San Jose, Costa Rica

30 July 2014

Secretary-General's Remarks at Joint Press Conference with His Excellency Manuel Gonzalez Sanz, Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Costa Rica [scroll down for Q&A]

Estoy muy feliz de estar en Costa Rica.

Es un placer para mi realizar mi primer viaje a Costa Rica como Secretario General y estar en su hermoso pais.

Since arriving this morning, I have met with President [Luis Guillermo] Solís and Foreign Minister [Manuel] González. We discussed security in Central America, the Millennium Development Goals, the post-2015 development agenda, climate change, and many other issues relating to disarmament and peace and security.

I had the extraordinary honor of addressing the judges of the Inter-American Court of Human Rights.
I have invited His Excellency President Solis to the Climate Summit which I am going to convene on 23 September. I am delighted that he confirmed that he will attend.

We also discussed the plight of migrants, especially unaccompanied children. Beyond Costa Rica, tens of thousands of Central American children are vulnerable and suffering at the hands of traffickers. On this World Day against Trafficking in Persons, I repeat my call on countries of origin, transit and destination to urgently protect the lives and safety of migrant children.

I applaud Costa Rica’s leadership in fostering peace, sustainable development and social inclusion.

For decades, Costa Rica has led the world in avoiding wasteful military spending. This country boldly invested instead in universal health and education. The result is less inequality and greater social peace. At the same time, I understand the Government and people aspire to better results.

I am heartened by the Government’s recent efforts to end discrimination. I welcome steps taken to promote intercultural dialogue with indigenous peoples. I praise moves towards recognizing the equal rights of all people regardless of ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender identity or other differences. I was pleased to learn that recently, President Solís raised the diversity flag for the first time in the Presidential House.

I also encourage a stronger push to end violence against women – building on the impressive successes in ensuring their equal participation in decision-making.

I will meet with indigenous representatives today. Their full participation in decision-making is essential. The United Nations is working closely with Costa Rica for greater progress.

Costa Rica plays an important global role in promoting disarmament – including on the adoption of the landmark Arms Trade Treaty.

I am grateful to Costa Rica for hosting the meeting of the States Party to the Convention on Cluster Munitions next September [to be] held in San José. This is one more example of this country's commitment to international peace and stability.

Our world is interconnected. We have a responsibility to address threats to people wherever they occur.

The terrible conflict in Gaza has now entered into its fourth week. Despite repeated appeals, violence, destruction and human suffering show no signs of abating.

Over 1,200 Palestinians have been killed – the vast majority of them civilians, including hundreds of children.

Thousands more have been injured. Nearly 220,000 have fled their homes to UNRWA shelters.

The last 48 hours have brought even more suffering.

Just this morning, a UN shelter, the Jabalia Elementary Girls School, was repeatedly shelled by – from all accounts – Israeli artillery.

Women and children were asleep in what they had been assured was the safest place.

Reports indicate at least 16 civilians were killed and many more injured.

I condemn this attack in the strongest possible terms.

Nothing – nothing – justifies such horror.

The coordinates of the school, like all UN facilities, were repeatedly communicated to the Israeli Defence Forces.

Yesterday we also saw, for the third time during the conflict, the discovery of munitions at an abandoned UNRWA school. I want to stress those were abandoned facilities.

Today also witnessed an unconscionable attack on a market reportedly killing another 17 people during a so-called four-hour humanitarian pause.

I demand that all parties immediately respect UN premises.

These are serious violations of international law; the perpetrators of these violations must be held to account.

United Nations shelters must be safe zones not combat zones.

I am also deeply troubled by the targeting of the Gaza power station which supplies electricity and water. This attack raises deep concerns about sanitation conditions and possible spread of disease on a massive scale.

I repeat my urgent call for an unconditional and extendable humanitarian ceasefire.

In the name of our common humanity the fighting must stop now. 

Thank you. Muchas gracias.Q: [On the Security Council and Costa Rica]

SG: All the Member States of the United Nations - big or small - they have the right and privilege to be elected as non-permanent members of the Security Council, and it's up to the Government and people of Costa Rica to decide whether to present their candidature to sit on the Security Council and to contribute more to world peace and security. Personally, I believe that a country which has announced a policy of not having a national army - you have been successful in keeping peace and stability even without an army. That can be a good lesson which you can share with Member States and which can be emulated, but it is the choice of the Costa Rican Government and decision by Member States.

Q: [on the situation in the Middle East]

SG: While visiting San Jose, this morning, when I was riding a bicycle with the Foreign Minister, as a way to demonstrate our commitment to climate change, and also when I was entering the Foreign Ministry, I met many Palestinian people who were holding banners asking the United Nations and asking me personally as the Secretary-General of the United Nations to halt this violence, fighting. I was deeply touched.

As you know, I was in the region last week. I returned Saturday of last week after an intensive seven days of negotiations and consultations with leaders in the region, including the Israeli Prime Minister, President, and Foreign Minister. And these consultations and negotiations have been continuing until today, and I have been issuing many statements, so at this time, they must listen to the voices of reason, voices of morality. This is an issue of humanity. We cannot go on like this, watching many people, civilians, being killed. So this is what I have again urged and appealed to the parties to stop their fighting.

Now, the United Nations, particularly the Human Rights Council, has discussed this issue last week, and adopted a resolution, deciding to establish a Commission of Inquiry on this tragedy. The Commission of Inquiry has not yet been established, but I understand that the Human Rights Council President is working on that. I expect that this Commission of Inquiry will be established as soon as possible so that the perpetrators will be brought to justice. There should be justice and culpability for all the crimes committed by both sides, Israelis and Hamas and Palestinians.

The Security Council, early in the morning on Monday, just two days ago, they adopted a Presidential Statement in which they called upon, strongly, the parties to cease, stop the violence, and agree to an immediate and unconditional humanitarian ceasefire. I again appeal that they should agree to this humanitarian ceasefire so that they have time to return to the negotiating table and address all of the root causes and so that the international community, led by the United Nations, can have time to care for all of these people who have been injured. We have to restore all of the damaged infrastructure and facilities. We need time for humanity. It is absolutely necessary that they should stop [the violence].

Q: [On the situation in the Middle East]

SG: There is a procedure. Let the Human Rights Council start the work of the Commission of Inquiry. And the Commission of Inquiry - they may be in a position to recommend a course of action for accountability.

Q: [On proceedings of the International Court of Justice concerning Costa Rica and Nicaragua]

SG: As you know, this time, I am visiting two countries - I have visited Nicaragua and I am visiting Costa Rica at this time. These two countries are very close, neighboring countries. If and when there are issues of disagreement, controversies - legal or political or whatever - they should really be prepared to resolve these issues through dialogue and peaceful means. As Secretary-General, I cannot have any substantive comment on this matter. Because this issue is now before the International Court of Justice, ICJ. This is the highest and most authoritative legal institution of the United Nations. I was pleased that both Governments, countries, have agreed to present this case to the judgment of the ICJ. I hope this will be given a good judgment by the ICJ and I understand that they will be bound by this judgment. But still, I do not have any comment on this matter. But I have taken note of what Foreign Minister Gonzalez has explained in depth about the position of the Costa Rican Government and I have also taken note of what President [Daniel] Ortega [of Nicaragua] told me on this issue.

Q: [On the issue of in vitro fertilization and Costs Rica]

In principle, the United Nations does not interfere with domestic policy, but in principle, the United Nations also supports the rights of people to decide about the size of [their] family or decide on when to have children, babies. This is an individual's right, but when it comes to a decision of the Inter-American Court of Human Rights as well as the decision of Costa Rican Government, at this time I do not have any specific comment.