New York

16 December 2016

UN Secretary-General's remarks at press conference (with Q&A)

It is a great pleasure to see you this morning. Usually we gather at this time around this year but now we meet at the end of my term. 

Believe it or not, I will miss these exchanges.  We have spent much time together in this room, in the halls of this building and around the world over the last ten years.  You are part of the UN family. And I thank you for your strong commitment and working together, working for the United Nations. 

More than that, you have an important job to do – informing the world about our work -- when we make progress and when we fall short.  I deeply believe in your mission.  I have been saying that you are connecting the world, connector between the United Nations and the people of the world. And at a time when Governments across the world are harassing journalists and cracking down on press freedom, I have worked hard to be your ally and defender.  The fight for freedom of the press is everybody’s fight. 

I will be brief today to allow maximum time for questions.  Let me make just three points. 

First, the carnage in Syria remains a gaping hole in the global conscience.   

Aleppo is now a synonym for hell. 

As I told the Security Council three days ago, we have collectively failed the people of Syria.  Peace will only prevail when it is accompanied by compassion, justice and accountability for the abominable crimes we have seen. 

Second, I am closely following the deteriorating situation in South Sudan. 

This week marks the third anniversary of the fighting.  The country’s leaders have betrayed their people’s trust, and squandered a peace agreement.  Tens of thousands lie dead. 

Most immediately, my Special Adviser Mr. Adama Dieng, has warned of the risk of genocide.  We continue to push for access for lifesaving relief.  And I urge the Security Council to take more concerted action, including through punitive measures.   

Third, we will continue to support the global momentum behind the Paris Agreement on climate change.   
Climate action means jobs, growth, cleaner air and better health.  Leaders from across the globe and on every front understand this -- from Fortune 500 CEOs to Governors and Mayors.   

The Paris Agreement on climate change is a precious achievement that we must support and nurture.  There is no turning back. 

I will undertake one last trip during my final days in office -- to speak at Southern Illinois University in Carbondale, and to visit the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum in Springfield.   

One can draw a straight line from the principles that President Lincoln defended to those that represent the best spirit of the United States and that animate the United Nations.  Lincoln was a heroic force for equality, integration and reconciliation; and desperately, we need that spirit today. 

This has been a decade of unceasing test.  But I have also seen collective action change millions of lives for the better.   

Difficult as it may sometimes be, international cooperation remains the path to a more peaceful and prosperous world.   

I will continue to spare no effort to appeal to world leaders, long-standing or newly minted, to recognize and embrace that preeminent 21st-century fact. 

Finally, I wish to express my appreciation to our host country and host city. 

Yesterday in Washington D.C., I thanked President Obama, Vice-President Biden and National Security Adviser Rice for their strong support over the years.  We all stressed the centrality of close, productive ties between the United States and the United Nations. 

I have also recently met with Mayor de Blasio of New York and Governor Christie of New Jersey, and will speak soon to Governor Cuomo of New York.  The United Nations continues to draw strength from its home here in the New York metropolitan area. 

Thank you again for your friendship over the past decade.  And I wish you continued good success, and work and engage more closely with the UN, so that you will always deliver and connect the world with the United Nations. And thank you very much. 

Now, let me say one last thing, I am happy to take your questions. Thank you. 

**Questions and Answers

Spokesman: Giampaolo?

Question: Mr. Secretary-General, on behalf of the United Nations Correspondents Association, thank you again for the last press conference. But thank you, also, for your cooperation and friendship of this decade with us.  We really appreciate that.  And, also, thank you for your battle for freedom of the press.     

My last question to you is a simple one.  My colleague will ask tough question. I have a soft one. In two weeks, you will face two options: Relax and retire, or run for President of South Korea.  Because this is your last question, we would like to know which one of these options you will choose, and you have to give us a real clear answer now.


Thank you.

Secretary-General: The first part of your question, of course, I will take some more days to take rest. As you know, during the last ten years, frankly speaking, I have not been able to take any proper vacations and rest.  It's been quite tough ten years.  But I have been working just to make sure that the United Nations is there when people need me and the United Nations.

For the second part of the question, I have been repeatedly saying that I am still the Secretary-General.  I still have 15 days to go.  


