Good morning, ladies and gentlemen.
It is a great pleasure to see you at the beginning of this New Year, 2011. I have exchanged New Year's greetings with some of you in your offices, but more formally I'd like to extend my best wishes to all of you for a very happy, prosperous and successful new year. I hope we work very closely to address all the challenges, which we are commonly facing, and I count on your support.
Earlier today, as you are already aware, I briefed the General Assembly on my eight strategic priorities for the year 2011. And I highlighted all these here. As you must have already heard it and have a text of my speech, I will not repeat, but I'll be very brief on major points.
First, our overriding goal is to build on progress already made -- progress that places a premium on the global legitimacy and pulling power of the United Nations.
Last year, we put forward an ambitious action plan to fight poverty and advance the Millennium Development Goals. During the year ahead, we will emphasize sustainable development as we work towards Rio+20. We will also give special focus to the needs of the most vulnerable, wherever they may be. The United Nations conference on the least developed countries, which will be held in Istanbul in May this year, will be an important occasion to recommit ourselves to these issues.
We have a big opportunity to advance on climate change, as well. Over the past few years, we raised the issue to the top of the global agenda.
We saw progress in Cancun. There is every prospect for further progress in the run-up to COP17 [Seventeenth Conference of Parties] in South Africa, especially in the specific areas I laid out in this morning's briefing.
Our challenge is to keep up the momentum.
Second, women's empowerment. We begin this year with a new agency, UN Women. The culmination of years of effort, it is a reality today because an entire movement got behind it.
Here, too, we must keep up the momentum. This is the year to build UN Women into all that it should be: a fully integrated, fully operational and fully funded ? a dynamic force for change and women's empowerment worldwide.
Meanwhile, we will continue to recruit women to UN leadership. As you may be aware, during the last four years I have appointed a number of women, more women senior advisors than any time in the history of the United Nations. I have increased, by 40 percent, the senior women advisors above the rank of Assistant Secretary-General and Under-Secretary-General. I will focus more now in strengthening the mid-career women leadership.
Third, strengthening the UN from within. As ever, our watchwords are transparency, accountability, efficiency and effectiveness.
More than ever, the world is turning to the United Nations. We have a duty to make sure that the United Nations is the “doing” organization and the “delivering” organization.
This is what people expect and what the times demand: a strong UN, effectively delivering for people in need, doing more with the resources that we have, investing the global taxpayers' contributions wisely.
Ladies and gentlemen,
Let me take up three issues of immediate concern.
First of all we are very closely following up the situation in Côte d'Ivoire.
As I have said before, I say again: the facts on the ground are indisputable. Côte d'Ivoire has a legitimately elected president ? Alassane Ouattara. The previous incumbent, Laurent Gbagbo, must stand aside.
I am deeply concerned by the deteriorating political and security situation ? especially the growing number of violent incidents targeting civilians and the United Nations mission.
We have credible accounts of grave human rights violations. Apart from the blockade of the Golf Hotel and the attempt to constrict supplies to the UN mission ? in itself unacceptable ? we have concrete intelligence that the former president and those around him are inciting their followers to violence, both against the UN and their own countrymen.
Let me be perfectly clear: attacks on civilians or international peacekeepers constitute crimes under international law. So is incitement to commit such crimes. The International Criminal Court has declared its intention to open investigations. I call on all sides to exercise maximum restraint and I state once again in the strongest possible terms: those committing or inciting acts of violence will be held responsible.
We continue to patrol and protect civilians. We continue to protect the Ouattara Government. We continue to investigate reports of human rights abuses.
The United Nations will not be deterred from its duty in Côte d'Ivoire. We will not be intimidated. The Security Council is currently discussing my proposals to reinforce the mission on the ground.
In my briefing to the General Assembly this morning, I asked the Member States to support us fully in the robust execution of our mandated responsibilities.
Secondly, we are also closely watching developments in Sudan.
Four years ago, we mobilized troops for Darfur. Now we are all focused on the referendum in South Sudan.
So far, voting has proceeded smoothly, without major incidents. Turnout has been strong. I congratulate the parties and international partners for their efforts in the lead-up to the referendum.
The biggest challenge lies before us. We must help all Sudanese, north and south, chart their common future. We must help resolve difficult issues: borders, movements of people, sharing resources, Abyei and more. And we must ensure that all of this takes place within the framework of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA).
