New York

11 February 2014

Secretary-General’s Remarks to a Group of Journalists at UN Headquarters

This year has begun with many crises at once.

In Syria, I welcome the resumption of talks yesterday in Geneva.  We know how difficult it will be to achieve progress on the political track, but we must build on these modest beginnings.

I also welcome the extension of the humanitarian pause in Homs.  Our goal is to get more aid in and more people out.  The UN personnel and their partners in the Syrian Red Crescent involved in this operation are showing remarkable bravery.  And I really thank them for their strong commitment.

The people we are helping in Homs make up just a small fraction of those under siege in Syria.  We need to continue pushing for a cease-fire.  This will make humanitarian access possible – and a better environment for progress in the effort for a political solution.

In South Sudan, we continue pressing the parties to settle their differences at the negotiating table.  It will be especially important for the talks to engage civil society and not be limited to the leaders alone.

The United Nations continues to protect some 75,000 people in UNMISS camps.  Conditions are extremely difficult, but thousands of people are alive today because of our policy decision to open the gates.

The past two months have made it clear that South Sudan’s Army and institutions need to be overhauled.  The country’s leaders need to restore much good will, both in the region and internationally.  They should focus on building their state and getting their young country back on track.

In the Central African Republic, the situation continues to worsen. Both Muslims and Christians have been murdered and forced to flee their homes.  The sectarian brutality is changing the country’s demography. The de facto partition of the C.A.R. is a distinct risk.

The international response does not yet match the gravity of the situation.  We must do more to prevent more atrocities, protect civilians, restore law and order, provide humanitarian assistance and hold the country together.

The international response must be robust -- with a credible deployment of force.

It must be coherent -- with all actors working together.

And it must be swift -- if we are to prevent a worst-case scenario.

I welcome the Security Council’s decision to strengthen the UN’s political mission, BINUCA, and to authorize the deployment of a military operation of the European Union in support of MISCA and Sangaris.

This week Assistant Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations Edmund Mulet will go to the C.A.R. to consult with African Union representatives on the possible transformation of MISCA into a United Nations peacekeeping operation. But even if that change looks increasingly necessary, it would take time for it to happen.

I therefore continue to urge the international community to support the AU and MISCA at this time. I call on the European Union to accelerate the deployment of its military operation.  I spoke yesterday with French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius and asked France to consider deploying additional troops.  I am urging other willing Member States to contribute as well.  This morning, I have spoken with Madam [Nkosazana Dlamini] Zuma, Chairperson of the African Union and also President Catherine Samba-Panza [Head of State of the Transition] of the Central African Republic and discussed the matters of the current situation, and I am going to speak with Laurent Fabius this evening again to follow on our discussions.

Beyond security, the United Nations will be intensifying its efforts in other key areas such as promoting reconciliation, monitoring human rights and establishing mobile courts that can deliver justice.

I will be reporting to the Security Council soon.  I will continue my efforts to mobilize political support for a solution that can bring together the international community and the parties in the C.A.R. itself.  We must work together to save the people of the C.A.R.

We cannot just continue to say “never again”.  This, we have said so many times. We must act concertedly and now to avoid continued atrocities on a massive scale.

Finally, looking out over the longer term, the Climate Summit Meeting which I am going to convene on September 23 will be a big moment.  Almost every where I travel, I see the impacts of climate change and I will continue to use my official visits this year to highlight the urgent need to act.  But we need to remember that climate change is also an opportunity.  In May, the Government of United Arab Emirates will hold, in Abu Dhabi, a major meeting that will highlight the benefits of making a transition to a low-carbon economy.

Thank you very much.