International Community Prevented Bloodbath in Libya, but Air Operations Alone Will Not Resolve Crisis, Secretary-General Tells London Summit

29 March 2011

International Community Prevented Bloodbath in Libya, but Air Operations Alone Will Not Resolve Crisis, Secretary-General Tells London Summit

29 March 2011
Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

International Community Prevented Bloodbath in Libya, but Air Operations Alone


Will Not Resolve Crisis, Secretary-General Tells London Summit


Following is UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s statement on the situation in Libya and the implementation of Security Council resolution 1973 (2011), in London, 29 March:

Let me begin by thanking the Government of the United Kingdom for organizing this important meeting.  Security Council resolutions 1970 (2011) and 1973 (2011) are an unequivocal statement of our determination to force the Government of Libya to stop its campaign of violence against its own citizens.  The fact that the international community acted decisively and swiftly saved thousands of lives.  And I am very much encouraged that only after 10 days following the Paris summit, we have met in a much broader gathering.  I commend the decisive commitment displayed by the international community.

When the air strikes began, Government forces were poised to enter Benghazi.  A bloodbath appeared to be inevitable.  For now, we have prevented a humanitarian catastrophe.  Yet we also know air operations alone will not resolve the crisis.  Nor will it bring about a political solution that meets the aspirations of the Libyan people.  I therefore welcome the consultations with international partners that recently took place in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, under the auspices of the African Union.

For our part, the United Nations, from the beginning, has undertaken strong diplomatic efforts to end the crisis in Libya.  I, and my Special Envoy, Abdul Ilah al-Khatib, have remained in close contact with all parties, including the Libyan authorities and the opposition.  I have called repeatedly for an immediate ceasefire and unrestricted humanitarian access to all areas of the country.

My Special Envoy will return to Libya shortly, again to meet both with leaders of the Government and the opposition.  He will also engage closely with international stakeholders including the League of Arab States, the African Union, the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC) and the European Union.  His aim is to keep direct channels of communication with all sides on the conflict and to use these contacts to help resolve the conflict and to bring about a settlement that accords with the will of the Libyan people.

In tandem with the Special Envoy’s activities, the Humanitarian Coordinator also carried out a mission to Tripoli.  The Humanitarian Coordinator’s efforts are ongoing, and preparations are under way for an inter-agency humanitarian needs assessment in the east of Libya.

It is important also to recall that Security Council resolution 1973 (2011) demands that the Libyan authorities comply fully with their obligations under international humanitarian and human rights law.  As you well know, we continue to receive deeply disturbing reports about the lack of protection of civilians, including migrant workers, as well as abuses of human rights by the parties to the conflict.  In view of the current military operations, humanitarian aid should be delivered by humanitarian organizations in order to ensure that aid delivery is carried out according to humanitarian principles.

According to the latest figures from the International Organization of Migration and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, around 380,000 people have left Libya since the start of the unrest and some 13,000 people remain stranded at the borders with Egypt and Tunisia.

We are mobilizing all possible efforts utilizing international organizations.  I also visited Egypt and Tunisia.  So far, the $160 million regional flash appeal for the Libyan crisis is 67 per cent funded.  I hope countries participating in the conference will generously contribute.  Assessments by the World Food Programme (WFP) in eastern Libya report that food supplies are gradually being consumed but not replenished.  A drawn-out conflict will increase food insecurity and therefore the number of those needing assistance.

Our priority remains what it has been since military operations began — to save civilian lives and end the hostilities.  Any ceasefire must be verifiable and will require coordinated monitoring.  We need unrestricted humanitarian access, which in turn requires an international aid presence.  It is critical that the international community remain united.

Fast-moving developments on the ground require us to look ahead.  Soon, Libya’s people will have to re-engage with each other.  Our long-term interest is to help them do so, focusing on the establishment of transitional arrangements that would meet the democratic aspirations of the Libyan people.

The dramatic changes under way in Libya and elsewhere in North Africa require a coordinated, effective response from the international community.  In that regard, I would like to support what [British] Prime Minister David Cameron has suggested to establish a contact group and I would like to see the very close coordination among the United Nations, League of Arab States, African Union, OIC and the European Union.  This contact group should have very close coordination.  I know that everybody is very anxious and passionate to help the Libyan people and to address this crisis, but we need to have very close coordination, and I’m going to lead this coordination, if you agree.

We know that any stable democracy must be grounded in political, economic and social development.  This will require a strategy based on an integrated framework and firm commitments from us all.  We will have to address such issues as economic reforms and job creation, justice and reconciliation, human rights, capacity- and institution-building, political dialogue, electoral assistance and security-sector reform.

These are the issues the people in the region desperately need.  I am sure that the Libyan people will need much, much more.  Of course, they are not organized.  The Government regime has not encouraged civil society.  It has just been one-man rule.  Therefore, we need to be very, I think, strategic in helping them to have a very smooth transition to the rule of law and fuller democracy.

The decades-long repression of political parties, civil society organizations and the media also pose substantial challenges.  The transition to a democratic Government and society will take time and the support of us all.  The United Nations is ready and willing to assist the people of Libya in this transition.  We are eager to help and to work very closely with you.

Thank you very much.

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