The situation in Abyei is of particular concern. Following the recent clashes, it is critical to prevent an escalation of tensions. It is important that all concerned –the CPA parties and those on the ground –refrain from unilateral actions and resume discussions on the status of Abyei as soon as possible.
Meanwhile, we remain vigilant in Darfur. The UN efforts to protect civilians, provide security and humanitarian assistance continue without interruption, as do our efforts to help the parties negotiate an enduring peace. The recent clashes between the Government and rebel forces underscore the need for us to redouble efforts to help the parties towards a political resolution of the crisis.
As we mark the anniversary of the earthquake, we must be realistic.
The road ahead will be long and hard. Reconstruction has been slow. International aid and investment has not come as quickly as needed.
The cholera epidemic shows no sign of abating. According to the latest figures, roughly 180,000 people have been infected; more than 3,500 people have died.
As we continue to help Haiti to rebuild, we must not only fulfil essential needs in areas such as clean water and sanitation, health care and jobs; we must also prioritize improvements in security and the rule of law.
Despite the manifest difficulties, we are making progress. The number of people living in camps is half of what it was at the peak of the emergency. We are providing clean water to approximately 1 million people every day and food to 2 million people each month.
The political situation remains extremely delicate. The challenge for the UN mission during this testing passage is, first, to maintain security; and second, to help a new, legitimate government that enjoys the support of the population get on its feet and fulfil its responsibilities to the Haitian people.
Taken together, all of this makes an obvious point: If 2010 was a challenging year for the United Nations, 2011 will be even more so.
Thank you for your attention, and I'll be ready to take your questions.
Q: Mr. Secretary-General, on behalf of the United Nations Correspondents Association (UNCA), welcome to this first press conference of 2011, and thank you again for your visit on the second floor of the Library. It was very much appreciated by everybody. And, in terms of the first question, I'm going to transfer the privilege today to my colleague, Talal, who has a deadline to meet.
Q: Thank you for the graciousness of our UNCA president. Mr. Secretary-General, I would like to ask you about the situation in Tunisia. I was surprised you didn't mention it as one of the urgent matters in your three stipulations. A state of emergency has been declared, no gathering of more than three people is allowed, there's a curfew from 5:00 this evening to 7:00 tomorrow morning. The EU [European Union], the French have spoken very clearly on the issue. The Government has been dissolved, Parliament has been dissolved, the situation is in very dire straits indeed -- more than 80 people killed, and today there's a foreign journalist has been injured. What do you see the United Nations can do to stop the bloodshed? Do you see there's a role for the Security Council on this matter, especially that it affects peace and security, not only in Tunis but in the region? Thank you, sir.
SG: Thank you. I have been very closely following the situation in Tunisia with concern. Now, I'm saddened by the loss of life and call again for restraint in the use of force and full respect for freedom of expression and association. The political situation is developing fast and every effort must be made by all concerned parties to establish dialogue and resolve problems peacefully to prevent further loss, violence and escalation. And I will continue to discuss this matter with the concerned parties.
Q: Do you see a role for the Security Council, if I may follow up, sir?
SG: That is what the Security Council members will have to decide. But I will closely coordinate -
Q: If I may follow up: In Guinea, when you have had some sort of problems and Government forces went into a stadium and killed civilians –you ordered a panel of inquiry. And some people were making comparisons. In Tunis, security forces are shooting innocent civilians as well, according to various reports. Do you think you can have a panel of inquiry into those incidents as well?
SG: Well, I will have to, first of all, closely follow the situation. This is a very early stage of the situation. I will keep in mind what you have questioned, but I may have an opportunity of addressing this issue later.
Q: You said that the UN peacekeepers were protecting civilians in Côte d'Ivoire, and in actual fact, they're getting attacked and removing themselves from blockades set up by Gbagbo's forces. So how do you think that adding a few thousand troops to a situation like that is actually going to improve the situation? How will it help them to actually do a job that they're not really able to do?
