New York

18 October 2017

Secretary-General's press encounter on the Central African Republic

Watch the video on webtv.un.org:

Ladies and Gentlemen,
 
I am here to announce that I will travel to the Central African Republic early next week to spend United Nations Day with a peacekeeping operation in order to pay tribute to peacekeepers across the world.
 
Peacekeeping operations are among the international community’s most effective tools for meeting the challenges of global peace and security.
 
Peacekeepers show tremendous courage in volatile environments and great dedication in helping countries rise from the depths of armed conflict.
 
I thank the uniformed and civilian personnel for their contributions and the troop contributing countries for their commitment and generosity.
 
This service too often claims the lives of those who serve.  Since the beginning of the year, 67 peacekeepers have died in the line of duty. 

We honour their sacrifice.
 
In the Central African Republic, 12 peacekeepers have been killed from hostile acts this year alone.
 
It is important to remember that five years ago, the Central African Republic was experiencing mass atrocities, and United Nations peacekeepers helped avert the worst.
 
Today, the situation remains very troubling.  My visit also aims to draw attention to a fragile situation that is often far from the media spotlight.
 
Across the country, communal tensions are growing.  Violence is spreading.  And the humanitarian situation is deteriorating. 
 
Since the beginning of this year, the number of internally displaced persons has almost doubled, reaching 600,000.
 
The number of refugees in neighbouring countries has surpassed 500,000.
 
About one out of four people in the Central African Republic have been forced from their homes since the beginning of the crisis.
 
Despite these rising needs, humanitarian personnel and aid workers are being targeted and access restricted.
 
This year alone, 12 humanitarians have been killed in the Central African Republic, making it one of the world’s most dangerous places for aid workers to serve.
 
Meanwhile, our appeals for emergency aid are only 30 per cent funded.   
 
My upcoming visit will be an opportunity to engage with the Government and others in order to ease suffering, halt the current backsliding, and strengthen international support for peace.
 
I also aim to give impetus to the new United Nations approach to addressing and preventing sexual exploitation and abuse.
 
We know that the good work and the tremendous sacrifice of peacekeepers around the world has been tarnished by the appalling acts of some UN personnel who have harmed the people they were meant to serve.
 
I am pained that some peacekeepers are alleged to have committed egregious acts of sexual exploitation and abuse against the people of the Central African Republic.
 
During my visit, I will be accompanied by Jane Connors, who I appointed recently to serve as the Organization’s first Victims’ Rights Advocate.  We are determined to ensure that the voices of victims are heard – I will myself be ready to meet with victims and their families – in and beyond the Central African Republic. Victims must be at the centre of our response if we want our zero-tolerance policy to be successful.
 
Ladies and Gentlemen,
 
This is a critical moment for the Central African Republic.
 
Much has been accomplished, including the election of a president and a government, following the inclusive Bangui Forum.
 
A special criminal court has been established with the help of the United Nations to ensure accountability, and in several aspects there has been progress towards recovery.
 
We need to do everything we can to preserve these achievements, support the UN peacekeeping operation and sustain peace. I have just asked the Security Council to increase the ceiling of troops in the Central African Republic and also to increase their capacity, their mobility and their ability to address the very dramatic challenges they face.
 
But there is no military solution to this crisis.
 
We will continue to cooperate with the African Union and strongly support the African Initiative for Peace and Reconciliation, and I urge all partners to move this process forward, under the leadership of the Government of the Central African Republic, in line with the so-called Libreville Roadmap.
 
The country has seen enough brutality, enough division, enough conflict.
  
It is time to consolidate the fragile gains and transform them into a sustained investment in peace and stability for the people of the Central African Republic.
 
Thank you.
 
Question:  Thank you very much, Mr. Secretary‑General. Question, you have said that the Iran nuclear deal, the JCPOA, just last week, you said it was a breakthrough, you hope it's salvaged. What is your view of what came out of the Security Council this morning? People have asked for inclusion of other things, an amendment to it. Thank you.

Secretary-General:  As I said, it is, for me, clear that this agreement is essential. This agreement is something that needs to be preserved. It's up to the parties to the agreements to look into whatever development they might consider, but it is absolutely essential, in my opinion, to preserve this agreement for peace and stability in the world.

Spokesman:  Hold on. I'll come back to you. NHK. 

Question:  Thank you, Mr. Secretary‑General. I'm Sato from NHK. My question is about North Korea. We are still worrying that the war of rhetoric between the United States and DPRK is still continuing. Could you tell us a little bit about your view on the current situation, of the Korean Peninsula situation? And, again, I would like to ask you what are you going to play a role as a mediator or to ease tension of the Korean Peninsula? Thank you.

