The Secretary-General was introduced by his wife, Mrs. Nane Annan:
How exciting and what a challenge to introduce my husband to you: a man who has been in the public eye for so long; a man who is exactly what he appears to be, both inside and outside the home: calm, wise, compassionate.
We are often asked how we met and, before we had time to answer, it was in the press: that it was at a social gathering, now 25 years ago. I was about to leave, turned around at the door, our eyes met, and the rest is history. I was asked the other day, was it intuition and did I continue out the door? I said yes to both questions, but thinking back on that moment, it was not intuition. You are a great communicator and without saying a word you showed me, in one go, your inner strength, and you must have put that magnetic aura of yours in high gear. I hope I do not sound too corny, but that is the way it was.
Of course today these qualities are common knowledge. You cannot imagine how many come up to him to tell him how he has touched them, or thank him for caring about the world. It can be truck drivers waving as they drive by on First Avenue, a grey-haired lady kissing you on both cheeks in a village in Switzerland, and countless people around the world, especially young people.
And yet I cannot say I know fully the very origin or source of your strength. I have assumed that it was your deep roots in Ghana, growing up there at a singularly important time, as it was about to gain independence. But hopefully I will learn more, as we will have one foot in Ghana very soon. I already know that it is a fascinating country, with a vibrant traditional society co-existing with modern democracy.
You are often described as somebody who made your career at the United Nations, comfortably rising within its ranks. However, if one looks closer I would rather call you “The man who went his own way.” Many of course were opportunities offered to a “Man with Potential”: from the tropical sun of Ghana to the first snow in your life in Minnesota, when you received a scholarship in a foreign student leadership programme: How did they know already? Heading off into Francophone territory for post-graduate studies at the Institut des Hauts Etudes in Geneva, and then on to the World Health Organization there.
After two years, you decided you wanted to work in Africa and went to apply for two vacancies there. The Personnel Director said: Great, there are many people in this office that a hundred horses could not pull away from Geneva. In short order, you were offered India, Philippines and Copenhagen. You insisted on Africa. “Young man, your final offer is Copenhagen; take it or leave it,” and you left and went to Addis for six years. I will not go into further detail, only to say that when you arrived on the 38th Floor, somebody said: “There is one rebel on the floor, and that is the Secretary-General”, which I took to mean your ability to think outside of the box.
So how is it to be this man's wife, his partner? Here I think we in the diplomatic community all know how it is to be our spouse's partner. I think we all fulfil this role, perhaps even more so as this is New York and a multilateral posting. We have a very active life here, where we gain in working together. There are strong support systems and wonderful friendships, and we have often come together for a good cause, helping out in times of natural calamities or in the work of UNICEF for children around the world.
We fill an important role in our dedication and across our diversities.
The Women's International Forum is one of our very active fora and, as your patron, I want to thank you for your creativity and hard work in finding speakers on topics as far-ranging as trafficking or AIDS, to climate change or progress towards the Millennium Development Goals, always keeping us abreast of what happens in the international field related to the United Nations.
But back to the time when you were elected Secretary-General. I was in a small restaurant on 10th or 11th Avenue when I got the message. I can tell you, I felt like I was in the eye of the storm. I sat down. I knew he would handle it marvellously. I had seen the qualities, which are now so apparent, chiselled out during the long years working for the United Nations, especially during your time as head of Peacekeeping. But how would
I be able to handle it? I could have taken a cab, but I decided to walk across the city to the UN. In Times Square, a young woman asked whether I had been in Beijing at the women's conference, as I was carrying a UNIFEM bag. When I said, “No,” she looked so disappointed, I wanted to say, “But my husband was just elected Secretary-General!” It was too late, she had already disappeared. A bit further along, someone else asked me where my security was. And as I was getting close to the UN, I stopped to put on more presentable shoes. I leaned up against a mailbox to change out of my sneakers, when the wife of an ambassador came up and hugged me and I immediately felt the support of the spousal community, which has been so important. Thank you for your support and friendship over the years, without which I would not have functioned.