So let’s see, after 15 days, when January 1st comes, then as I said, I'll take some rest, and then I'll go back to Korea.  

Then, I'll try to meet as many people as possible, which may include political leaders and leaders of the community, societies, and my friends.  I will really consider seriously how best and what I should and I could do for my country, Korea.

As you know, the situation is very, very difficult, in a sense, in turmoil.  I can understand and share the anxiety of people about the future of their country, as this is one of the biggest challenges the Korean people are encountering.  I know that they don't want to lose the hard-earned democracy and the economic development which, in fact, transformed Korea from a recipient country to a global donor.  That is one pride that the Korean people have.  Koreans have been known as example to other nations in that regard.  

And I also understand the aspiration of people for a new type of inclusive leadership that can help them overcome the challenges ahead.

And there are many issues of how to reconcile the differences between their thinking, and differences of their income, and some regionalism. There are many, many issues which we have to think about.  That means social integration, reconciliation, and much more mature democratic institutions.

At the same time, while all these seem to present great challenges for Koreans and the Korean government, I'm confident that the Korean people, with their resilience and very mature democratic institutions, I'm sure that they will be able to overcome these difficulties soon.

Thank you.

Spokesman: Thank you.  


Question:  Thank you very much, Mr. Secretary-General.  Um, you... you mentioned Aleppo.  I wondered if you could elaborate a little and tell us what your expectations are, since there seems to be some holdup in the evacuations today, and whether the UN has been involved in trying to promote this.  But that was a follow-up.

My real question was you've talked about unfinished business.  And you've mentioned Syria.  And today you've mentioned South Sudan.  What other unfinished business do you think should be at the top of the agenda of your successor, Mr. Guterres?  

Secretary-General:  About this situation in Aleppo and the situation in Syria broadly, this has been really heartbreaking for me and for all the people who love peace and stability.  Syrian people have been really suffering too much, too long, the last five years -- even soon six years, in March next year.

More specifically about the situation in Aleppo, in an operation that started yesterday and continued into the early morning today local time, thousands of people were able to leave Aleppo, including 194 patients who were evacuated with assistance of the Syrian Arab Red Crescent; ICRC, International Community of the Red Cross; and the United Nations.  They were brought to hospitals in Idlib, western rural Aleppo, and Turkey.  They were brought to hospitals nearby, with the support of humanitarian health partners in Gaziantep. 

The evacuation of wounded and civilians from the besieged areas of Eastern Aleppo was unfortunately suspended today because of the Syrian authorities, earlier today.  I very much regret that we had to stop this operation at this time.

The United Nations is currently engaging and mobilizing all possible resources and manpower, engaging with and urging the parties to take all necessary measures to allow safe resumption of this evacuation process.  The UN and partners in Idlib have prepositioned the supplies which we can easily deliver to needy people.

And again, I can tell you that the United Nations stands ready full time to do whatever is needed to rescue as many people as possible. But as I told you, unfortunately, because of this fighting by Syrian armed groups, we have to stop this one.

Thank you.

About this unfinished business, that's hard to pinpoint.  There are many, many issues, unfortunately.  The tendency is that once the violence and conflict happen, they do not know the end.  It seems like that.  The Syrian crisis has been continuing for six years. Now the situation in Yemen, and South Sudan, and Central African Republic, and Mali, and elsewhere, all the fires are still burning.  The reason, clearly, is a lack of solidarity, global solidarity.

There are many people who believe that military solutions can address all these issues, but as I have been repeatedly saying, there is no such military solution.  Only inclusive political solutions can bring a sustainable solution of the issues.

I feel sorry that I have to leave so many unfulfilled issues to my successor and Member States, but at the end, at the end of our day, we have to also understand that we need to do much more with global solidarity and compassionate leadership.  That's what I'm urging the leaders to engage much, much more.  

Thank you.

Spokesman:  Mr. Sato, NHK.  

Question:  Thank you for giving me a chance to ask the Secretary-General.  My name is Sato from NHK. 

My question is about the Northeast Asian situation, because the Secretary-General is the first Secretary-General from East Asia and, also, the diplomat of South Korea.  And looking back at these ten years, DPRK has been pursuing their nuclear ambition, and China has dramatically enhanced its power in international area.  In South Korea and Japan, the relation has been ups and down and still... still not stable.

