Malabo, Equatorial Guinea

26 June 2014

Secretary-General remarks to the press at the African Union Summit in Malabo {with Q&A}

I am pleased to be here for the 23rd Summit of the African Union.

This is my first visit to Malabo.

I thank President Obiang Nguema Mbasogo and the people of Equatorial Guinea for their warm welcome and hospitality.

I also commend President Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz, Chairperson of the AU, and Dr. Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma, Chairperson of the AU Commission, for their leadership.

The partnership between the African Union and the United Nations is broad and deep, covering peace and security, humanitarian assistance, sustainable development, human rights and the rule of law.

The United Nations is fully committed to supporting the AU in realizing its Agenda 2063 and its vision of “an integrated, prosperous and peaceful Africa, driven by its own citizens and representing a dynamic force in the global arena”. 

We are proud to be able to work together with African nations to promote peace and security, inclusive growth, good governance and democracy.

On peace and security, I told the Summit that it is urgent that all parties in South Sudan end the fighting immediately, allow humanitarian access and engage in inclusive political dialogue.

The threat of inter-communal violence has driven some 93,000 South Sudanese to seek UN protection.  Hundreds of thousands more need assistance to avert the very real threat of famine.

Regarding Mali, I noted the progress achieved since the election of President Keita.  Now all parties need to come together, immediately and without pre-conditions, to negotiate a durable peace.

I also appealed to the international community to support the UN’s integrated strategy for peace and development in the Sahel.

In the east of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, I asked all signatories of the Peace, Security and Cooperation Framework Agreement to fulfil their commitments.  This includes not harbouring rebel elements or those accused of grave human rights violations.

In the Central African Republic, I emphasized the need to work with faith and community leaders, women and youth groups to defuse tensions and prevent further violence.

The UN is committed to working with regional partners and the AU to assist the transitional authorities to rebuild state institutions and re-establish the rule of law.

I also discussed the three priorities of the UN between now and the end of 2015.

The first is to complete the job of the Millennium Development Goals.

The scorecard is uneven within and among countries.

We must work harder to reduce the poverty, hunger and disease that afflicts the poorest, most vulnerable and marginalised members of society.

Second, Member States must agree on an inclusive and equitable post-2015 sustainable development agenda and a concise set of sustainable development goals that follow on from the MDGs.

We have to eradicate extreme poverty everywhere, but in a way that benefits people and planet.

After I leave Malabo, I will travel to Nairobi, Kenya, for the first session of the UN Environment Assembly.

This new body had the authority to advocate for the environmental dimension of sustainable development.

Without a healthy environment we cannot sustain economic or social progress.

One of the greatest environmental threats is climate change.

This is the third priority.

Member States have agreed to reach a universal and meaningful climate change agreement that can support our sustainable development objectives by the end of 2015.

To raise political momentum and catalyse transformative action on the ground, I am convening a Climate Summit on 23 September for leaders from Government, business, finance and civil society.

I have had a very good response from African leaders on all these issues.

Today I have also had a number of meetings with Heads of State and Government.

A recurring theme of many of my discussions has been regional cooperation.

In this sub-region, the challenges include inter-ethnic or religious violence, piracy in the Gulf of Guinea, the threat of terrorism and the LRA, and illicit wildlife and drug trafficking.

All countries in the region need to work together to address these pressing issues.

The United Nations, including through its Regional Office for Central Africa, will continue to support such critical regional and cross-border cooperation as part of its conflict prevention and peacebuilding mandate.

Before coming to Equatorial Guinea I visited Namibia. 

The UN is proud of its contribution to Namibia’s transition from colony to independent and thriving nation.

I had constructive meetings with President Pohamba and senior ministers, and had the pleasure of attending the official handover of the UN House in Windhoek.

I thank the Government of Namibia for this generous and significant donation that will help the UN deliver as one for the people of Namibia.

Yesterday, I also had a bilateral meeting with President Obiang and reviewed the cooperation between the Government of Equatorial Guinea and the United Nations.