Secretary-General:  I think the clear objective of the international community is to achieve the denuclearisation of the Korean Peninsula, and this must be very clear and, in particular, very clear to the authorities in the Democratic People's Republic of Korea. At the same time, I am a believer that the unity of the Security Council is a crucial instrument for that to be achieved. But I also believe, and I would like to repeat it, that I think that unity also creates the opportunity for diplomatic engagement. And, in my opinion, diplomatic engagement is the way to be able to achieve the objective of denuclearisation that we all cherish. I think that a war situation would be a tragedy that we need to be able to avoid.

I have been, as I said, available for any action that might be found useful, but, obviously, that can only be done if the relevant parties to this very dangerous situation will agree to it, and the conditions are not yet met for that to be possible.

Spokesman:  Michelle… Hold on. Hold on. Michelle.

Question:  Thank you, Secretary‑General. Michelle Nichols from Reuters. Just on Central African Republic, as you mentioned, you would like to see some more troops sent to the peacekeeping mission. Have you discussed this directly with the US Ambassador, Nikki Haley, given that they're trying to cut costs in peacekeeping? And do you think you've convinced her of the need for these additional troops?
And just a question on Iran. You report twice a year to the Security Council on the implementation of the resolution. Do you think that Iran is abiding by or violating the resolution? 

Secretary-General:  In relation to the first question, that is, of course, the most important, because the objective of this stakeout was related to the Central African Republic. There is a legitimate concern of Member States and, namely of the United States, to do, in relation to peacekeeping operations, the savings that might be justified. And we have, as you know, taken decisions to terminate the missions in Liberia and in Côte d'Ivoire. We have changed the nature of the mission into a much smaller one in Haiti. We are taking very tough measures for savings, for instance, in the use of air assets. And we are conducting this policy in a very determined way.

But this has nothing to do with the fact that there is a need to increase the capacity of our troops in Central African Republic to protect civilians, and so I am convinced that there will be a very positive understanding of all the members of the Security Council, including the United States of America, in relation to this.

In relation to the Iranian behaviour, I believe that the last report that was presented corresponds to the reality. I don't see anything happen that changes what we have said in our last report.
Spokesman:  Matthew?

Question:  Sure. Thanks a lot. Thanks, Secretary‑General. On... on sexual abuse and exploitation, even in the last month, there have been at least four separate reports of alleged abuse by peacekeepers from Mauritania, Morocco, Pakistan. So, I'm wondering, do you think your new approach is yet having an impact? What...would you repatriate some, some battalions if they don't punish them?

And, since everyone else is, I need to ask you about Cameroon. I'm sorry to ask you, but since October 1, there have been hundreds of people killed there. Your envoy, François [Louncény] Fall, has said he was going to go but hasn't gone. People are extremely concerned. And I'm just wondering, are we missing something? Are you preventing conflict in this instance or, or what is the UN doing? Thank you.

Secretary-General:  First of all, we have already repatriated one of the forces that was present in the Central African Republic, so these are things that we are taking very seriously. And this visit with our Victims' Rights Advocate is exactly to demonstrate, and to demonstrate to the countries, our total commitment.

And I have to say that I am having a very positive response. We have presented to Member States, namely troop-contributing countries, a compact with a number of very important things to ensure prevention and also to ensure training and to make sure that there is no impunity. I can announce that 72 countries have already signed our compacts and 19 are seriously considering it, in the process of preparing the signature, and that 57 Heads of State have joined the Circle of Leadership to commit themselves to fight sexual exploitation and abuse.

So, we are building an alliance with Member States in order to make sure that we all work together for the zero tolerance policy to become a reality. This, of course, will take time to produce results on the ground. There is a lot to be done, but we are totally committed to this policy and to achieve results in it.

Spokesman:  Ali.

Question:  Thank you, Mr. Secretary‑General. On Syria, how important is to renew the Joint Investigative Mechanism regarding the chemical weapon use in Syria?
Also, on Lebanon, does the… Hezbollah is heavily participating in the fight against terrorism. Does that give Hezbollah any legitimacy to keep their arms in Lebanon and beyond? Thank you.

Secretary-General:  It is very clear for us, in relation to Syria, that the Joint Investigative Mechanism is a very important tool, a tool addressing the problems of accountability. And we fully support their activities, and we are waiting for the report to be presented.
And, in relation to Lebanon, we are strong believers that the state of Lebanon must be a state with the monopoly of the use of force inside the country, like my own state and any other state, and this is something that I believe should be a goal for all Lebanese, knowing all the difficulties and complexities of the situation.

Thank you very much.