Following is a transcript of UN Secretary-General António Guterres’ press conference, held in New York today:
Ladies and gentlemen of the media,
I really thank you very much for your presence.
Tomorrow, the General Assembly is expected to agree on a Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration, for formal adoption in December in Marrakesh. This action has immense potential to help the world harness the benefits of regular migration while safeguarding against the dangers of irregular movements that place people at risk.
Migrants are a remarkable engine for growth. Migrants number more than 250 million around the world. They make up 3 per cent of global population but contribute 10 per cent of global gross domestic product. Yet more than 60,000 people on the move have died since 2000 — at sea, in the desert and elsewhere. And often, migrants and refugees are demonized and attacked.
The Compact represents a comprehensive approach. But let me underline three important objectives. First, to reorient national development policies and international development cooperation to take migration into account, and create opportunities for people to work and live in dignity in their own countries.
Second, to strengthen international cooperation against smugglers and human traffickers, and to protect their victims. Smuggling and trafficking are criminal activities; migration is not.
Third, to increase opportunities for legal migration.
Migration is a positive global phenomenon. Many aging developed countries need migrants to fill crucial gaps in labour markets. Climate change and other factors, including simple human aspiration, will continue to lead people to seek opportunity far from their homes. If migration is inevitable, it needs to be better organized through effective international cooperation among countries of origin, transit and destination, so that we do not leave control of movements of people in the hands of smugglers and traffickers.
Countries have the right and even the responsibility to determine their own migration policies, and to responsibly manage their borders. But they must do so in full respect for human rights. And as we know, not everybody moves voluntarily in search of a better life.
More than 68 million people have been forcibly displaced by armed conflict and persecution — the most since the Second World War. I saw the human consequences yet again earlier this month when visiting desperate and traumatized Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh. I commend Bangladesh for showing compassion and generosity that have saved thousands of lives.
Unfortunately, elsewhere, we see many borders closing, and diminishing solidarity with people in need. It is urgent that we reassert the integrity of the international refugee protection regime.
I am pleased that consultations on a Global Compact on Refugees were concluded last week, for consideration by the General Assembly at the end of the year. Let us recall that the vast majority of the world’s refugees are hosted in developing countries that themselves face constraints. This responsibility must be shared globally. The two Compacts were the product of intense and inclusive consultations bringing together a wide range of actors, including migrants and refugees themselves. These agreements show multilateralism in action and give us a strong platform for progress.
Ladies and gentlemen,
Also today I am pleased to announce that I am establishing a High‑level Panel on Digital Cooperation. This is the first such panel of its kind — and will be comprised of women and men at the frontiers of technology, public policy, science and academia. I am happy to report that Ms. Melinda Gates and Mr. Jack Ma will serve as Co‑Chairs. I am grateful to them for making themselves available for this undertaking. The names of the members of the panel are available to all the distinguished members of the media present.
The reason for such a panel is clear. Digital technology is changing economies and societies at warp speed. The scale and pace of change is unprecedented, but the current means and levels of international cooperation are unequal to the challenge.
Technology now fuels so many aspects of our lives, from personal relationships to business and politics. We all depend on the Internet – from start‑up entrepreneurs… to refugees for whom smart phones are a lifeline… to grandparents such as myself chatting online with their grandchildren across continents.
Technological innovation is of course also critical to helping countries accelerate progress towards meeting the Sustainable Development Goals and the Paris climate accord. And technology is not standing still; developments are accelerating.
New tech developments from artificial intelligence to blockchain and robotics are emerging every day. At the same time, the world is only beginning to address the dark side of innovation — such as cybersecurity threats, the risks of cyberwarfare, the magnification of hate speech and violations of privacy. As a global community, we face questions about security, equity, ethics and human rights in a digital age. We need to seize the potential of technology while safeguarding against risks and unintended consequences.
