Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago

02 January 2004

Secretary-General's press encounter with Prime Minister Patrick Manning (unofficial transcript-revised)

Prime Minister, Patrick Manning: Good afternoon, Ladies and Gentlemen. I just thought I would have a word with you following what I thought was a very successful meeting with the very distinguished Secretary-General of the United Nations, Mr. Kofi Annan. As you know, Mr. Annan is in his second term as UN Secretary-General, he comes from Ghana, and was elected to a second term because it was felt that he had done exceedingly well in his first.

We discussed today a number of issues affecting a number of countries around the world, especially in the region - Haiti, Venezuela, some of the issues arising out of the Commonwealth Heads of Government Conference in Nigeria a couple of weeks ago and a number of other issues affecting Trinidad and Tobago. It would be more appropriate if the details of all of this come from the Secretary-General himself, Mr. Annan.

SG: Thank you very much, Mr. Prime Minister. Good afternoon, Ladies and Gentlemen. Let me start by thanking the Prime Minister and the people of Trinidad and Tobago for the warm welcome they have given me and my family since we got to Tobago on the 21st December after a very hard year to get some rest, and I must tell you it was very restful and I am really happy to be back in Trinidad and Tobago. It's my first visit here as Secretary-General. I had been before, before I was named Secretary-General.

The Prime Minister and I had a chance to discuss issues of mutual interest and concern. We talked about the need for economic development. We talked about the developments here in this country. We talked about HIV/AIDS and the need for everyone to get involved from the top to street organizations, women's organizations, involvement of people living with HIV/AIDS and the young people. It is a fight that demands total mobilization of society and I must say that the Prime Minister and I agree on this, the need to fight the stigma and the discrimination and I hope you also, the ladies and gentlemen of the press, will play your part. We did talk about the trade issues, not only the global one but also your regional trading arrangements which your country is playing a very important role in, as well as the need to maintain multilateral relations and international cooperation. And we both hope that this year will be a more peaceful year. 2003 was a difficult one and so I hope that this year will be better. We will take your questions.

Q: Mr. Secretary-General, if I could ask why did you choose to stay here in Trinidad and Tobago as opposed to other countries?

SG: I've been wanting to come for a long time and I decided this holiday period I would spend here and at the end of it have some discussions with the Prime Minister to catch up on developments here. And we have not been disappointed.

Q: If I could ask this question. I would like to identify myself, I am Juhel Brown from the Trinidad Guardian newspaper, and secondly with regards to the [inaudible] of HIV/AIDS and so forth, this country and region has a very high rate of infection and quite apart from here to deal with all these issues are you satisfied with whatever information you have that enough is being done to battle the issues at hand?

SG: Let me say that I do not believe that the world community is doing enough about HIV/AIDS. It is a disease that is spreading very fast and it is a disease that is hitting men and women in their prime and in their most productive years. It is hitting the younger people and today in some parts of the world, women are much more infected than men and they are often the innocent and silent victims because of irresponsible behaviour of men who do not often [inaudible]. The cruelest of all transmission is mother to child - where you have millions of orphans around the world today so it is, even if you look at it on the issues of the resources applied to it, you know, we need to spend about $10 billion globally by 2005 to tackle this disease. We are not near that. But it is not just money. It is fighting the stigma. It is getting everyone involved. It is getting care to the people. It is upgrading health services and ensuring that those who have the disease are cared for as well as education and prevention. So I think we can do more, not just here, but all around.

Q: Mr. Secretary-General, Richard Lord from the Trinidad Express,

what role can the Caribbean countries play in the fight against international terrorism?

SG: I think the resolution that the UN passed, the Security Council resolution, demands that governments cooperate across borders, that they do not harbor terrorists, that they do not give then logistical support, they close down their financial accounts and really share information. I think that political, diplomatic effort and sharing of information - basic police work, working with Interpol and amongst others, are an extremely important part of the fight against terrorism. Military action is only part, may be part of the solution, but it is not the main part.

Q: Mr. Secretary-General, Tony Fraser, BBC Caribbean Service. Some CARICOM leaders have begun talking about a greater involvement in the resolution of the Haitian problem. What were the discussions on that and in what ways can CARICOM assist that process even further?

SG: I think the Prime Minister may want to say something about it, but we both share the concern that something needs to be done to help the Government and the people of Haiti overcome their difficult political and economic situation. And I know CARICOM has taken some initiative. But in the final analysis, it is the people of Haiti who have to really face up to this challenge, who have to understand that the interest of their nation must come first. They must put that beyond political ambitions and really find a way of resolving their differences through dialogue and working for the future of their children and the younger generation. We did discuss what can be done, and the need to cooperate with CARICOM, the UN and CARICOM and with some of the other important neighbours in the region, but perhaps the Prime Minister would want to say something about that.

