Addis Ababa

28 January 2013

Secretary-General's Remarks at Joint Press Conference with Senior Advisers in Addis Ababa [full transcript]

I am honoured to be back in Addis Ababa to celebrate 50 years of African solidarity with the Organization of African Unity and then the African Union.

The United Nations has been Africa’s strongest partner throughout this half century. We are firmly committed to standing with Africa now in the future.
The United Nations and the African Union share a history of productive collaboration. We are working for unity, solidarity and results.

I see Africa on the rise. I welcome progress on development, good governance and human rights.

I especially commend Africa’s leaders for striving to improve conditions for the continent’s people. We have 1,000 days to reach our Millennium Development Goals. Now is the time to finish the job by accelerating progress. We must seize the unparalleled opportunity to shape our future development agenda.

I have appointed a number of African experts to my team in important decision-making roles ­– and I’m proud to have brought many top-level women advisors here.

We are pressing for progress across Africa’s development agenda. We had very successful meetings today on malaria and yesterday on maternal and child health.

I am also committed to greater progress on HIV and AIDS. We are working for a future where virtually all African mothers survive childbirth and raise their HIV-free babies into healthy adults. Just this week, we launched an initiative to help Africa train and deploy 1 million community health workers by 2015 to speed progress on the MDGs. 

In my address to the African Union, I spoke out strongly against sexual violence in conflict. We must end the silence and denial surrounding this terrible problem – not just here, but around the world. I call on African leaders to join me in raising our voices on behalf of the victims. They need our unrelenting advocacy.

Beyond this, women must play a significant role in peacebuilding and the reconstruction of their societies. The United Nations is proud to have prepared a roster of 200 African women who are ready to contribute to this effort.

During this Summit, I have met with close to 20 leaders. We discussed a range of issues and moved forward on several fronts.
As you know, we planned to sign a political Framework on the Democratic Republic of the Congo this morning.

There were no fundamental differences over the content of the Framework. Some procedural issues, however, did arise, and we have agreed to postpone the signing. The United Nations remains committed to helping foster greater stability in the country.

We are also determined to help the people of Mali at this critical hour. As I told the Summit, this is a moral imperative for the entire international community.  The humanitarian agencies are already working to alleviate the suffering of the Malian people, and we have deployed specialists to help on both the military and political tracks.

The welcome contribution and decisive action of the French Government, alongside Malian and other African forces, has allowed significant advances in the restoration of Malian territorial integrity. I personally pledge to ensure that the United Nations stands ready to undertake a major system-wide effort for peacebuilding, governance and security sector reform, physical reconstruction and regional cooperation.

On Sudan and South Sudan, I commend the authorities of both countries for taking positive steps to resolve their differences. Implementation of the agreements is now of paramount importance. I also urge Sudan to allow humanitarian assistance in Southern Kordofan and Blue Nile States.

In Somalia, the fall of Kismaayo and other areas previously held by Al-Shabaab has opened up space for peacebuilding. I am proposing to the Security Council, the establishment of a new UN presence as part of our efforts to strengthen the UN-AU partnership on the ground.

The Central African Republic is making progress. I pay tribute to the President, Denis Sassou-Nguesso, for his mediation leading to the political agreement to stabilize the situation. I call on the parties to move with the implementation of the Libreville agreement.

I am pleased to see the African Union, United Nations, ECOWAS [Economic Community of West African States] and the Community of Portuguese Speaking Countries, CPLP, coordinating their efforts on Guinea-Bissau and calling for a transitional roadmap for the return to constitutional order in Bissau.

The African Union took an historic step when it appointed its first female Chairperson. I congratulate Her Excellency Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma. I fully agree with her statement that the future of Africa “is inextricably linked with that of the rest of humanity and the world over.”

The United Nations is committed to working with the African Union to advance progress on this continent and build a better future for all.
I thank you very much. Thank you.

Q: You said there have not been major differences but some procedural points. Would you please elaborate on that, because outside, the talk here is that the negotiations have collapsed on DRC.  Thank you very much.

SG: There’s a related [question]?