I see the United Nations as a unique platform for dialogue in our digital age. We need researchers, policymakers, technologists, entrepreneurs, civil society actors and social scientists to come to the table and share their part of the solution. The Panel will map trends in digital technologies, identify gaps and opportunities, and outline proposals for strengthening international cooperation. It will contribute to the broader public debate on the importance of cooperative and interdisciplinary approaches to the full range of digital challenges.
The Panel will submit its recommendations to me in nine months, and I am confident that the public consultations of this Panel, and its resulting report, will help advance digital cooperation for our shared future.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Finally, I would like to provide an update on our action to tackle sexual harassment. This scourge affects every corner of every society — and the United Nations is no exception.
As I said from my first day in office, this challenge is deeply rooted in historic power imbalances. We live in a male‑dominated world with a male‑dominated culture. This is one reason why ensuring gender parity and the empowerment of women and girls is central. I am determined to do all we can to tackle sexual harassment — at the Secretariat and system‑wide in the United Nations.
In the Secretariat, we have taken a number of unprecedented steps. Let me be specific. First, I have created a specialized team within the Office of Internal Oversight Services to focus on sexual harassment investigations. Last week, member States in the Budget Committee approved my proposal for the creation of six new investigator posts specializing in sexual harassment. This week, we are conducting interviews with a focus on recruiting women with expertise in such investigations. Indeed, two thirds of the candidates are women.
At the same time, we are ramping up our broader internal investigative capacity — rapidly filling posts that are available. Twenty‑six investigator positions have been filled since I took office, with the vast majority receiving training that included the sexual harassment dimension. These of course are beyond the six new specialized posts I mentioned. And of course this training relates to a number of issues, but improvement in the skills of interviewing and the capacity to deal with the psychosocial aspects of trauma.
Second, we have fast‑tracked and streamlined procedures to receive, process and address complaints on sexual harassment. All sexual harassment reports are now considered Category 1, which means they will all be investigated by the Office of Internal Oversight Services, not using any of the intermediate areas of investigation that in the past were possible. At the same time, we have defined three months as the target in relation to investigation processes. We have determined, as well as in sexual exploitation and abuse, to have a victims‑centred approach in investigation. Our new whistle‑blower policy is also a strong complement to these efforts.
Third, a 24‑hour “Speak Up” Secretariat hotline is up and running for staff to confidentially report situations of sexual harassment and to seek advice.
Fourth, we have completed the terms of reference and bidding for a first‑of‑its‑kind Secretariat staff survey to better understand our colleagues’ perception on the prevalence, nature and experience of sexual harassment. The survey will now be launched.
Fifth, we have revamped mandatory training on sexual harassment this year — more than 14,000 staff have already completed it.
But all of that is not enough. Since the challenge is system‑wide, our action must be as well. I have encouraged agencies throughout the UN family to adopt similar measures, agencies that are not under my direct control.
At the November meeting of the UN Chief Executives Board, I created a Task Force that has taken a number of steps. We have launched a new screening database of confirmed perpetrators from around the system so they are not rehired by another part of the UN, as unfortunately has happened sometimes in the past. We are harmonizing policies and principles and sharing best practices.
And the measures taken at the Secretariat will support further needed action across the system. The Secretariat capacity will be at the disposal of agencies that have difficulties in implementing the same measures.
In all these efforts, my message is clear: I want staff to feel confident about coming forward instead of staying silent for fear of retribution or flawed inquiries. To those who have stepped up to share painful personal experiences, I thank you for your courage. I know it is not easy. But you are helping to shape a better working environment across the world where all can enjoy respect and dignity. I am absolutely committed to this effort. Zero tolerance in words must mean zero tolerance in deeds. Thank you.
Stéphane Dujarric, Spokesman for the Secretary-General: Thank you very much, sir.
Secretary-General: I am at your disposal for any questions.
Question: Secretary‑General, Sherwin Bryce‑Pease, South African Broadcasting and, as tradition, on behalf of the UN Correspondents Association, welcome back to this wonderful place in the United Nations.
Questions from my region, Secretary‑General, Zimbabwe has never had an election since the end of colonial rule without president… former President Robert Mugabe on the ballot. This will happen for the first time on 30 July. I wonder what your message is to the Government and the people of Zimbabwe as they move towards that.
