006
Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York



Mr. Ban Ki-moon:  Thank you very much for your kind introduction, and thank you very much for your patience for waiting for me.  Unexpectedly, there were so many people waiting in line to greet me, and I am very pleased to have this first press availability after having been appointed as future Secretary-General of the United Nations.

Ladies and gentlemen, I am delighted to be here to meet with the members of the United Nations press corps.  I hope this is the beginning of a constructive dialogue with all of you in the coming years.  Needless to say, I am deeply grateful to the membership of the United Nations for appointing me as the eighth Secretary-General of the United Nations.  I hope my acceptance speech made it clear to them and to all the stakeholders that they will find in me a Secretary-General who is very open and eager to work with them.

I am grateful to the other candidates who have vied with me in goodwill and on the basis of mutual respect and friendship.  They are all highly qualified leaders.  I hope to count on their continued cooperation and advice when I am discharging my duties as Secretary-General.

I also look forward to working very closely with all of you in the future -- the members of the press -- to bring the United Nations closer to the people around the world.  Your duty is the most important area in discharging my duty.

I am well aware of the enormous challenges awaiting the next Secretary-General.  I see three areas where concerted action is needed.

The first is to rebuild trust among all stakeholders.  United Nations action is premised on the political will of Member States, and political will cannot be forged in an atmosphere of distrust.  The current divisiveness is worrisome.  As Secretary-General, I will invest as much time and energy as I can to bridge the divide.  This begins with me winning the trust of all delegations.  There is no magic to this other than hard work and sincere reaching out for genuine dialogue.

The second is to stay the course with ongoing reform of the Secretariat management.  This is the key to the revitalization of the Organization.

Again, key reform ideas have faltered due to deep-seated mistrust among Member States.  Nevertheless, I am determined to keep up the reform momentum so that we may build the twenty-first-century Secretariat for a twenty-first-century Organization.

The third is to enhance coherence and coordination.  The United Nations is simply too overstretched for the limited resources available.  The coherence panel report is just out, and there will be high-level discussions to review the report in early November.  The result may not be as ambitious as some had hoped, but I do believe that there will be room for some realistic steps to reduce overlap and redundancies, to streamline work for greater efficiency and better use of resources and better service delivery.

On substantive issue areas as well, there are daunting challenges for peace, development and human rights.  A stark reminder was the nuclear test conducted by North Korea earlier in the week.  I hope the Security Council quickly adopts a clear and strong resolution on this.

The Iranian nuclear issue, the security and humanitarian crisis in Darfur, the Middle East and conflicts in Africa also call for concerted responses.  Attaining the Millennium Development Goals by 2015, in particular for the least developed countries, and mainstreaming human rights in all of the United Nations work are also imperative.

As Secretary-General, I intend to fully mobilize all of my experience, all the network of friends and colleagues I have forged during the past four decades in the diplomatic service of a country with uniquely difficult foreign policy challenges, to do my utmost in dealing with these tasks.

With these brief remarks, I will now take your questions. Thank you very much.

Question: Your Excellency, on behalf of the United Nations Correspondents’ Association, I would like to express my warmest congratulations to you on your appointment as Secretary-General of the United Nations.  I am also looking forward to working with you the next five years.

Excellency, you said in your speech that you are optimistic -- full of hope.  With regard to the Middle East and Lebanon, how optimistic are you?

Mr. Ban Ki-moon: The question of the Middle East has been unresolved for a long time, and that does not prevent one from being optimistic.  If one tries to look at the bright side of the subject, then one can have always better solutions.  As I said in my acceptance speech, I am basically an optimist, I will try my best efforts to engage myself whenever necessary to talk to the countries concerned and leaders in the region.

We have an agreement reached in 2003 where the United Nations is one party, in the Quartet agreement.  We need to do whatever we can to implement this Quartet agreement.  Of course, it may not be an easy task.  This question has been unresolved for a long time.  There are many complex issues, and many world leaders have been engaged in trying to resolve this Middle East question.  The former Secretaries-General have always been trying to participate and be in the process, including Secretary-General Kofi Annan.  I will also try to make my utmost efforts, in close consultation with the major parties concerned, as the situation develops, as I see it appropriate.  Then I will use all the possible means and resources within my power to help contribute and facilitate and mediate for the early resolution of this Middle East question.

Question:  From here also, congratulations, Mr. Ban.  I would like to know -- you stressed that North Korea, you hoped that there would be a strong resolution.  In which way can you, with all your personal experience, help in this field?

Mr. Ban Ki-moon:  When North Korea tested missiles in early July, the Security Council and members of the international community sent out a unified, strong message.  This nuclear test is fundamentally different from a missile test, and it is absolutely necessary that the international community should again send out a very strong and unified and clear message so that North Korea will not have any temptation to engage in any further negative activities, which may aggravate the situation.

I understand that members of the Security Council have been intensely engaged in this negotiation process, and my understanding is that they have almost agreed on the elements of the draft resolution submitted by the United States.  I hope that, maybe by tomorrow, they will be able to adopt a very strong and clear message, a resolution, so that this can reflect a concerted and very determined will of the international community.

Question:  We hope that you are here often to give press conferences to the press corps.  I know the press corps in South Korea has called you the “slippery eel”, because you are so skilled at avoiding answering questions, so I am going to try.  We hope we can pin you down here.