I recently read an article in the International Herald Tribune, describing Swedes
as people who love their country's stones –a nation of shy nature-lovers, ill-at-ease in the company of others, happiest when wandering alone in one of Sweden's many vast, dark forests. I was not wandering alone in one of Sweden's forests, but had found another refuge in a painting studio in Brooklyn, when life changed dramatically.
As luck would have it, your first official visit was to southern Africa and I decided to travel with you and visit UN projects. The very first programme on my schedule was meeting with women in a township outside of Cape Town. They had almost nothing but the dream to build a house for themselves and their children. They learned to make bricks and when one had saved enough money, the others would come together to help her build a house, using a cardboard model as a guide. I left them deep in thought over what women can accomplish. But it also helped me to forget about myself, and pointed to a way forward for me, inspired by their positive energy.
The last leg of that trip was to Angola, at that time suffering from the legacy of a decades-long civil war. I visited 80 orphans of war in a school in the capital Luanda.
The school was just rooms without roofs, and there were no desks or chairs, only concrete blocks for the children to sit on and there were hardly any pencils, papers or textbooks. But there was a teacher and at least they were in school. I encouraged them to stay there because education was something that could never be taken away from them. Then the children gathered to sing a song:
“We are children; we need a father who takes care of us? What can you do about that?
We are children; we need a mother who hugs us? What can you do about that?
We are children; we need an education? What can you do about that?
We are children; we need a childhood? What can you do about that?”
Their questions burned into me and would force me to start talking about what I have seen. I do not have a role within the UN, but I can be an eyewitness to what the UN is doing in the development field, which does not often capture the headlines but is so important for men, women and children. I have been visiting countless schools, showing my slideshow about children in other schools, different and yet the same, about the dream of a better world. I have been inspired by the people I have met, be it women in villages far away or here, and by the resilience and enthusiasm of children.
I have often felt like pinching myself. Am I really experiencing all this? But I have, and it has been an incredible journey. And now to my partner who has promised not to talk about me, but about his experiences at the United Nations during the past ten years and beyond.
Thank you very much.
SG: Thank you very much, Nane, for your comments. You were eloquent and brilliant. I don't know how I am going to follow that. [laughter]
I think Nane has indicated that when we started, our first visit was to South Africa and to Angola. That trip to Angola was quite eventful. We had a couple of journalists travelling with us, including a BBC journalist who was making a documentary which aired later, titled “The Whole World in his Hands.”
I decided to go and see [Jonas] Savimbi, the rebel leader, and to try and get him and his parliamentarians to come back to Luanda and sit in Parliament. They had left. They had left the Parliament. They were boycotting Parliament. So we took the plane, a C-130, a military plane, and headed for Ovamboland where Savimbi's headquarters were. We hit this incredible tropical storm which was quite frightening in a way. The pilot made an approach, aborted it, tried a second time, and aborted it, and he was going to try a third time, so I said, “You don't have to land, let's go back to Luanda, and we will come back tomorrow.” And I could see the tension in the plane dissipate. And the BBC correspondent came up to me and said, “Mr. Secretary-General, good call. Really, good call.” He said, “To lose one Secretary-General in Africa is tragic. But to lose a second one smells of carelessness.” [laughter]
But here we are to tell the story. And I think Nane has given you an indication of how it began.
And of course some of you will know that in late ྛ and in the spring of ྜ I was in Yugoslavia as Special Representative of the Secretary-General to the Balkans, and Special Envoy to NATO. And of course, lots of things were going on here that I wasn't aware of. I came back in the spring and I recall Amb. [Robert] Fowler [of Canada] walking up to me and he said, “Kofi, when you left last autumn you said confidently that 'I shall be back,' but now that you are back let me tell you not many of us believed you. We didn't think you would be back, but it's good to have you here.”
And of course I went back to my work as head of peacekeeping operations, and carried on there, and then of course the re-election of my predecessor was very much a topic of discussion. And it was not 'til later on, 'til about fall, that my name started circulating and people asked me, 'Have you ever dreamt of being Secretary-General?', and I said, 'Well, no, I am not one of those who can say 'At the age of five what I wanted to be'.” Honestly, I did not know at the age of five what I wanted to be. And even when I joined the UN in ེ in my twenties, I felt I was going to do it for two years, and quit. Forty four years later, here I am, still in the Organization, and talking about it.