So what is your view on Northeast Asian situation during your tenure and prospect and expectation for the future shape of this region?

Thank you.

Secretary-General: People often have been saying that the 21st century would be an era of Asia Pacific.  Among Asia Pacific, Northeast Asia has been regarded as powerful growth and dynamic growth economically, particularly, and socially.

That means China, Japan, Korea, and these are very important drivers and have been commended, even envied, by many people around the world, many countries around the world, for their dynamic growth.

Recently, I'm concerned that the relationship among and between the countries in Northeast Asia, and also Asia broadly, have not been smooth. In all of this, there is a very serious security concern caused by the Democratic People's Republic of Korea; particularly, their continuing efforts to develop nuclear weapons and ballistic missile technologies.  The Security Council has been seriously engaged to stem, to deter, this kind of North Korean activities.

The Security Council has met ten times this year only.  It's very rare that the Security Council engages so frequently, so heavily, on any single subject.  They have taken already five sanction resolutions, including most recently, which was taken on November 30.

All this kind of tensions on the Korean Peninsula also caused a lot of implications to the Northeast Asian region.  And there have been some differences of opinions and positions, how to address all these security issues, particularly vis-à-vis North Korean nuclear issues between and among China, Japan, Korea, and the United States, and Russia.  All these countries surrounding Northeast Asia have not been consistent in their positions.

I sincerely hope that with all these continuing security instabilities and the political disharmonies among these countries, the leaders of Northeast Asia will continue to meet together and try to narrow down their differences of opinions and, particularly, in addressing North Korean nuclear issues. 

I sincerely wish and strongly urge again the DPRK authorities to come to the international community and abide by all the international norms, including the Security Council resolutions -- many resolutions.  Therefore, they can also be part of this society.  That's what I sincerely hope as Secretary-General.  

Spokesman:  Joe Klein.

Question:  Thank you.  Joseph Klein of Canada Free Press.  

And Mr. Secretary-General, whatever you decide to do, I wish you all of the best.

Given the prominence in the news lately of cyber-attacks against political institutions and private enterprises, what concrete steps would you recommend that the United Nations take to galvanize Member States' support for an effective UN convention containing rules and norms to regulate cyber warfare, akin to the Geneva Conventions, for example, and help build Member States' capacities to secure their critical infrastructures from cyber attacks?

Thank you.   

Secretary-General:  We are enjoying all this dramatic transformative development of technologies, particularly these communication technologies.

At the same time, we are very much concerned about using this technology for rather negative purposes, cyber-attacks.  This must be prevented in a concerted effort by the international community.

I sincerely hope that the United Nations' concerned department and agencies will look into this matter very seriously and try to have international conventions so that we can prevent such kind of misuse of privilege of technologies, cyber technologies.  This is my sincere hope.

But as for the specific agency or department, I think we will have to discuss this matter with the General Assembly. 

Spokesman:  Linda Fasulo. 

Question:  Thank you, Steph.  

Mr. Secretary-General, this is a question going back to Aleppo.  You've called Aleppo a synonym for hell.  We also know that South Sudan, you've said, is at the risk of genocide and there are UN troops there.

I was just wondering how you would assess the status of the concept of Responsibility to Protect?  Is it on life support?  Is it moving towards death?
Secretary-General:  In 2005, during a special summit meeting, world leaders have agreed and adopted a consensus document on the Responsibility to Protect.

As Secretary-General, even while I was campaigning, I was pledging to the Member States that I will try to translate this agreement into action and application to our daily life, addressing all these issues.

Unfortunately, Member States have shown some stepping back from their firm agreement on the Responsibility to Protect.  That is why the United Nations, the international community has not been able to fully and effectively address many conflict issues.

Particularly, we fully support the sovereignty issues.  Every country, small and big, has a sovereign right and sovereign integrity, but when it comes to a situation when the leaders are not willing or not able to defend their own people, then the international community should be able to intervene with the necessary resources.  That has been done at the time of resolving this Libyan crisis.

I regret very much that the Member States have not been giving full support and full engagement in implementing this very important Responsibility to Protect principle.