I am grateful for the generous donation of new premises to the UN Country Team, which will enable us to work more effectively as One UN for the benefit of the people of Equatorial Guinea.

I am also grateful for the contribution of Equatorial Guinea to UN peacekeeping operations worldwide. 

The country supports seven UN peacekeeping operations in Haiti, Mali, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and, most recently, the Central African Republic.

Thank you for your attention.

I will now be glad to answer some questions, as well as my Senior Adviser.

Q: In recent years, we have witnessed many cases of terrorism. I want to know what are the UN and the AU’s preventive measures against this?

SG: Countering terrorism is a very serious issue that we discussed with the African leaders here. It is a global issue: not a single country or a single organization, like the United Nations or the African Union, can deal with it alone. We have to have a very comprehensive strategy supported and directed by the whole international community.

The United Nations has adopted a global counter-terrorism strategy, in 2006, by consensus. Under that resolution, I have established the UN Counter-terrorism Implementing Task Force team and Mr. Feltman’s Department of Political Affairs has a global counter-terrorism centre.

I’m mobilizing political will and resources so that all the countries can coordinate our posture against terrorism.

I have been repeatedly condemning the heinous terrorist attacks which happened everywhere, most recently this very heinous crime of abducting more than 200 school girls by Boko Haram in Nigeria.

I have dispatched Mr. Said Djinnit, who is Under-Secretary-General Special Representative for West Africa. He met President Goodluck Jonathan twice, and he met many other people, and we have proposed support packages. These are well received and we are trying to elaborate more.

We have seen many terrorist attacks in Iraq and elsewhere and we have to prevent these acts.

For that, I’ve been asking world leaders, first of all, not to allow any space, any reason, where extremist elements or terrorists can just infiltrate, when they see some weak points, caused by the grievances and discontent of the people. This may create such breeding ground for extremist elements.

World leaders should apply some comprehensive policies, reaching out to all sectors of the people, and listening carefully and attentively what the grievances, discontent or concerns are. This is very important, that is the way preventive measures can be taken.

Of course, nothing is more effective than preventive diplomacy, preventive measures. When something happens, you see a lot of human losses, damages on properties and infrastructures, so this should be the priority for world leaders.

Q: Regarding press freedom in Egypt and other countries, what are your views?

SG: Freedom of expression and journalists’ activities in covering the news should be fully respected. This is one of the basic aspect of human rights, and one of the basic principles of democracy.

I have been urging all the countries, including Egypt, to allow the freedom of movement, the freedom of expression and the freedom of coverage the news for journalists.

I met President Sisi today in Malabo and I also discussed this matter with him. I urged him to fully guarantee the protection of the freedom of expression for journalists.

Q: Tomorrow, you are going to the UN Environment Assembly in Nairobi. What can be achieved considering the financial crisis?

SG: I am going to visit Nairobi, Kenya tomorrow. The purpose of my visit is two-fold: first engage in dialogue with President Kenyatta and Kenyan leadership about the way the United Nations and the Government can work together to address many challenges that the Kenyan Government is facing.

The second one is to address the United Nations Environment Assembly which has been duly authorized and mandated by the General Assembly. As you know, UNEP has been expanded to universal membership so this is the first time that this meeting is held in Nairobi. It is of great significance in demonstrating the will of the United Nations to make this world and our life environmentally sustainable.

So Member States have given a much stronger emphasis and mandate to UNEP.

My visit to Kenya has a very comprehensive purpose, in dealing with political, security and development agenda, and the environment agenda.

Q: To an extent, the money made by poaching is financing terrorism. What is the UN position in helping countries to deal with this?

SG: When it comes to poaching, we have been condemning this illicit trade of endangered wildlife. Wildlife should be protected. There is heightened resolve by Governments and NGOs to prevent poaching.

I’m going to visit one of Kenya’s wildlife reserves to demonstrate my commitment and raise the importance of preserving these endangered species and of preventing this poaching.

Q: East African countries have proposed today the establishment of a Stand-By Force. What is the position of the UN on this inititiave?