When I was elected, it was on the 13th of December, Friday 13 December . I had two weeks to take over, and I was lucky that I knew something about the Organization, and could manage the transition in two weeks.
As a result of that I tried to convince the Member States not to do that to my successor and try and make the appointment fairly early so that he can have a decent transition period, and we can discuss what needs to be done. And I am very happy that he was elected much earlier, and we are now going through an orderly transition.
When I became Secretary-General, I realized that there were quite a few things that needed to be done. I felt the Organization needed to be reformed and brought in line with today's requirements, and so I embarked on a very early reform at the beginning, trying to improve the management, administrative and financial processes of the Organization. I put forward the first package, and I believe six weeks after I announced the package, someone engineered an article in one of the major newspapers complaining that I had not reformed the UN yet. I have a monthly lunch with the Security Council, and on that day I was having the lunch with the Council, so I apologized to the Members for my failure to reform the entire UN in six weeks flat. I think some of you will remember Sergey Lavrov. Sergey was the only communist in the room. But he piped up and said, 'Mr. Secretary-General, what are you complaining about? You have had more time than God.' [laughter] So I responded, 'You are right, but God started with one great advantage –with a clean canvas, and without a Security Council and a General Assembly.” And I rested my case, and of course indicated that reform was not an event, but a process. And that is how it began.
I also realize that, as an organization, even though we are an organization of Member States, the ideals and principles we exist to protect belong to the people, and that we should put the individual, the human being, at the centre of everything that we did.
And this is what has driven me through the past ten years.
It has been a very eventful decade. We have tackled globalization, terrorism, and Iraq.
I think as Secretary-General there have been more wars on my watch than in any other decade. Not that I had anything to do with the wars. From Kosovo, to Afghanistan, to Iraq, Darfur, Lebanon, Democratic Republic of the Congo, and some other minor ones.
But we have also ended some wars - from Sierra Leone to Liberia, Burundi, Angola, East Timor, and we can say that there is some progress, because today, objectively, there are fewer civil wars and fewer wars today than a decade ago. And yet the world seems really, really messy. And this is what has kept me, and the UN, extremely busy.
The UN has played a key role in many of these events and trends. Apart from trying to help defuse some of these conflicts and tensions, we also had to be active in the area of infectious diseases –whether it is HIV/AIDS, or containing the avian flu - we had to press to argue that globalization must benefit all people, and globalization must have a human face. That is what led me to propose the Global Compact, encouraging multinational corporations to embrace basic principles in areas of human rights, core labour standards, the environment and their determination to fight corruption, and encouraging them to work in partnership with the UN at the country level and at the international level, and many have responded. Today, we have over 3,000 corporations around the world who are engaged in the Global Compact, trying to implement these principles.
I also felt that if you are going to help people, we needed to focus on inequality - inequality within states and between states, and that we had to really come together to fight abject poverty, and that's what led to my report “We the Peoples” and the adoption of the Millennium Development Goals by the heads of state in the General Assembly in the year 2000.
We also came up with the idea of the Global Fund to fight HIV/AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis. So, as you can see, in quite a lot of the areas that I got involved in, I really was focussing on the individual, and I am very happy that as I leave the Organization I have got the Member States to accept that the UN's work rests on three major pillars. First - peace and security. Second - economic and social development. And third - human rights and the rule of law. And that is one of the reasons why I have pushed for the establishment of the Human Rights Council, to complement the Security Council, the Economic and Social Council, and today we have the Human Rights Council, which I hope in time will become as powerful as the other two.
And I think the Member States understand today that you cannot have development without security, and you cannot have security without development. And honestly, you cannot enjoy either for long if you do not have it rooted in respect for [the] rule of law and human rights. So whatever we have done is to put the individual at the centre, his or her human dignity, and try and work for that.