SG: You should know that our peacekeepers are stationed in Côte d'Ivoire at the request of the Côte d'Ivoirian Government, by the mandate of the Security Council, with a mandate to protect civilian populations and to help electoral processes. This is was we have been doing. But with all these controversies over the results of the election, the movement of peacekeepers have been very much limited, restricted because of the heavy restrictions imposed by Gbagbo and his camp. We've been discussing this matter with their people and it is true that we have been experiencing a lot of difficulties in freedom of our movement. Of course, our peacekeepers have been increasing patrols, and in the course of patrols, our peacekeepers were attacked and threatened. And, as you know, two days ago, the vehicles of the United Nations were burned. We will continue, of course, to carry out our mandate. That is why I have proposed to increase the capacity of peacekeepers. We are now in the process of discussing with the Security Council; in addition to increasing the critical assets, we want to have some more forces stationed as soon as possible.
Q: Welcome back again to New York. Last week, the German Chancellor, Angela Merkel, met the Greek Cypriot leader, and after the meeting, Merkel said that Turkey doesn't want a solution in Cyprus. What is your comment?
SG: As you know, I'm going to meet the two leaders of the Cyprus communities, both Greek [Cypriot] and Turkish Cypriot leaders, on 26 January, this month. I'm going to engage in negotiations after we have left on 18 November. This has been a long-standing issue. The negotiation has been very difficult. It's quite encouraging that the leaders of two communities, both communities, have been engaging in their direct negotiation, at the leaders' level, more than 80 times. And when I invited them to New York, and we were engaging in negotiations, we still thought that there was some more time needed. That is why I have given them nine more weeks, so that they could resolve all these core issues. So that by the time we meet again in Geneva, we would be able to make much more progress in addressing those core issues, including property issues and security issues. That's what I'm intending to do. Let us see. I need the support of all the concerned parties –the European Union, I think they are fully in support of United Nations' good offices role, and they are also supporting these bilateral negotiations.
Q: Do you think that this comment by one of the major European leaders –outburst, if I may call it that way, will be helpful to the process of finding a solution?
SG: The important thing is that this official negotiation is now going, and all the interested parties or stakeholders should encourage both leaders. And the United Nations will continue to provide our good offices role.
Q: Mr. Secretary-General, I know that you've been very involved in the last week or so in the issue of Lebanon. You have met with many officials here in New York and you've been on the phone, and you are probably part of this renewed effort in Paris. But my question is quite specific to you. After the opposition brought down the Government of Saad Hariri, the idea seems to be –the issue in their mind seems to be –that a new government will be able to stop the [Special] Tribunal [for Lebanon] by doing three things: pulling out the financing, pulling out the Lebanese judges, and refusing to cooperate with the STL, with the Special Tribunal for Lebanon. In this case –you know this Tribunal very well; you know the statute –is that feasible? Would that actually lead to stopping the Tribunal from doing its work, if a new government takes these three actions?
SG: I have stated my position, the position of the United Nations, many times in the past, and it remains the same. As you have already read my statement last week, I had a good meeting with the Prime Minister, Saad Hariri, and I had also a good meeting with King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia in New York. I have been following very closely the situation. And it is quite regrettable that the Government has not been able to function properly with the pullout of Hezbollah ministers. I call for dialogue among the parties, all the parties, to continue, and for all to respect the Constitution and the law of the country. As far as the Special Tribunal for Lebanon is concerned, this is an independent, international judiciary system whose work should never be interrupted or interfered by any parties. I fully respect their integrity, and their integrity should be preserved. That's what I can tell you at this time.
Q: Just very briefly, sir, as far as the statute of the Special Tribunal for Lebanon –if any government - this government, the next government - decides to take these three actions, stop its part of financing, pull out its own three, I think, judges, and say after the indictment, “I do not want to cooperate with you”, would that, de facto, stop the action of the Tribunal? Or is there something in the statute that allows it to go on with its work?
SG: When the Special Tribunal was established by the mandate of the Security Council, clearly, one of the two parties is Lebanon who has to provide the funding. And that's what they did, and another part is the international community –that's what I did to secure funding. And I believe that this responsibility should continue. The Lebanese Government –whoever may be in power –has the responsibility to provide the funding.