And, on the DRC [Democratic Republic of the Congo], we understand that a proposed visit by yourself and the AU [African Union] Commission chair, Moussa Faki, was postponed at the behest of the DRC Government. This was an unexpected development. Given the international community’s anxiety as we move towards elections in December, how concerned are you by… by the postponement of this visit?
Secretary-General: First of all, we all strongly hope that the changes in Zimbabwe will lead to a country able to live in full democracy with full respect of human rights and able to restore a development process that I believe the resources of the country and the capacity of the Zimbabweans fully justify. And I strongly hope that things will go in the right direction. We are in very close consultation with both SADC [Southern African Development Community] and the African Union in this regard.
In relation to the DRC, we just received a confirmation that our visit will be welcome in the near future. And the reason that was given for the delay was that the President will announce very soon a number of important decisions and that the President doesn’t want to give the impression that he’s doing so because of international pressure. And so, not only our visits but also other visits were postponed. If that means that it’s going to take the right decisions and wants to give the impression that no international pressure has led him to take the right decisions, I will be very comfortable with the postponement.
Spokesman: Thank you. Edie?
Question: Thank you very much, Mr. Secretary‑General. Edith Lederer from the Associated Press. The world is seeing an assault on the post‑World War II order, of which the United Nations is so much a part. This has come from the United States, most recently, at NATO [North Atlantic Treaty Organization] but also from other countries. As you well know, the United States has been pushing for reforms and budget cuts at the United Nations, as have other countries. Do you fear a tougher assault on the United Nations, its role, its legitimacy?
Secretary-General: I am totally confident that the world will remain fully recognizing that the United Nations is an absolutely essential multilateral instrument to support peace and security worldwide, but also to be a pillar in relation to development and human rights. That doesn’t mean the United Nations doesn’t need reform. And, as you know, I’ve been strongly committed to reform of the United Nations. And, obviously, there are other reforms that will be important to advocate for in the context of the global multilateral system.
But one thing is to advocate for reforms that adapt the multilateral system to the new conditions that exist today and that are different in many aspects in relation to what they were after the Second World War. The second is to think that we can live without a multilateral system or [without] a rules‑based international set of relations. It is my deep belief that the challenges we face are more and more global challenges and only through multilateral governance and the rules‑based international system will we be able to respond to that. And, of course, reforms should be organized in order to strengthen that capacity and to make it more effective in addressing the needs and aspirations of we the peoples.
Question: Thank you. Thank you, Mr. Secretary‑General. It’s Pamela Falk from CBS News. On this Global Compact on migration that you discussed, it… which will be submitted tomorrow and adopted in December, it goes much further than anything else before it in terms of due process rights, even for migrants and… and trying to get rid of this toxic narrative, as the Red Cross said. Can you say that you are encouraged that countries will follow up? And, as a secondary part of that, the co‑facilitators were just telling me the US declined to participate. Without the US and also just in terms of it being non‑enforceable, are you encouraged? You spent a long… large part of your career, a piece of it, in refugee policy. Thank you.
Secretary-General: Of course, I am encouraged. And I strongly hope that the United States, sooner or later, will also join this process. Let’s not forget that United States is in itself a country of immigration. So, I think the process was an extremely important process. I’m very encouraged with the results and very hopeful about its future developments.
Question: And just a follow‑up. Do you think this goes farther than other…?
Secretary-General: It is clear that, until now and even today, there is a recognition that migration policies are a matter of national sovereignty. And, obviously, until now, it has always been very difficult to find common ground in the way the international community addresses this issue. Now, the compact that is now being presented will not be legally binding, but it represents a major effort in international cooperation. And, in that respect, it is clear that is an unprecedented step to increase international cooperation in migration.
Correspondent: Thank you.