PM: Well earlier this week, we had a briefing session and involved in it was the CARICOM Secretary-General together with Ambassador Colin Granderson, who as you know headed the OAS-CARICOM mission on the ground in Haiti sometime ago, the civilian mission. And arising out of that, we held discussions with the Prime Minister of Jamaica and the Prime Minister of St. Lucia on the phone, it was a conference call. The basic thing that we agreed on is that quiet diplomacy is what is now required in the Haitian situation, quiet diplomacy, and therefore it is in that direction that we have channeled out efforts and we hope that in due course we will be able to say something more concrete to you in this regard. We recognize that Haiti is a CARICOM country, Haiti is a Caribbean problem as much as it is a problem for anybody else, and the Caribbean countries cannot behave as though we have no responsibility in this matter; we accept that responsibility, and we are working assiduously to ensure that there is some acceptable resolution to this issue in Haiti.

Q: Mr. Secretary-General, is the UN going to be involved in the bicentennial celebrations in Haiti?

SG: We have our representative in Haiti. I did speak to one or two of the leaders who have been there. I was not able to go there myself. But we are engaged with the Haitians and as I have indicated in the discussions with the Prime Minister, we can step up our activities in the search for dialogue and reconciliation. As far as the bicentennial activities are concerned, our agencies are involved, but I cannot give you the details of that.

Q: Mr. Secretary-General, I am John Victor of TTT National Broadcasting Network. Trinidad and Tobago is on the verge of being selected as the headquarters of the Free Trade Area of the Americas [FTAA]. I am not sure if that figured at all in your discussions today, but I just wanted to get what are your thoughts on it?

SG: I know that you are one of the candidates for the headquarters. We didn't get into too much detail about that, but I know the Prime Minister would be happy to see that happen. But of course this is an issue for the countries involved to decide and thus as Secretary-General I would want to encourage the development of the FTAA area and I would want to see an effective Secretariat set up. But I cannot campaign for one or the other of the cities.

PM: Ladies and Gentlemen the Secretary-General, as you know has another appointment at 4 o'clock and we hope that you will be kind enough to respect that and to field only another one question or two perhaps at best.

Q: I was wondering on the question of the resolution, if that's the word with regard to Iraq. Is the UN –two questions really –one, is the UN sufficiently involved –do you feel that the UN is sufficiently involved at this point in time, and the second question with regard to the US government and the coalition or some of the coalition partners not being involved in determining who will be involved and so on - is the UN happy, satisfied with that process?

SG: Well, you may know that I've called for a meeting on the 19th of January with the coalition, the Iraqi governing council and the UN Secretariat to discuss the nature and extent of UN involvement in Iraq. The UN had to draw down the staff quite drastically after the tragic attack on our headquarters on the 19th of August and the subsequent one. We did not leave Iraq. We have several hundred Iraqis working for us and I have some international staff in the north. What we have agreed with the Council is that we would gear up and send our staff when the circumstances permit. By the circumstances, I mean when a secure environment is created. In my last report to the Security Council, I indicated that we will establish an office in the region, in Cyprus, with a presence in Amman, and do some cross border operations and as and when the situation improves, re-establish ourselves much more strongly in Iraq. But I think the discussions that we will have on the 19th will bring some clarity to the respective roles of the UN, the governing council and the coalition. Thank you.

PM: One more…..

Q: It's two parts, one, the United States had challenged the role, the relevance of the United Nations in this age of [inaudible] do you think that there is still room for the United Nations to operate or carry out the mandate which they set out to do, and secondly, the role of a nation as small as Trinidad and Tobago in the United Nations?

SG: I'm not sure how to answer you. Let me say that you phrased your question “Is there room for the UN?” I think there is an absolute need for the UN. It's more than the room. The UN is needed today more than ever. I think the Iraqi crisis underscored for many Member States and peoples around the world, the need to have a forum like the United Nations where people can come and discuss their differences, and also a United Nations of sovereign States that can confer legitimacy that no other organization or group can. My own sense is that the UN is much more important today than ever and we must also understand, the UN is much more than peacekeeping activities. Yes we are involved in Iraq, we are involved in Afghanistan. We are in Congo. But the UN is also the UN of development, the UN of the millennium development goals, the UN of World Health Organization, of UNICEF, and a whole range of activities that the UN does and I think the public often does not realize how the UN impacts on their daily lives. Whether in the area of telecommunications - without the ITU, which is part of the UN family, regulating frequencies, you wouldn't be able to listen to your radios. Without the International Civil Aviation Organization in Canada insisting that all pilots speak English, you can imagine being in a plane and everybody speaking their own language and trying to get from one country to the other. And on Intellectual Property, there is WIPO that really regulates it. So we impact on people's lives in more ways than one. And the UN is going to play its role in Iraq as I said when circumstances permit. And I have set up a panel of eminent persons to see how we can reinvigorate the UN. I expect their report within a year and they will not only look at the processes and structures, but they will also ask critical questions. When is preventive war justified? What are the rules? When is intervention, whether for humanitarian reasons or otherwise, justified? What are the guidelines? Who authorizes them? We are going to make the organization, I hope, much more dynamic and it's an organization of large and small States. And size counts, but it is not everything. There are lots of small countries in the UN which today are punching beyond their weight, and Trinidad has a capacity of being one of those. Thank you.

PM: Ladies and Gentlemen, I would like to thank the very distinguished Secretary-General for visiting Trinidad and Tobago at this time and for visiting us here at Whitehall. Thank you very much, Mr. Secretary-General.