Q: [In French, on DRC]

SG: First of all, as I said, there are no fundamental differences or objections to the contents of the agreement which we have been discussing with the leaders of eight countries. They are: DRC, Democratic Republic of the Congo; Rwanda; Uganda; Republic of Congo, Brazzaville; Burundi; South Africa; Angola; Tanzania. I met all of the leaders of these countries and previously, I have been discussing with them in person, as well as through my personal envoy, my Chef de Cabinet.

This is a broader political and security framework whereby the country, particularly the DRC, will be committed to certain policies regarding the situation, and other regional countries will also commit to support and to cooperate fully.

But I am not going to go into details of this matter. In the course of our discussions, some Member States expressed some desire that they needed more time to discuss. These are simple reasons why I had to postpone the signing event this morning.

About this idea of a neutral force, etc. – I know that there was serious concerns expressed during the crisis last year in Goma. There are some perception issues about the United Nations mission, MONUSCO, that I regret that there is some misinformed or incorrect perceptions about what the mandate and function and mission, procedures, of MONUSCO [are]. We have a strict mandate in terms of operational procedures and the scope of our missions, in accordance with the Security Council. The primary responsibility rests with the Government of the DRC and, more in detail, FARDC, their national army.

Now considering all these perceptions – whether they are correct or incorrect ­– I am very much conscious and concerned about how we can improve and change the way the United Nations peacekeeping operations has to do. That is why I am now in the process of discussing this matter with the Security Council members. I know that this neutral forces have come from the region, but no decision has been yet made, but it is true that we are now looking at the different way, different approach – how we can strengthen the capacity of MONUSCO, how we can effectively, more effectively, and efficiently address the crisis in the DRC. Thank you.

Q: You talk about procedural problems, but the South African Defence Minister is telling us that the document, the framework document, which your UN staff drew up, is not consulted, not negotiated with them. Did your staff fail?

SG: There is again some difference of understanding on this matter. We have circulated in confidence, all these documents. I cannot talk about their internal procedures of reviewing or discussing this matter. I am not aware of this. But as far as United Nations Secretariat is concerned, my personal emissary has been continuously, very closely, been coordinating on this matter. That is why I am now saying that on procedural matters, there is no fundamental differences. She is my personal emissary, so let her say something.

Chef de Cabinet Susana Malcorra: Thank you, Secretary-General. There has been an intensive round of consultations. It is clear that the consultations had, what I would call, two concentric circles: the most directly involved countries were the ones who had the first round of the most intensive consultations. Once there was a basic agreement among themselves, we open up to a larger community. And as the Secretary-General has indicated, there has not been any difference of opinion on the substance of the framework; there has been a need for further time to consult and that’s where we are now. Thank you.

Q: Thank you. France is currently leading the battle against the rebels in Mali, but sometimes it may not result in good consequences, as could be read from past history and lessons. So my question is: what kind of efforts should be forged from outside the international community when Africa is in front of this crisis and conflict? Thank you.

SG: As I said earlier, I really appreciate the countries who are now providing troops and logistical support so that Malian forces could effectively address these armed groups and terrorist elements. In the course of this, if I may say more on principle, for those terrorist groups with whom dialogue is not possible, the military operation is inevitable. That is why all African Union and Western powers, they are supporting [this]. The United Nations is now actively considering, through my recommendations to the Security Council, how the United Nations can help those African countries in terms of logistical support.

And in the course of this military operation, while it is going on, I am urging also the Malian authorities to engage in inclusive dialogue, to have a political process going on, and to have national reconciliation through dialogue, so that they can have constitutional order restored. They can have political, social, economic stability ensured. That is one thing.

Again, what is another important area is human rights. The United Nations has a Human Rights Due Diligence Policy and all those governments providing soldiers and working for the Malian Government should abide by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and international human rights and international humanitarian law. This is a very important principle. We are urging all those troops to strictly abide by this, to protect the human rights of the civilian population, particularly the vulnerable groups of people, including women and girls. This is a very important policy.

Q: I would like to know from you, Mr. Secretary-General, about the budget for such an operation, not only in DRC, but also in Mali, because, as far as you have to know, African countries are not in a position to get financial resources to support the logistics of these operations. How will the United Nations and the international community help the budget of these operations and how much do you expect to be needed for that? Thank you.