Question: Thank you very much, Mr. Secretary‑General. Majeed Gly, Rudaw Media Network. After you answer my question, we would really appreciate if you break your impartiality and tell us which team you prefer in the finale of the World Cup. [Laughter]
And my question is about Iraq. As you know, there has been some good news from there. ISIS [ISIL/Da’esh] has been declared defeated. There has been an election. As we hear the good news in international media, there are factors that led to the emergence of ISIS as returning, including problems between Erbil and Baghdad and neglecting the Sunni Arab areas. And the international community seems to forget about Iraq again when ISIS is gone. I wanted to know, what is your perspective about this? What do you think is the role of UNAMI [United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq], your mission in Iraq, and the role of international community should be especially in solving the issue between Erbil and Baghdad and the issue of not marginalizing the minorities again in Iraq? Thank you very much.
Secretary-General: Well, I don’t know if the world has forgotten Iraq. I have not forgotten Iraq. As you know, Iraq was one of the not many countries I visit until now, and I was also co‑chairing the International Conference on Kuwait for the support of Iraq reconstruction. So, for me, the stability of Iraq, the democratic nature of Iraq, the non‑sectarian nature of Iraq is, I think, a fundamental contribution for the whole region and for peace and security globally. And so, I believe all the international community should be fully engaged in supporting Iraq in the process that is now taking place.
Iraq, as you know, after the elections, there were a number of complaints. There is a process that is being followed. UNAMI is fully engaged, not in managing elections, this is an Iraqi process, but in fully supporting Iraq in order to make sure that Iraq can move smoothly through these complexities that now are being addressed and, as I said, move clearly into a country with a democratic non‑sectarian nature and with the full capacity to put their resources at the disposal of their own people.
Question: And the World Cup?
Spokesman: The World Cup.
Secretary-General: Ah, the World Cup. Well, the team I would be supportive is no longer there so… [Laughter]
Question: Thank you. Yoshita Singh with Press Trust of India. Thank you for…
Secretary-General: I wish that… may the best team win. [Laughter]
Question: Thank you. Yoshita Singh with Press Trust of India. In June, the UN Human Rights Commissioner had come out with a report on Kashmir in which it called for an international independent investigation into the situation there. India rejected the report saying that he did not have that mandate, and clearly, he was acting beyond that mandate, because it has been maintained that Kashmir is a bilateral issue that needs to be resolved between India and Pakistan. I wanted your thoughts on that. And also on your report on the Children and Armed Conflict, there are mentions about Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand and Kashmir, Indian states, and the situation…
Question: There are mentions about three Indian states in your report on armed conflict and children, and India has said that they don’t meet the definition of armed conflict and threat to international peace and security. Your thoughts on these two impressions. Thank you.
Secretary-General: Well, one thing is the definition of the mechanism for a political solution of a situation in a country. The other thing is the general mandate of human rights instruments in relation to human rights everywhere. And so what the Human Rights High Commissioner did was the use of its own competencies and capacities, as it does in all other parts of the world, to report on what he considered to be relevant human rights violations. It doesn’t mean that there is in that a preference for any kind of methodology for a political solution. They are two completely different things, and the same applies in relation to the other report. The other report is a report about situations in which the rights of children have been put into question.
Question: Thank you, Mr. Secretary‑General. Raed Fakih with Al Jazeera. I don’t know if you agree or not, but the military solution is what is being sought on the ground in Syria. We saw that in eastern Ghouta and Aleppo, recently in Dara’a and elsewhere. So, what’s left of the political process in Syria, in your opinion? And what is your message to millions of Syrians who rallied against regime calling for freedom and… for freedom? And this regime used… according to the JIM [Joint Investigative Mechanism], he gassed his own people. And these Syrians now are seeing the international community as focusing on the security of Israel, the border with Jordan, not on their concerns and their call for freedom.
Secretary-General: Well, I don’t know exactly what international community thinks. I know what I think and what the UN thinks. And the UN thinks that there is no military solution. The solution is political. And our commitment is in relation to the Geneva talks and to make sure that a political solution in line with the [Security Council] resolution 2254 (2015) is found and that a constitutional committee, as it was agreed, will be put in place in a way that will guarantee its impartiality and its contribution to a future political solution in Syria. That is our commitment. That is our objective. And the message I have for all Syrians is only a political solution can guarantee the future, the reconstruction, and a democratic and non‑sectarian character of the State.