SG: I strongly support this idea. UN Peacekeeping operations sometimes take time to generate the forces and to equip and train the soldiers. Ideally speaking, if the UN could have a stand-by force for peacekeeping operations, that would be ideal but somehow, we have not been able to agree on that.

The General Assembly and the Security Council have recommended the Member States of the United Nations to have some stand-by arrangement in their national Governments. So Members States can have their own stand-by arrangement. We have some countries that have such arrangement. They train their national soldiers for the purpose of being ready in the event that the Security Council decides to deploy peacekeeping operations.

If regional organizations in Africa can have that kind of stand-by arrangement, I would welcome it.

Q: The peacekeeping Mission in Mali is still not fully deployed. When do you expect that Mission to reach 12,000 soldiers and how do you think the UN can play a more active role in bringing the two parties towards negotiations?

SG: The peacekeeping operation in Mali, MINUSMA, is now about 80% force-generated. We have to fill a gap of about 20%. We are working very hard with Members States.

When peacekeeping operations are deployed, we have to get support from Troop-contributing countries that have their own schedules, problems or sometimes logistical difficulties. That is the main reason explaining why it takes time.

Of course, we really want to accelerate this one. Our priority is to accelerate the process as soon as possible in Mali and also make sure that MINUSCA, in the Central African Republic will be ready, up and running, as of September 15.

[Mr. Albert Koenders, Special Representative of the Secretary-General in Mali, gives further details]

In general, I want to add that recently, I have asked the Department of Peacekeeping Operations and the Department of Field Support to review the current way of managing peacekeeping operations.

By the time the peacekeeping operation is deployed, the situation might be over and populations might have been affected, we might have lost a lot of lives. That is a serious matter.

There is also a lack of training, equipment and logistical support. Most of the Troop-contributing countries are countries that need to be supported in terms of equipment and training.

Thirdly, the financial support: a peacekeeping operation can have an annual budget of 1 billion a year. We have a total budget of 8 billion dollars in our budget and the number of peacekeeping operations, and deployed soldiers, have increased. There are also recurring conflict situations. And finally, there are accountability issues when peacekeepers commit certain crimes. Then how to deal with these issues when the Members States bring their own conditions?

All this makes our peacekeeping operations not as effective as they should be. That’s why recently I informed the Security Council that I was engaging in a whole review of peacekeeping operations and I will get back to the Security Council when we are ready.

There was a landmark Security Council report in 2000, that is called the Brahimi report, by Lakhdar Brahimi, that looked at how peacekeeping operations can better serve, more effectively and more efficiently. That is my current idea but sometimes in the future, you will know more.

Q: Regarding the upcoming Climate Change Summit in New York, what can be done in particular by African countries to mitigate the effects of climate change?

SG: Thank you for asking this very important question. Normally, when I have a press conference, I’m always asked about security-related issues.

People seem not to realize that much more serious problems can come from climate change. Climate change is the most serious threat to our humanity and planet Earth. It’s approaching much faster than one seems to understand.

World scientists have made it pretty clear that climate change is happening through successive five reports. The answer to save human beings and our planet Earth is to take action now.

That is why since 2007, when I became Secretary-General, I raised climate change at the top of the global agenda.

However, unfortunately, Member States have not been realizing or, even when they have, have not been ready to fully address this issue.

This morning, I asked African leaders: you, African leaders, you need to raise your voices, if not African leaders, than who? Because African countries have least contributed to climate change and yet at the same time, they are the most and the worst affected.

Unfortunately, most countries in the continent do not have the capacity, financially or technologically, to mitigate the effects of climate change.

That is why I’m now convening this Climate Change Summit, only dedicated to this issue. I am receiving very positive answers from world leaders.

I am asking leaders: time to act is now and they need to set ambitious national targets and ambitious goals. If not, this planet and human beings will be in serious danger. Before it is too late, we have to address it.

I’m asking leaders to have a global legal climate change agreement by December next year, 2015, when they meet in Paris for the Climate Change Summit. That is my top priority at this time and I really count on the support of media. You are the best connector between me and the United Nations, and the general public, who should know.