The other area where, of course, I was particularly pleased, that the Member States accepted the Responsibility to Protect. The first time I raised this issue in the General Assembly was in 1999, when I argued that Governments must not be allowed to use sovereignty as a shield behind which they hide to brutalize their own people, and systematically abuse their human rights, and commit crimes against humanity. And there was consternation in the building. I just posed the question, indicating that we failed in Rwanda, we had the situation, we went in in Kosovo outside the Security Council, but that if tomorrow there were to be another Rwanda or Kosovo, do we sit back or what do we do? And do we condemn the coalition of the willing that goes in, or do we embrace it? And what was the responsibility of the international community as represented by the Council? That was 1999, and there were quite a lot of ambassadors who were upset, who were wondering where I was coming from. And honestly, some of the smaller countries felt if this concept were to be accepted, it would be used as an excuse to interfere in their internal affairs, whereas I thought they needed it more than anybody. Because it was in the third world, it was in the developing countries in the south, where we were more likely to confront this situation. Luckily, the Canadians did not let this drop. Lloyd Axworthy, who was the Foreign Minister, came to see me and said, 'Look, we want to do something about your idea of humanitarian intervention, and I want to set up a commission with people from around the world for us to flesh it out a bit more.' So a commission was set up in Canada, and it had people like Mohammed Sahnoun, Gareth Evans, and people from around the world. They issued a report titled 'The Responsibility to Protect', and they brought it to me and said, 'What do we do, how do we get it accepted by the Member States? How do we push this forward?' And I said, 'Well, it is going to require patience. Distribute it. Give a copy to each delegation. Make sure all the governments have it, and let them digest it, and give it time, and at the appropriate time we will push it.' It became part of my recommendations in my report “In Larger Freedom,” and last year the Member States accepted the Responsibility to Protect and voted for it at the heads of state level, which basically means that, if a government fails to protect its people because it does not have the capacity or it is actually the one brutalizing its own population, the world community, through the Security Council has to intervene, and as a last resort may even recommend the use of force. And to have this adopted by heads of state is a major breakthrough for us, and in terms of international law for sovereign states to accept this, when they guard their sovereignty so jealously, is a major, major breakthrough. It may not be implemented today or tomorrow, but at least we have a peg on which people can hang, and demand governments to take action –demand that they redeem the solemn pledge they made in the General Assembly, and of course now, everybody is looking at how we handle Darfur.
We have also tried to understand what the UN does best. One of the first issues I raised was that the UN can't do everything. So we had to understand very clearly what we can do, and what we cannot do; what we do best; and what others do better; and what we should leave others to do; and what we should do with others. And this was quite a shift for us, because sometimes we live in this glass house and we tend to think we take on everything and we are so special that sometimes the people outside do not understand us. And we were going to go ahead and do things.
It was also obvious that the governments were not going to give us all the resources we needed to carry out even the mandates that we had been given. We were operating on almost bare bones budgets, and we needed to find ways of increasing our capacity. So I decided the best way to do that was to really make the UN a true UN of 'We the Peoples', and reach out and work in partnership with civil society organizations, with the private sector, with the universities and with foundations, to allow all of us to expand our capacity, and to recognize that these problems cannot be solved by governments alone, or by international organizations alone, and that we needed to come together.
There is no way an individual government could have taken on the issue of HIV/AIDS, the avian flu, infectious diseases, the fight against environmental degradation, and here also I must say, I was pleased that the Member States accepted the new definition of threats which the high level panel I put together proposed.