SG: If you allow me, I have here with me many senior advisers. I have briefly explained to you about my recommendation to the Security Council on logistical packages. I would like to invite the head of peacekeeping operations, Mr. [Hervé] Ladsous.

Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations Hervé Ladsous: Thank you, Mr. Secretary-General. Yes, the budget of the Department of Peacekeeping Operations obviously at this stage does not contain any budgetary provision for the operation in Mali. This is a matter which will have to be considered and decided upon by the Security Council on the basis of the three options that have been suggested by the Secretary-General, and these range from the logistics package to the possibility of assessed contributions, but this, again, is for the Security Council to consider.

Q: Mr. Secretary-General, as you said, the political framework for the DRC has just been postponed. Is there any timeframe? Is there any scheduled meetings for the countries to meet again in a very short time?

SG: Even this morning, after postponing this signing event, I had very close consultations through bilateral meetings with key leaders in the region. So we will expedite this process. I don’t think it will take much longer. It is very important to ensure peace and stability in DRC, also in the region. So they are all very much committed. Thank you.

Q: I wanted to hear your view on the extension of the AU High-Level Implementation Panel mandate in Sudan and South Sudan. This is not the first time that the two leaders have not been able to reach an agreement and another extension was given. Since last year, it was suggested if they did not reach agreement, the case would be taken to the Security Council. What is your view?

SG: Maybe I would like to ask Mr. Ladsous –

HL: Thank you, Mr. Secretary-General The issue, as you say, is a real one, that the African Union High-Level Implementation Panel has drawn a list of issues that the two parties have to solve and indeed Sudan and South Sudan signed on 27th of September last year, a set of eight agreements. Now all these agreements have to be implemented, but so far, despite a number of meetings, despite a number of summit meetings, including one here in Addis Ababa two days ago, progress remains to be made on several major issues, having to do, for instance, with security, having to do with Abyei and others. So I think the sense is that of course you cannot build trust after decades of war overnight but that there has to be a new momentum between the two countries, a strong effort of leadership by leaders to come to a complete set of agreements which will allow the two countries to live together peacefully and in prosperity.

SG: If I may add, I had a good meeting with President Salva Kiir of South Sudan yesterday and in my many bilateral meetings with African leaders in the region, I had strongly emphasized the importance of full implementation of the agreement of September 27th.

Q: I wanted to ask a question back on the question of the DRC. You say there are no fundamental differences on the plan, but South Africa’s Defence Minister is telling us that they – SADC [the South African Development Community] and the Great Lakes region – have got their own plans for a brigade to go into the eastern DRC. I just wanted to know: are you going to support their plan? Have you been told about this plan? Are you aware of it, and are you willing to put your weight behind it? As the UN, are you going to support and it are you considering it all?

SG: As you all agree, the situation in DRC, particularly in the eastern DRC, has been a source of great concern, not only to the DRC people, but in the region and to the world. That is why the Security Council has been very closely, seriously, seized of this issue. That is why I have taken my personal initiative to help and facilitate this process. The political framework which I am now discussing and I am hoping to get it signed by the regional leaders is not to replace or oppose or change existing initiatives in the region by SADC or the African Union or whatever. It is simply to complement and augment these existing initiatives and build on these initiatives. Since the situation was very dire, the Security Council was very much heavily involved in this. Therefore, I really wanted to have a broader political and security framework, whereby the DRC and regional countries can work together with the United Nation. This is the basic purpose. Therefore, I don’t think there should be any fundamental differences in this principle. We have discussed in detail the language and this detailed language is, I think, agreed. There were some procedural issues which we should have taken more, paid, attention to, the regional leaders. That is what I am going to continue to discuss.

Q: You mentioned you met more than 20 leaders in Africa. Did you also discuss with them the situation in Eritrea and what is going on there?
SG: During my stay this time, I didn’t have much time to discuss Eritrean issues. But this is also one of the very serious issues which we are now following so I’d like to ask our head of the Political Department, Mr. Feltman.

Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs Jeffrey Feltman: Several of us did have the opportunity, of course, to compare notes with African leaders about their analysis of what’s happening in a number of areas across the continent, Eritrea being one. And we remain quite interested in following those events and seeing where there might be opportunities. There have been conversations, between us, between African leaders, other observers, about what’s happening across the continent in a number of areas and Eritrea being one. And I think that there’s still, from the information that we’ve heard, a lot of speculation under way about what actually happened. We, of course, as the United Nations, look forward to working with Eritrea and others to see where there might be opportunities.

Q: Mr. Secretary-General, in part of the plans you are making, especially reaching out to most of these African leaders in crisis-torn areas, are there efforts to as those – because, as you know, most periods where crises like these happen are because of starvation, diseases and those sort of things. Are there plans towards those who are in these rural areas in terms of ensuring that this does not go beyond the state it is today?

SG: That is a very important question, a fundamental question, but sometimes people or leaders do not pay much attention. As you will agree, even during this press conference, all the questions were based on political crisis issues. Why these political crises happen in Africa or elsewhere? This is closely related, interlinked, with development, human dignity and human rights. And how the leaders and how the governments can meet the expectations and needs of the people? When government is not able to meet the needs of people, not listen to the people, and when their life is not in dignity, respected in dignity, then it creates some breeding grounds for mistrust and complaints and frustrations which develops naturally develops into a conflict. This small conflict, community conflict develops into national, national conflict develops into regional conflict.

This is why development, and how we can, how leaders of the regions and countries can ensure sustainable development of those countries. That is why sustainable development is the number one priority of the United Nations. And I have set it as my number one priority, and everybody agrees. We are working very hard to meet these targets of Millennium Development Goals and what we will do after Millennium Development Goal target is met by 2015. So we are actively discussing post-2015 development agenda.

This is what I can tell you at this time. I am very encouraged that the new Chairperson of the African Union, Madame Zuma, her vision is development, African development. Because while celebrating 50 years anniversary of the African Union, now the coming 50 years – that’s pan-Africanism and African Renaissance – renaissance in terms of political stability, in terms of development, in terms of ensuring human dignity, human rights. This is very good issues for Africans. That’s why I have been taking this African development issue as one of my priorities: how to feed people, how to feed 1 billion; in Africa several hundred million are still hungry. How to provide water and sanitation, and provide medicines to sick people, how to save human lives who otherwise would have been dying needlessly. This is very important. So the priority really should be on how to help our people enjoy their lives as human beings, with dignity.

Q: Secretary-General, when the UN resolution on Mali was passed in December, you were very widely quoted as saying the use of force should absolutely be the last resort. It seems now to have been the first resort. How much concern do you have that the UN involvement and engagement in this military operation in northern is going to put the neutrality of UN operations elsewhere under some kind of question? Is that still a concern that you have?

SG: When it comes to approach, whether a certain crisis should be addressed by military or political processes, I think it is not only me – all the world leaders agree that political process should prevail. All the pending issues, all the crisis or difference of views, should be resolved peacefully, through dialogue. In the case of Mali, the Security Council debated and adopted resolution 2085. They realized and we realize that the threat to human lives was imminent. Unless there was immediate measures, whatever measures, including military, a lot of human lives would be lost, and destruction of the society and destruction of the systems, constitutional and democratic system. That is why some countries like the French and ECOWAS member states have taken such a measure, military measure. And Security Council was very clear in its resolution that they should provide necessary assistance.

As far as the United Nations is concerned, we do not have such capacity in addressing crisis through military means. That is why this has been done on a bilateral basis, regional basis, through military means.

In my statement, I said that while we understand the inevitability of this military operation, political process should take place. And this military means should be part of a comprehensive political process. That is one fundamental principle and approach we are taking and all international community should take.

You talk about the neutrality of the United Nations. The United Nations sometimes cannot take a neutral position. The United Nations takes impartial positions. When there is a clear violation of human rights, clear violations of fundamental principles, the United Nations has to take sides, criticize those perpetrators. Should the United Nations keep neutral in the face of such violations of human rights? So please don’t, I hope that there should be clear understanding about the United Nations. The United Nations can never be always neutral, but the United Nations [works in an] impartial way.

At the same time, I have to tell you that the safety and security of many humanitarian workers working on the ground and United Nations staff and civilian populations; their safety and security should be protected. That is one of the other concerns that the United Nations is putting priority focus on.