Now, in relation to the recent events in the south, we were quite active and quite engaged in trying to avoid a bloodbath and in trying to create the conditions for those events to have the least possible impact in relation to the civilians. I think that our action was useful in that regard, but, again, this is not the objective. The objective must be and remains entirely for us a political solution in line with resolution 2254 (2015).
Spokesman: Ali… Nabil. Sorry. [Laughter]
Correspondent: Thank you.
Question: Nabil Abi Saab, Mr. Secretary‑General. I’m Al Hurra TV station correspondent. I would like to know your opinion about a migration problem in the Mediterranean. Do you believe that part of the solution is possible through establishing camps in Libya? And what’s the responsibility of Libyan authorities in this regard? And, two, it seems that there is some new engagement from the P5 [permanent five members of the Security Council] or some of them on Libya. Do you see that… some signs that Libyan parties are more open to maybe compromising or… or moving faster towards a political solution?
Secretary-General: Well, I think there are several questions in the same. Let’s start by the end. As you know, my envoy, Ghassan Salamé, has been extremely active in trying to create conditions for a political solution to be found in Libya. He was very active recently in the solution of the problem related to oil that you were perfectly aware [of] recently and that fortunately was solved. The town halls in a large number of cities in preparation of the national conference have now been concluded, and we will be working very hard to make sure that that national conference can take place and can be effective unity of the different actors in Libya, and so we are totally committed. I was also in Addis [Ababa], we discussed with the African Union, and we want really to work together on this. We are totally committed to make sure that Libya finds a way out of the crisis that has undermined its development in the recent past.
Now, it is clear for me that, first, we need to distinguish [between] migration and asylum. So, refugees have the right to find protection. Refugees are, as you know, covered by international law through the ‘51 Convention. And one of the things that I have said in my initial intervention was that we need to reassert the integrity of the refugee protection regime. And it is clear that Europe has a responsibility in relation to abiding by international law in relation to refugees.
On the other hand, it is clear that, as I said, States have the right to define their own migration policies, but they must respect human rights in the way their migration policies are respected. And what we have seen in Libya… even if there was an improvement, and IOM [International Organization for Migration] and UNHCR [Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees] was very active in trying to improve the situation, what we have seen in Libya is clearly not in line with minimum standards of human rights. And so I believe that it is not a solution to have in the present situation camps in Libya to solve migration or asylum problems.
I think the solution requires more effective international cooperation of countries of origin, transit and destination, and the recognition that migration is a positive thing. I think I already said it probably in this room but if I don’t mind repeating it: I visit my mother when I go to Lisbon. Unfortunately, not as frequently as I would like. And my mother is 95 years old. And Portugal is not a very rich European country, as you know. It has been even… we had a difficult period of austerity that is known by all, so it’s not one of the richest European countries.
But the truth is that, when I visit my mother — and she’s 95 years old — and we have always a system that was put in place, one person at home to make sure that she gets the adequate assistance, rotating and making sure there is a 24‑times‑7 presence. I’ve never seen a Portuguese taking care of my mother. So, it is clear that migration is necessary. Now, if something is necessary, it’s better to organize it. And the only way to organise it — and that is why it’s so important to have the compact — is through effective cooperation between countries of destination that need migrants, countries of origin that, unfortunately, are not yet able to provide opportunities to all their citizens, and countries of transit to avoid the horrible events that we have seen in Libya just a few months ago and the prevailing very difficult circumstances that are still there.
Spokesman: Maggie, then Mr. Wang.
Question: Thank you, Secretary‑General. Margaret Besheer with Voice of America. Yesterday, your office put out a statement condemning the violence in Nicaragua and the killing of the protesters. Could you go a little further on that and the OAS, the Organization of American States, has called for early elections. President [Daniel] Ortega [Saavedra] has dismissed this call. Where do you stand on a solution to this situation? Do you think it’s at the ballot box, or how do you see it being resolved?