We tended to look at threats in the traditional and conventional way. When we thought of threats we thought of war –civil war or wars between states. But when they analyzed the situation of the twenty-first century, their definition of threats –the challenge I gave them was to look at the threats, challenges and change in the twenty-first century –they defined threats to include poverty, environmental degradation, internationally organized crime, infectious diseases, weapons of mass destruction and terrorism. But of course depending upon where you live, your perception of threat is quite different from someone living in another region. If at the time of the fifth anniversary of 9/11 I had asked any New Yorker, 'What is your biggest threat?', I probably would have heard, 'Terrorism.' But if I had gone to southern Africa and posed the same question, the answer could be HIV/AIDS. I go further still to somewhere in Bangladesh or some area, and they would tell me poverty. Or if you go to Maldives, which I did –Nane and I did - after the tsunami, the highest point in that country was 1.8 metres, and most of the islands were washed away. Inhabited islands were washed away and they had to concentrate them on larger islands. If I had asked Maldivians, 'What is your biggest fear?' they would have said, “Environmetal degradation, global warming and rising sea levels, because literally it is washing our livelihoods and our nations and our states away.” But all of these threats have to be tackled. And if you want people to be concerned about your threat, your threats, you have to be concerned about theirs. And so, as an international community we needed to find ways of dealing with this, and the only way I could think of is that we needed to work in partnership with all the stakeholders - civil society, governments, international organizations, private sector and foundations, and so I can say that today the UN has become a partnership organization, reaching out and working with others.
But I recall this wasn't easy or easily accepted. Particularly when I decided to bring in the private sector. I had ambassadors asking the question, 'Who gave the Secretary-General the authority to pull in the private sector?' My answer was simple, “Our Charter begins with 'We the Peoples.' The peoples are out there, not in this building. And we need to reach out to them. And I am going to continue doing that.”
I think the argument was half way settled when Ted Turner made his fantastic offer of one billion dollars to the UN. And even then, some ambassadors asked, 'Why would he give us one billion dollars? He would want to interfere with the decisions by the Security Council and the General Assembly.' I said, “No, he is not going to interfere.” I said, “That's what happens in the business world - you vote your shares, you vote your money.” I said, “No, it isn't going to going to happen. In fact, he is going to operate outside the UN system, but fund UN-associated projects.” And it took some time, but they became convinced that Ted was not going to take over the UN, or interfere with decisions, and the system didn't allow it anyway. How would he interfere in the decisions of the Security Council or the General Assembly? But of course, it was such a shock when this gentleman stood up and said “I will give you a billion dollars.”
And I must say, I should tell you how it happened. Ted and I had been teasing each other for quite some time. For almost three or four or five years before that, he was quite upset that the US was not paying its debts, and had run up arrears, so Ted used to say, “Oh Kofi, I am going to take the US government to court, to sue them to pay their debts. As an American I am embarrassed and I am not going to let my government embarrass me any more.” Or some other day he would say, “I'm going to buy the debt, pay you and flog it for 40 cents on the dollar or something.” So one day I had invited him to come to my office on the 38th floor for us to discuss the environment - we were planning a big environment conference in Johannesburg, and we were taking a real beating in the conservative press, accusing us of all sorts of things we hadn't thought of. So I asked Ted to come and see me, and to come with his environmental expert, hoping that we can mount a strategy to counter the negative, very negative, campaign coming from the right. Ted walked in with his expert, and I was there with mine, and he said, “Oh Kofi, by the way, I am going to give you that billion dollars.” And I thought it was the old joke. I said, “Yeah.” So he said, “Well, I am going to give it to you, but I won't give it to you in one go, I will pay it in ten instalments –one hundred million a year.” And I looked into his eyes and I realized he was serious. I said, “My God, he is serious.” And so I said, “Sit down,” and I brought my head of management and the legal people down, and they worked out some arrangements as to how to follow up. Ted said, “Well, the lawyers tried to hold me back. They said you don't give out a billion dollars that way; you don't give out fifty million dollars that way. There's lots of work to be done, paperwork, it will take about six months to a year.” He said, “I have decided I am going to announce it and you clean up the paperwork.” And he said, “Kofi, we are going to the UNA/USA dinner that evening” - this was about four o'clock in my office –and he said, “I will announce it tonight.” And so, he announced it at the Waldorf, offered the billion, and almost brought the roof down. I think Beverly Sills was the MC, and when she joined the table she said, “I hope you consulted Jane?” Jane Fonda. And Ted said, “Yes I did, and she cried for joy.” [laughter]
Anyway, it shows what an individual will do. Since then we have other billionaires coming forward, doing good things with their resources –from [Bill and Melinda] Gates - in addition to the traditional foundations of Ford, Rockefeller and Macarthur –when you have individuals like Gates who has given well over a billion to UN causes from vaccination to the others, and of course with the injection of [Warren] Buffett's money and the foundation with about sixty-two billion dollars it is going to even be able to do more, which also helps us to really help people around the world. And it doesn't matter whether it is done through the UN or somebody else, the main thing is that we do reach out and help.