Since we don’t know you very well, I have two broad questions that I can ask you.  One is kind of your definition of diplomacy.  Do you think diplomacy necessitates speaking with your enemies, not just your friends, and in that regard, would you go directly to North Korea?

And, on a second issue, many people who believe that the Enlightenment in Europe brought about reason against superstition are worried about the rise again of religion, especially extremist religion and its involvement in politics.  I wonder if you could give us your views about politics and religion in the age we live in.

Mr. Ban Ki-moon:  Some reporters in Korea, when I was serving as a presidential adviser, gave me a nickname, which I may or may not like, as a “slippery eel”.  But I can tell you that all the press corps in Korea have enjoyed working with me.  When you serve as a foreign minister or presidential policy adviser, sometimes, even though you may have something in your mind, it would be sometimes very insensitive to tell everything to the press corps while negotiation is going on.  But I always cherish and value the opportunities of engaging with the press corps to give you right directions where the situation is going.  This will be my policy as I will be discharging my duty as Secretary-General.

Now, diplomacy is always very important.  Whenever we have some difference of opinions, even during the military conflicts, there needs to be always room for dialogue.  It is applied to all the questions, all the regional conflicts, including Korean questions, including North Korean nuclear issues.  I have always been saying that we need to take a two-pronged approach.  While we sometimes take some strong and stern positions, there always needs to be room for dialogue.  It is absolutely necessary.  I think that is what diplomacy is for.

Now, we all have differences of religions and ideologies. It is, I think, very desirable, therefore, to engage in dialogue.  We need to have a deeper understanding and appreciation for the history and ideology of other, different cultures.  That is why the United Nations has been holding many conferences and special meetings among the different cultures and interfaith dialogue.  And, as the Secretary-General, I’ll try always to encourage that kind of dialogue among different cultures.

Question:  Ambassador Bolton [unintelligible] was saying, sack the entire team of advisers of the outgoing Secretary-General.  I want to ask, what kind of changes are we likely to see you make in the secretarial structure of the United Nations.

And secondly, you are coming at a time when Africa is at two extremes.  We have, on one side, nations that are reforming economically and politically and, on the other side, nations that are in deep conflict.  I want to know your programme specifically for these African nations.

Mr. Ban Ki-moon:  As I have just been appointed, I will have some time to reflect on these issues, and by the time I take on my duty as Secretary-General next year, I’ll be able to give you some basic, broad concept of my work plans.  But, if I may tell you, in principal matters, I’ll try to change the culture in which the United Nations has been operating.  We need to bring new, fresh wind to the Secretariat; to bring management reforms to make Secretariat staff working on professionalism -- working on the highest level of integrity.  And the Secretary-General should have some hands-on guidance through a clear direction of mission to the Secretariat so that it will be able to be more accountable to the stakeholders and Member States.  This is a basic guideline which I will try to carry out in the reform process.  And there are some other areas of our reform and institutional reform.  As I said in my acceptance speech, I will also try to be engaged, to bridge the differences among the Member States and the major stakeholders with my experience, which I have gained during my public service.

Question:  I’m very pleased to meet you again, Mr. Ban Ki-moon.  My question is on North Korea.  I would like to ask you, in your capacity as Foreign Minister of South Korea, as you mentioned, the Security Council is now ready to adopt a draft resolution on North Korea.  I understand that is a very tough resolution, which includes many economic sanction measures.  And I found your Government has just decided to co-sponsor the draft resolution.  Could you tell us some background on the reason why you decided to co-sponsor the resolution?  Is that some sort of shift of your foreign policy, and are you reviewing the validity of the sunshine policy or something?

Mr. Ban Ki-moon:  When North Korea conducted the nuclear test last Monday, my Government was one of the first countries to express a very strong position condemning such nuclear tests and determining [them] as provocations which would undermine the peace and security of the international community.  We immediately supported the convening of the Security Council, and we expressed our formed position that the Security Council should take necessary action so that the international community could send out a very strong and united message.  That’s the basic position of my Government.

Question:  I’ll ask a quick two-part question, if you don’t mind.

You have just been appointed by 192 countries in the General Assembly, but we all know it basically came down to five countries in the Security Council.  Do you believe that the Security Council that appointed you is legitimate, or does it need to be updated to be legitimate?

And just to follow up on one of my colleagues’ questions, you believe in God?  And if so, what role does God play in your life and to what degree does God inform your decisions?

Mr. Ban Ki-moon:  I didn’t clearly follow your points of questions, so in this selection process -- you are talking about the selection process?

Question:  Do you believe that, in the current form, the Security Council is legitimate?

And the second question was, do you believe in God?  And to what degree does God or that religious belief inform your decisions?

Mr. Ban Ki-moon:  I think that this time, unlike in the past, the process has been very transparent.  The selection process has been conducted in a very dignified manner.  The general membership of the United Nations has been participating in the selection process and the candidates have been responding to the calls for greater participation and greater transparency.  I am very confident that the views of the Security Council have generally reflected the will of the general membership of the United Nations for the future Secretary-General.

Now, as Secretary-General, it will not be appropriate at this time to talk about my own belief in any particular religion or God.  So maybe we will have some other time to talk about personal matters.  

Thank you.

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For information media • not an official record
For information media. Not an official record.