Secretary-General: We have been consistently advocating for the end of violence and for dialogue, and we have been cooperating actively with the Organization of American States on this, and we hope that the Nicaraguans will be able to find a way out of this crisis, because, obviously, the people are suffering enormously, and the country would, of course, benefit from a new consensus established among the parties. End of violence, political dialogue are, in my opinion, absolutely crucial at the present moment.
Spokesman: Mr. Wang.
Question: Okay. Thank you, Secretary‑General. Jiangang Wang from Xinhua News Agency. My question is, can you please comment on the current trade war between the two biggest economies? And could you also please evaluate its impact on the world economy? Thank you.
Secretary-General: Well, I don’t think we have a state of war, but there are, of course, a number of trade measures that were taken. I am a strong believer of free and fair trade, and I am a strong believer in the role that the World Trade Organization can have in solving the disputes that might exist among Member States. Obviously, this is not an area of direct interference of the United Nations, but I hope that all the present difficulties that we are seeing in trade around the world will be able to be solved both by a spirit of negotiation and by taking profit of the role of the World Trade Organization.
Question: Thank you, Mr. Secretary‑General. Iftikhar Ali from Associated Press of Pakistan. This is a follow‑up to my colleagues from India, a question about Kashmir. Over the last few days, the situation has deteriorated. The… as you know, and there have been civilian deaths. There have been curfews imposed. Sir, have you made any attempt to… to bring about dialogue between the two countries? And I, sir, did not hear any clear answer whether your… proposal made by your High Commissioner on Human Rights, whether you support an independent international investigation into the human rights situation in Kashmir.
Secretary-General: As you can imagine, all the action of the Human Rights High Commissioner is an action that represents the voice of the UN in relation to that issue. It is clear for me that only political solutions can address political problems. Whenever I meet the leaders of both India and Pakistan, I always offer my good offices, and I hope that the future will be able to create the mechanisms of dialogue that will allow for this problem to find also an adequate political solution that the people can benefit from.
Question: Thank you, Secretary‑General. I’m wondering if you could give us a candid assessment of your relationship with the US Administration right now, given that some of the things that you were hoping they wouldn’t do they did, like pulling out of the UN Human Rights Commission, defunding UNRWA [United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East], and other things. And also, you… you ran on the campaign of reforming the UN even before this Administration, and we’ve seen Ambassador Nikki Haley take a lot of credit in statements for the reforms that have been taking place. So how much credit do you give the US for pushing for reform? And do you think that her assessment that she and the US were instrumental is correct or not?
Secretary-General: Well, first of all, we had a process of reform in which a number of very important progress measures were already agreed at the level of the Fifth Committee (Administrative and Budgetary) in the General Assembly and the ECOSOC [Economic and Social Council]. And, obviously, I’m extremely grateful to the contribution of all countries, including the United States, in that regard. And so I have no problem at all with the fact that a Member State also takes profit of that. I find it perfectly natural. In relation to the first question, it is obvious that there is a number of areas in which there is a disagreement, but it is also obvious that there is a number of areas in which there is a very engaged and constructive cooperation.
Just to give you an example, in relation to the Democratic Republic of the Congo, there was a very convergent action by myself and by the Permanent Representative of the United States in visits that we did in the past, and again, the same kind of position in relation to the solution of the problems there.
In relation to situations like Libya or Yemen or South Sudan, there has been an excellent cooperation. So, there are difficulties. There are problems. There are areas of disagreement. There are also areas of cooperation and agreement. And this is what relations must be, honest relations, sincere relations. When we disagree, we disagree. When we agree, we agree. Let’s make sure that the point of disagreements do not disrupt the relations, and let’s seize the opportunities creates by the points of agreement.