Q: I just want to clarify a point from the BBC's question, and then ask one of my own. You said that one of the goals was to protect civilians, but our reporter on the ground in Ivory Coast has said repeatedly that there have been demonstrations where they're being fired on by Gbagbo's forces and the UN is not around to protect them. So, do they really have the ability to protect civilians on the streets of Abidjan and elsewhere? And the question of my own that I wanted to ask was about food. The FAO's [Food and Agriculture Organization's] price index in December has been the highest in almost two years, and there have been riots or demonstrations based on food to a certain extent in Algeria and Sudan, in Jordan today. I'm wondering: is this an issue that you're looking at, and is there anything you can do about it?
SG: The first question - the protection of the civilian population - is one of the most important mandates and responsibilities of UN peacekeepers there, and we will continue to do that. At the time there was violence, my Special Representative Choi [Young-jin] and the Force Commander, they all went to the scene, and that much, we have shown our commitment and determined will to protect the civilian population. As I said clearly, attacking civilians and also United Nations peacekeepers is a crime under international law. So Gbagbo and his loyalists should keep in mind that eventually all persons who perpetrate such crimes will be held accountable. And the UN will continue, by increasing patrols, by increasing our deployment of more assets in key posts. But, practically speaking, there have been some impediments and obstruction, hindrances caused by Gbagbo and his people. That is the actual difficulty which we are experiencing now. That is why I have been urging, through my statement, through the uses of the good offices of African leaders. That is what I will continue to do.
And for the second question of the food crisis –this is very worrisome. When the food insecurity happened in 2008, I immediately established a High Level Task Force to deal with this global food security. I have been chairing it 14, 15 times already. This High Level Task Force on Global Food Security comprises all the United Nations, including the Bretton Woods institutions, the World Bank, IMF [International Monetary Fund] and OECD [Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development] –all of them are a part of this, including the United Nations humanitarian and food-related agencies. Of course, FAO is Vice Chair of this High Level Task Force. I will continue to lead this Task Force until we can address this one.
Q: Mr. Secretary-General, here in the United States, the House of Representatives has a new chairwoman of the Foreign Affairs Committee who has vowed to take on the United Nations and its funding. I'm wondering if you're concerned about relations with the United States, given the new Republican majority in the House, if you've had any conversations with Ambassador [Susan] Rice or the Obama Administration, and any concerns about a change in your relationship with the United States?
SG: The United States is the host government, and thus I believe a strong partnership and support from the host government is vitally important for the United Nations to perform properly. That has been one of my priorities. That is why I have been meeting many Congressional leaders during the last four years. As you know, the US Government has been paying its financial contributions, they have been paying towards peacekeeping operations; that has been quite encouraging. The United Nations has been working with both parties –the Republican party or Democratic party –whoever may be in power in Congress or the Administration. Therefore, I expect that the Republican controlled Congress will continue to cooperate and provide necessary funding and support - political and also financial support. I am going to engage with the newly inaugurated congressional leadership soon, and I have known the chairwoman, Ileana Ros-Lehtinen; we have been working very closely, and I am confident that the UN will continue to enjoy strong support from the new Congress.
Q: One of the specific objections raised by Republicans in Congress, including the chairwoman, is the upcoming Durban III Conference that's schedule for this September, right here in New York in the month of the 10th anniversary of 9/11. She has talked about asking the Obama Administration to boycott it and also to withdraw US funding for it. Could you respond to her concerns and tell us what steps you are taking to ensure that this Durban III Conference is not a repeat of what some have called a travesty or a hate-fest, for the first two conferences?
SG: I'm aware of concerns over the Durban Conference. The Durban meeting itself is to promote reconciliation and dialogue and cooperation among different cultures and traditions and ethnic groups. So this in itself has a very good purpose. Somehow, in the course of debate, this Durban Conference has been very controversial and that is very unfortunate. The Durban meeting which is going to be held in September is not the formal meeting. This is going to be an event; therefore we will have to manage, first of all, properly, not to raise such controversial emotional feelings. How to deal with this, how to use this Durban process -- we may be able to expect and contribute to more a harmonious relationship between and among different understandings, religious faiths and traditions. As Secretary-General, and as I did last time during the Geneva Durban meeting, I will give my best effort to have smooth proceedings of this meeting.
Q: Mr. Secretary-General, based on classified United Nations maps, the Wall Street Journal last week reported a sharp deterioration in the situation in Afghanistan. It said, based on a map dated 2 October 2010, that sixteen districts that were declared secure, are now insecure. This sharply contradicts the American assessment that progress is being made in Afghanistan. So what is your assessment of the situation in Afghanistan and can the United States pull out its troops in July this year?