Again, this is one of the unfinished businesses. We have a good framework, we have an agreement.  Then why we are not using these good tools?  These tools and principles should fully be used so that we can handle and address many conflict issues.

We fully support this sovereignty, but when the country simply is not able or not willing to -- then the international community has a responsibility to protect those people. 

Question:  Specifically, is there anything you would recommend for the international community to do at this point regarding Syria?

Secretary-General:  I have been appointing I think three of the world's best diplomats, including my predecessor Kofi Annan, Lakhdar Brahimi, and Staffan de Mistura.  It's not an issue of negotiators and facilitators.  It's an issue of lack of solidarity, lack of compassion, and people just sticking to very narrow personal or national interests. That has been killing hundreds of thousands people now. That we have to reject in the name of humanity.

How come this issue has been taking so long without being resolved?  And first of all, the Syrian people, they should be united.  Unfortunately, they have been divided completely.  The regional powers, these powers, they have been supporting both sides, the government's side and the armed groups’ side.

The United Nations Security Council has been also divided.  There are divisions in three important areas and institutions.  That has provided a perfect storm for extremists, ISIL, Da’esh, terrorists to take a firm root.  They're just taking a firm root among the people, just taking advantage of all the grievances of the people, the lack of good governance of the leaders. 

Spokesman:  Thank you.  


Question:  Thank you, Mr. Secretary-General.  Just before I start my question, it was a pleasure covering you in the United Nations over the past five years in New York and overseas.  

Reflecting over your tenure as Secretary-General of the United Nations for an entire decade, in hindsight, what was your top three moments of pride and your top three moments of regrets?  I understand there were ups and downs, as we have witnessed, but there must be some resonation (29:23) with you personally.  

Thank you.

Secretary-General:  Frankly speaking, it's not good timing for me to talk about what has been achieved or what have been good moments for me.  There are more on the regrettable side, frankly speaking, again.

But since you have raised this issue, I believe that while we think that we are living in an era of turmoil and challenges, the world leaders have shown, at least, very important guidelines and visions by adopting the sustainable development goals, the 2030 agenda, with the 17 goals, which cover all spectrums of our life as human beings and planet earth.

If we are able to implement and achieve these all 17 goals by 2030, I'm quite confident I will be very proud to say that we are living in a world much more prosperous, much more peaceful, and much healthier for people and the planet.  That's one thing.

Even though it's a part of the sustainable development goals, the climate change has been negotiated in a separate track, in a different track, with the sustainable development goals.

The agreement of peace -- I mean the Paris Agreement, that has to be commended.  It has taken longer than ten years.

When I took over as the Secretary-General in 2007, the negotiation was almost dormant.  It was not moving at all.  And I thought that my priority as Secretary-General should be on this climate change.  And I have been really mobilizing, first of all, the political will of the leaders and business communities, and I have been really asking the civil societies to raise their voices, to challenge the world leaders.

Now, with this Paris Agreement -- once it was known as unthinkable; now, it is unstoppable.  Nobody can stop this one.  Nobody can stop this one.  It's now going on.

It's not only the governments, but business communities, and civil societies, they all demand it.  They know that without changing our course, our pattern of consumption and production, without going through climate resilient economy, decarbonizing, then our future will be tragic.

So that is one thing which I have been able to awaken the awareness of people's minds.  That is one thing of which I am proud, but we'll have to go at least 85 years with our target until 2100.

But I think we have a very good start.  When we implement this with force, then we can be proud.

Then another one, at least I have, again, tried to change the mentality of the male community, male society, that it's not only men.  Men should live together equally with women.  There's gender empowerment, gender parity.

There are more women living in this planet.  Then, if not more for women, at least equal rights should be given, politically, socially, and economically.  And this is a fundamental principle of the human rights declaration, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

And as a human being, I think we must adhere to this.  I have been trying to appoint many very capable women senior advisers.  And the number of women whom I have appointed during the last ten years is much, much greater than the number of women appointed during my seven predecessors combined.  And I'm glad that my successor, he has committed in his oath-taking ceremony, that by the end of his term -- I don't know when will be his end of term.


In at least ten years, then this world will be 50/50.  But in fact, by 2030, world leaders have already committed, by 2030 this world will be a 50/50 planet.

Thank you.

Spokesman:  Great.  Thank you very much.