I think we have achieved something, but many challenges remain.
Darfur is still a challenge. I was recently in Ethiopia in east Africa where I brought together all the key stakeholders, including the government of Sudan at the ministerial level. I had the permanent members of the Security Council; the President of the African Union, and the Chairman of the African Union, as well as the Foreign Ministers of Gabon, Sudan, representatives from Nigeria, the Foreign Minister of Egypt - for us all to sit under one roof and discuss how we deal with the issue of Darfur; how do we ensure that we have effective forces on the ground so that humanitarian workers can do their work, have access to the needy without being threatened, without risking their lives? How do we press ahead with the political settlement and implementation of the Abuja agreement? And we came up with a three-phased approach that the UN would help the African Union strengthen its military capacity –what we call the light package. And then the next phase we will give them even bigger support in terms of logistics, advice on command and control. And then eventually in the third phase have a joint UN-AU operation. This idea has been endorsed by the African Union summit, or the African [Union] Peace and Security Council last week. Of course, the idea here is that if we are able to come up with a credible scheme, the Security Council and the UN may have to bear the cost, because the African Union doesn't have the resources, doesn't have the money nor the logistical support and yet is the only show in town. If the Council and the General Assembly were to agree to do that, this would be a major departure, and the first time the UN is covering the cost of a regional organization.
But of course, the challenge will be in its implementation. The expectation is that the Sudanese will work with the international community to get it done, and so we will be pressing ahead on that.
I think you wanted to ask me questions, and so I shouldn't waste all the time talking. I think I've said enough. Let me pause and take questions. [applause]
Q: In the whole process of your very interesting discussion, you said, 'People don't understand us', and I'm just wondering because I've worked on several issues in the UN. If we don't need in the UN a much stronger, reinforced public affairs office that would be able to send the messages out to the world about what we do, what we stand for, I don't think we have ever been very good at this, and yet people sell cars, sell all kinds of merchandise?there is a way of merchandising and marketing this great institution to tell the real story. Shouldn't we be doing something to reinforce that kind of an effort?
SG: Thank you very much, Robin [Duke], for that very important question. I agree with you. As an organization, we are not very good at telling our story. Even our success stories –we are not very good at telling them. And you are right, we live in a world today where it is not enough to do the job and do it well. You have to also let the world know what you are doing, what you are doing, how you are doing it, and what you are doing well. We have been really very, very weak at that.
We also allowed a situation where the Secretariat is confused with the Member States. When people talk of the UN, what is the UN? There are two UNs –the UN that is of Member States who sit in the Security Council and the General Assembly and give mandates to the Secretariat –the Secretary-General and the Secretariat. And there is a Secretariat which carries out these mandates. But the way the media covers it if anything goes wrong, “It's the UN”. They talk and write about the UN as if it's some satellite out there which their governments and others have nothing to do with. But the UN is their government and mine. Sometimes I hear a president or head of state say, “The UN must act on Darfur.” And the press are there, they write it down. They don't ask, “Mr. Prime Minister or Mr. President, how many battalions are you going to give to make this UN act and work?” So we really need to find a way of doing exactly what you have said, and this is an area of reform that has not been entirely successful and we really should take it seriously and get some good advice.
Q: On behalf of the vast majority of the American people, I just want to say that we thank you, deeply, for the dedication and with greatest admiration for all the hard work and efforts that we know have gone through your hands and have made the difference, so I just want to put my voice out there –it's Nancy Kamell - and I want to say thank you. [applause]
Q: My name is Fatima Gambari. I just want to say that in the past ten years at the UN, your leadership has been a wonderful one, in spite of all the traumas that was not of your doing. It is just the way the world is. But having said that, if you had to do it again, what are some of the things that you would think that you should have done differently that you didn't do? And don't tell me there is nothing. [laughter]
SG: By the way, Fatima, I don't know if you have seen a wonderful cartoon. You remember, your husband just came back from Myanmar where he met with Aung San Suu Kyi, and I saw a cartoon out of that where the President was sitting down and a waiter goes to him with a tray and says, “Kofi or Campari?” [laughter] I don't know if you have seen that.