SG: I think that Afghanistan is going through a crucially important period. With the London meeting and this Kabul meeting, as well as the recent Lisbon NATO summit meeting, there was a very important understanding and agreement that the Afghan Government, despite all these political and security difficulties, should be given a greater role to play and greater ownership in addressing all these political, security, social, economic development; that we supported President [Hamid] Karzai's vision. At the same time, it will be very important for the international community to provide the necessary economic, social and political and security support until such time they will be able to stand on their own feet. Now that, we regard, will be 2014, but the date and year 2014 should not be regarded as a clear-cut exit from Kabul, from Afghanistan, on the part of international community. That is the year when the Afghan Government has a vision that they would be able to stand on their own, will be able to take a greater responsibility. That is a very important policy vision. The United Nations supports that, and I was attending this summit meeting, and I was part of this process. As far as the United Nations is concerned, we will try our best to make this transition [move] smoothly on the civilian side –not the military side, we are not dealing with anything military. We will try to help social and economic development, we'll try to provide political facilitation and we'll try to help the Afghan Government so that they can improve their relationship with the regional countries, neighbouring countries. Those are very important policy priorities for us. We will also work very closely so that they can deal with these narco-trafficking issues. So we will continue to be engaged.
Q: Mr. Secretary-General, on Côte d'Ivoire, this morning Mr. Ouattara held a conference call with reporters at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, at which time he called for the removal of Mr. Gbagbo by force. Do you think the time has come for military intervention, that he should be removed by force, and that patience has run out for negotiations? And if not, how much longer can this situation go on before you think it would be time to take him out?
SG: You should know that when this controversy happened, the African Union fully supported this certification of election result, and declared that Ouattara is the legitimately-elected President of Côte d'Ivoire, and ECOWAS [Economic Community of West African States] supported this. At the second ECOWAS summit meeting, ECOWAS leaders, composed of fifteen West African countries, decided first of all to engage in dialogue to resolve this issue in a peaceful manner. They have also agreed that when this peaceful dialogue effort would be rejected, then they would task all possible measures, including military measures. Now, it's up to them. I am not sure where they are standing in this case. President [Goodluck] Jonathan [of Nigeria], when I have been speaking with him many times, told me he would be dispatching his special envoy to discuss the future course of action, and I'm also going to engage in consultation with many African leaders while attending the African Union Summit meeting later this month. So let us see how we can resolve this issue. It's quite frustrating that international calls have not been heeded by Mr. Gbagbo. This time he should listen and accept the will of the Ivorian people, which has been demonstrated through Presidential elections.
Q: Darfur violence has increased since preparations for the referendum in Southern Sudan began, so why not name and shame, give the origin of the attacks with the kidnapping of UN humanitarian staff, since UNAMID [United Nations-African Union Mission in Darfur] must know who they are? Otherwise how is it going to stop? And in the same context, what do you think of the viability of a future southern Sudan state, since there will most likely be one this summer?
SG: The security situation in Darfur very worrisome, it has been deteriorating; but at this time we see some calm in terms of the security situation. Peace negotiations led by the joint AU-UN mediator for Darfur, [Djibril] Bassolé, has not been making much headway except the agreement between the Sudanese Government and the Liberation and Justice Movement (LJM), but all these rebel movements should be able to participate, otherwise this peace agreement will not be sustainable. That is why we have seen such violence and kidnapping of UN staff. Fortunately, the UN Hungarian staff member was released a few days ago, and I'm again concerned that some pilots were again kidnapped. We will continue our best effort, first of all to protect the civilian population, to protect the humanitarian workers, and the Sudanese Government should do more on this matter. We will continue to do that.
Q: Mr. Secretary-General, I wanted you to respond to a short criticism of you in a new book written by your old colleague, Inga Britt-Ahlenius, saying that you're basically not interest in fighting corruption?