Question: Hi, Mr. Secretary‑General. I’m Carole Landry with Agence France Presse. I wanted to ask you about North Korea. What’s your view of the state of the US‑North Korean dialogue on denuclearization? It seems there was a bit of a hiccup when Secretary [Michael] Pompeo went to Pyongyang. And what is the UN doing? You talk about the importance of verification. Are you getting anywhere with that?
Secretary-General: I think, first of all, hiccups in a process like this — there will be many, inevitably, but I think there are very good possibilities for this dialogue to lead to a solution, a positive solution — I mean, get the peaceful denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula and all our interest is, of course, to support that effort of the two Member States.
As you know, I have sent my Under‑Secretary‑General to North Korea in the very beginning of the process when the relations were still very tense, because I was clearly convinced that only the dialogue between the two, together with the improvement of inter‑Korea relations, can lead to solutions. But, of course, this is a complex process. It’s a difficult negotiation, and I believe there will be inevitably some ups and downs along the way, and we need to persist and to ask all countries in the region to help facilitate things for agreements to be reached.
Now, the UN, as you know, some specialized bodies, they are at the disposal of the parties. There have been contacts, of course, with namely the International Atomic Energy Agency. So, there are things that technically can be done by us, but, of course, they depend on the dynamics of the political negotiation between the parties. But we are available to do whatever is useful, not with any… not seeking any protagonism but with all the goodwill to support an effort that I can see an essential effort for global peace and security.
Spokesman: Ibis and then Mr. Abbadi.
Question: Thanks. Ibis from Prensa Latina news agency. I want to ask about your impression about your visit in Cuba and about the role of ECLAC [Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean] in the region.
Secretary-General: The role of?
Correspondent: ECLAC. Thank you.
Secretary-General: Well, first of all, my visit to Cuba was a very useful visit in all aspects. Cuba has been very positively engaged in the reforms here in the process of reform that took place, and there is a very relevant dialogue with Cuba, namely, in relation to areas where Cuba has been extremely helpful for peace processes in the region. And I would underline the role played by Cuba in relation to Colombia and the negotiations with the FARC [Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia] and, more recently, with the ELN [National Liberation Army]. And so there’s a number of areas of cooperation that are extremely important.
ECLAC is, in my opinion, an extremely effective regional economic commission. And I’ve been saying that in our reform process, when I look at the other economic commissions, I think ECLAC is the reference model. ECLAC has gained a very solid reputation in the region. Governments are extremely happy with the cooperation they receive from ECLAC, and country teams also, obviously, take profit of ECLAC’s competence. And I think that it is one of the bright spots of the UN system that we should cherish and support.
Spokesman: Mr. Abbadi.
Question: [In French] Merci, Monsieur le Secrétaire général de votre présence ici et de votre point de presse. L’ordre mondial semble entrer dans une situation très difficile. La globalisation fait face au nationalisme, le multilatéralisme à l’unilatéralisme, et le marché libre à la concurrence. A votre avis, cette situation, si elle persistait, pourrait‑elle rendre encore plus difficile la recherche du consensus international au sein des instances des Nations Unies?
Secretary-General: [In French] La réponse est oui. [Laughter]
Question: Thank you. Linda Fasulo representing NPR. I was wondering… I’d like to go back to your presentation… presentation on migration. I was wondering what your personal view is regarding asylum seekers. I mean, assuming the asylum request is legitimate, do you believe that asylum seekers have the right to permanent status in the countries they’ve approached, whether those countries are rich countries, poor countries or mid‑level?
Secretary-General: No, asylum seekers have the right to seek asylum, and they have the right to see their asylum requests properly examined. And, if the asylum request leads to the conclusion that the asylum seeker becomes a refugee, refugees have the right to be protected in the countries where they have asked for that protection. And so, I think we need to distinguish asylum seeker, which is an interim stage, someone that considers that he or she has the right to be protected, and the refugee that has been recognized as such, either through an individual process or, in some situations, when you have massive outflows with prima facie refugee status that is granted to all those fleeing those dramatic circumstances that we have had in several parts of the world.
Spokesman: Thank you.