Let me say that, yes, when you take on a job like the one I have done over a ten-year period, a period in which a lot has happened and we have tried to do a lot, there are things that you wish you had done differently, and also hope that if you had done it differently maybe you would have had different results.
This affects some of the negotiations and the areas that we got involved in and invested quite a lot of time and effort in. I was also determined at the beginning to try and help solve as many of the conflicts as possible, so that people can focus on the essential work of economic and social development. One issue that we devoted quite a lot of time to, but in the end did not succeed, was Cyprus. I am saying this because it has become very topical, and it is also complicating life for the European Union. When we finally put together a package and went to a referendum, in fact the first time we worked until 5am in The Hague, and we didn't get agreement. We pushed it, and then finally went to Bergenstock and put a proposal to a referendum which the Turkish Cypriots voted “yes” and the Greek Cypriots voted “no”, and of course that meant the referendum failed. Then there was a question of whether the EU should accept a divided Cyprus into the EU or wait for unification. We had tried very hard to succeed with the unification so that a united Cyprus would go in. That didn't happen and of course now we have a divided Cyprus admitted to the European Union, which is also complicating the negotiations with Turkey. All of us who were involved in that, each time you go to the region, that comes up. But perhaps, if we had postponed the referendum a little bit and worked a bit harder we may have been able to resolve that. I am not entirely sure.
The other area where I think we perhaps should have started sooner was the issue of HIV/AIDS, but the timing wasn't right. It has done so much havoc on many continents, particularly in Africa. But at least at the UNGASS we were able to set up the Global Fund which has raised about $8 billion up 'til today. But I think we should have started that much, much sooner, and probably from day one when I took over.
Q: My name is Shirin [inaudible] and I am Turkish. I came to this country to go to college and I was studying international affairs so I ended up at the other United Nations, where was it, I've forgotten, we used to take the subway and go all the way there. And I happen to have known, and am honoured to have known all the Secretaries-General so far, and I have great respect and admiration for you, and I just wanted to say that I personally am very disturbed in this country, because I have followed the United Nations; I have had members of my family be ambassadors from Turkey and Jordan, and I am very much interested in the United Nations, and I get hate mail, and I feel that in this country the country does not support the UN, and as the first lady said, it is so true that we have to do something about public relations. I don't know what, but we have to do something. Have you all gotten any hate mail about the UN? It's just not to be believed. This is very disturbing to me. How can we arrange, how can we change, how can we solve this problem?
SG: I will take a few and then react.
Q: I want to thank you both for engaging this multilateral community of New York in a way that I have never seen anybody in this office do before. Thank you very much for that. Of course, the question I think we are all wondering is, what are you going to do next? [laughter]
Q: My name is Kaisha Burkes, from FAS –Femas Africa Solidarite. My question is, in terms of the Millennium Development Goals, do you think that the countries are meeting your vision?
SG: Let me react. I think the support for the UN moves up and down. I hope the pendulum will swing. In fact I recall asking one of the most astute politicians that I have ever known why, at one point, the polls were indicating that the American public, by and large, supported the UN, and in large percentages, and how come that did not translate into action on [Capitol] Hill? This was former President Bill Clinton I asked this question of. And the President said, “Well, I will tell you why, because it does not translate into votes. When they go to their constituencies over the weekend or during the campaign, nobody asks them about the UN. So you can have a negative vote for the UN time and time again and pay no price.” Which then means, we have to educate, get to the grass roots, get people to understand what the UN is about and how it serves the interests of the United States as well as of other nations. I am not saying that the UN is a perfect organization. Yes, like all organizations we are imperfect, and we can be strengthened, we can improve, but we are the only organization in the world today that has the legitimacy and the convening power that we have, to be able to bring everybody together to discuss common problems, to be able to approve actions in the Security Council that the world accepts and supports, and so we need to do whatever we can to get the word out and educate and get our support.