SG: Well, you may ask anybody in terms of my commitment, and my principled commitment to make this organization transparent, standing on the highest level of ethics. This has been my top priority, and I have been trying to lead this organization on that basis, and you will see the current status of the United Nations -- I think you will have to appreciate the United Nations has been operating in a much more transparent and much more accountable [way], everybody is standing on the highest level of ethics. There may be some personal, some criticism. I know there is more room to improve. I was the first Secretary-General in the history of the United Nations, I was the first one to declare my financial assets, disclosed publicly, now 99 percent of senior advisors of the United Nations have declared their financial assets publicly on the website. And in terms of accountability, again for the first time in UN history, I have signed, with all the senior advisors above the rank of Assistant Secretary-General, a full personal compact. Senior advisors, unlike in the previous days, have to identify their priorities and they have to be accountable at the end of the year, whether they have met their priorities. Each year in April a performance review board is held and their performance is regularly screened and if their performance not satisfactory, I will not re-appoint them. This is, I'm telling you, unfounded allegations.
Q: Mr. Secretary-General, before the new year, you received a letter from the Greek Foreign Minister, actually appealing for the first time on you that you do something with “Macedonia”, not Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, not respecting previous agreements, using symbols that belong to the Hellenic Republic, etc., and they are also saying that this is a delicate year for the negotiation on the Macedonian name. Now, I am asking you, how do you see that, how will you answer to that appeal, and will you put some kind of deadline, like you did on the issue of Cyprus, for nine weeks or so, since this is going on for seventeen years?
SG: First of all, as a matter of principle, it is not desirable to put any deadline. I have not given to the Cyprus issue a nine-week deadline. The nine-week deadline I gave them was to come with more improved agreement, to meet me in Geneva. This has been a long-standing issue, long overdue, and that is why, because this name issue has not been resolved, this kind of misunderstandings has been created. We will continue to do that, my Representative, Ambassador [Matthew] Nimetz will continue. I was pleased to see the momentum created by last year's direct dialogue between the two Prime Ministers of Greece and FYROM. It's now time to move toward decisions that will resolve the matters in a mutually acceptable fashion. I have assured both Prime Ministers of the UN's steadfast support to reach the goal. Mr. Nimetz will be meeting with representatives of the parties here in New York on 9 February.
Q: About military action by ECOWAS -- would you recommend the Security Council to withdraw peacekeepers from the country lest they get enmeshed in the fighting, as they are seen now as the enemy? And on Tunisia, if I could ask you, you said that you would like to see a peaceful resolution. Would you also address the root causes of this disturbance, and the validity of street protests? Until the people went on the streets, there was continued corruption and lack of jobs, and that's still going on, but the [Tunisian] President [Zine El Abidine Ben Ali] has responded: he's not running again, he says he is going to end censorship. It seems that would not have happened had not the people gone on the streets. Can you talk about that, please, as well?
SG: On Côte d'Ivoire, this is a continuing issue, so we'll have to look at all issues comprehensively, so you need to wait. I am in the process of discussing this matter with all the parties concerned, stakeholders, including the role of ECOWAS and the African Union. My meetings with the African Union leaders and ECOWAS leaders in Addis Ababa will be very important occasion to address this issue.
On Tunisian issues, I will not dwell on the root causes why this has happened. This is something which the Tunisian leadership should resolve in dialogue with their own people. What I am asking at this time is that all these issues should be addressed harmoniously, peacefully, by allowing freedom of movement, freedom of expression and freedom of association. I know that President Ben Ali has expressed his own position. I sincerely hope that President Ben Ali will continue to address this issue with his own people. Thank you.
Q: Anything on a second term as SG? You said last time you'd get back to us early this month; it's mid-this month.
SG: We've been discussing with you so many hot issues at this time; I know you are interested in that issue, but I believe that I need to be focused in addressing all these hot issues: Côte d'Ivoire, Sudan, Tunisia, Lebanon and Haiti. This requires me, and the United Nations, to really concentrate to address these issues.
Q: Any word about the peace process in the Middle East, about Palestine and the Israelis? Not even a word about this; but the direct negotiations have collapsed and the United Nations is standing on the side, waiting for the United States. Are you going to be more active on this?
SG: Yes, of course. I've been working very hard, pushing very hard again, trying first of all to re-activate this peace process. It's quite regrettable and frustrating that the peace process has not been re-activated. I will be having an opportunity of meeting leaders at the level of the Quartet principals early next month, and also I have been discussing this matter with Arab leaders. And I hope we also will be able to meet with those Arab leaders together. But we are in the process of finalizing all these detailed matters. Thank you.