Question: Follow‑up. Is that a permanent status that countries should grant to refugees?
Secretary-General: When a country grants refugee status, that has no time limit. Obviously, if the circumstances that have led for that are completely overcome, countries can either decide to integrate them even as citizens with naturalization or if there… a cessation clause is adopted. We have had several cessation clauses when we can see that the country’s no longer a country related to… a country that justifies refugee status. So, when a cessation clause is applied, then there is a negotiation normally between UNHCR and the country where the refugees have asked for asylum in order to find a solution that can be returned to the country of origin, that can be integration in the country where the refugee is already if he’s in between, has built its life and is even giving a positive contribution to the economy and the society of the country of origin. But the refugee status can, indeed, end when a cessation clause is approved, and that is an entity that… I mean, usually it’s UNHCR that declares it in consultation, of course, with a number of key partners.
Spokesman: Maria or Irina? Sorry.
Spokesman: Maria. Sorry. Okay.
Question: Maria with TASS news agency. I’m new here. I wanted to follow with a topic of reform of the United Nations. You mentioned some steps which have already been taken. And could you please tell about the next steps which you think are important to take in this process? And, also, could you tell about your opinion about the right to veto some decisions since Security Council should have been… should they continue to have this right or not? Thank you.
Secretary-General: Well, the reforms that we have launched are reforms of the development system and reforms of the Secretariat, not reforms of the political bodies of the UN, not of the Security Council or the General Assembly. And, in that regard, I think that the Secretary‑General needs to be quite discreet, because, if not, he will probably help create situations that will not help… it will become part of the problem instead of becoming part of the solution.
But, in relation to the reforms that we are promoting, first, what we had until now was essentially a number of decisions that will allow for implementation to start. So now the next steps are essentially steps of implementation. There are a few things that still need to be solved. As you know, the financing of the UN development system is now being worked out, and, at the same time, some of the decisions in relation, for instance, for human resources management have been postponed for a new report that will be presented, so that there are still a number of things that the decisions of the bodies, Fifth Committee, ECOSOC and General Assembly, have asked for additional steps, and there are others that enter into implementation. The objective is to have the essential part of the reform fully on board on 1 January 2019.
Spokesman: Okay. Last question. Joe Klein.
Question: Thank you. Joseph Klein of Canada Free Press. First, a very quick follow‑up on migration. Assuming that the global migration compact is adopted with broad consensus even without the United States, would you consider that to at least be part of… become part of customary international law, even if it’s not technically legally binding under the terms of the compact?
And, secondly, Under‑Secretary‑General Mark Lowcock, in his press briefing yesterday, did not mention anything regarding the potential impact of economic sanctions on the humanitarian situation in North Korea. So, could you please comment on whether you had any discussions with him on this issue and also your own thoughts as to whether there is any such linkage between the sanctions and the humanitarian crisis? Thank you.
Secretary-General: In relation to the second question, Mark Lowcock, the head of OCHA [Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs], just came from North Korea. So, there is a plan that was presented by the humanitarian agencies. We are seeking funds for that plan, and we hope that the international community will understand that this is the moment also to fund the humanitarian plan of support to the people of North Korea. And, at the present moment, this is our track, to try to address directly the humanitarian aspects of all sorts that exist in North Korea.
In relation to migration, I’m not a lawyer, and I presume that this question might be better asked for a lawyer. But, if I remember well my past capacity, I don’t think this can be considered as customary law in the sense, like, for instance, the ‘51 Convention, even for the countries that have not signed it, is valid as customary international law. In the case of something that is not legally binding, I don’t think it can be considered directly as customary international law. What I believe it is, is a form of soft law. I mean, it’s a number of guiding principles that ideally countries should abide by, because the fact it’s not legally binding doesn’t mean that a country that signs it does not commit itself to apply the different aspects that are included in the compact. But I don’t think technically… and I…
Spokesman: We’ll get a lawyer. [Laughter]
Secretary-General: I don’t think technically it can be considered…
Spokesman: Thank you very much.
Secretary-General: Thank you very much.