On the question of the Millennium Development Goals, let me say that when you look at the global statistics, great gains are being made. But that is mainly because of what has happened in China and India, where millions have been lifted out of poverty. Lots of countries cannot meet their goals at the current rate, unless something drastic is done, both on their side and on the side of the donor community in terms of supporting them with these efforts. This is one of the reasons why we have encouraged each country to come up with a poverty alleviation strategy, work out the details, and with a good plan we will try and see if we can get the donor communities to work with them.
Most of the countries that are having difficulty keeping up are in Africa and the least developed countries. Some are doing better than others on some issues, like education - we are doing better, and it's because more girls are enrolling school. What is important is that, having accepted the Millennium Development Goals as a common framework for development, and it is a framework that everyone understands –a man in the street or a woman in Calcutta - so they can put pressure on their governments about “when do I get clean water? When do we get a school nearby so that my daughter can go to school? How can we get food on the table for the children when they are in school?” So there is lots of momentum and energy behind this, but we need to do much more to achieve the results that we want.
First, a long, long holiday –a vacation. [applause]
And then we will try to devise a life that will give us a balance between action and reflection. We will be spending our time between Africa and Europe. In Africa I would want to work, and Nane is also very interested in this, with the African governments and others, to improve food productivity. Africa is the only continent that cannot feed itself. It is the only continent that did not go through a green revolution, and as we speak millions of Africans are being fed by food aid and other donations. This cannot go on, and particularly as we are entering an era where bio-fuel is also becoming very popular. So things like soy bean and corn can be sold for human consumption and for fuel. So the prices will either go up, or there will not be surpluses for one to try to give up, so we will have to learn to improve agricultural productivity and look after the people, and really ensure food security. We would of course also do other things in addition –probably write a bit, give some lectures, or maybe offer advice if people want my advice.
But what I can tell you is that we are not retiring. I think it was George Burns who said, “Retire means tired twice.” [laughter] Look at us. I don't think we look like those who are tired twice. So we will continue.
But we also have to be careful about certain things that we don't do, and certain things that we will be free to do again.
I recall once, Nane and I were in California, and the Director of Protocol had sent one of the staff to come and meet us. She met us, we went to the hotel, and that evening there was a dinner for us, and the Director of Protocol came to say, “I want to tell you a funny story.” I said, “What was that?” She said, “Well, my assistant who came to the airport to meet you and Mrs. Annan called me from the airport and said 'Well, there's a couple that came off the plane. It looks like the Secretary-General and Mrs. Annan, but I am not sure'.” And she said, “They are or they are not. What do you mean 'I'm not sure'? She said, 'Well, they were holding hands'.” [laughter]
So, from the first of January, we can hold hands without everybody wondering.
There have been some wonderful situations that we have got ourselves into. We were in one country where we went for a long walk –we both like hiking –and sometimes we would take hiking holidays where we hike for a week –about six, seven, eight hours a day. But on this occasion, we were visiting an Asian country, and we went for a long walk in the park, and at the end of it I asked the guide –of course there were lots of security with us –I said I would like to use the men's room. “Sir, there is one in the park. Come with me.” So we walked towards the building, and as I was entering he said, “Stop here.” He walked in, and the next thing I saw is forty people coming out, about forty people. He said, “Now you can go.” [laughter] And I said “Oh gosh, what have I done?” You get caught in impossible and incredible situations. And so, it's been fun, it's been challenging. It's been difficult at times. We've had our dark periods and exciting periods, and it's been wonderful to have the support of people like you; the support of my colleagues; and as you said the support of my partner above all, and I don't think we could have done it without the support and the encouragement we get from those like you in this room.
I hope, as we move on, you will offer the same support to my successor, Ban Ki-moon. I hope you would offer him the same support. I think he will succeed, but he will need your support and encouragement as I did.
So thank you very much for all that you have done for us. [applause]