Berlin, Germany

17 December 2020

Secretary-General’s remarks at joint press encounter with Foreign Minister of Germany Heiko Maas 

Dear members of the press, it is for me an enormous pleasure to be back in Germany. Indeed because of COVID-19, I've had very few missions this year. But I really wanted to come and accept Germany's invitation of the President of the Bundestag to address the Bundestag because these are challenging times, but Germany is a reliable and generous and an exemplary party when we face these challenging times.  

In the commemorations of the 75th anniversary of the United Nations, we did a survey around the world with 1.5 million answers of different citizens from everywhere. What was interesting in that survey, is that those that answered from Germany, 99% of them affirmed their commitment to multilateralism, and international cooperation, to solve the problems of today's world - 99%. By far, the largest percentage. And that shows the strong commitment of the German people to the values that the UN represents, and that shows why it would be impossible for me not to accept to come to the parliament that represents the German people in the last activity I will have during these dramatic year in which we commemorated the 75th anniversary of the UN and at the same time, we have suffered the full impact of COVID-19 and all the other challenges that we face from climate change to inequality, to lawlessness in cyberspace to the different fragilities that undermine our world.   
Now the COVID-19 pandemic rages on, our planet is burning, conflict and insecurity are everywhere. And as my dear friend and the Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said when he addressed the General Assembly in September, and I ask for permission to quote you: "Our world must show that the right response to the crises of our age is more solidarity, more cooperation, and more justice." And that was also the spirit of our very constructive and fruitful talks today. I'm very thankful for Germany's staunch commitment to multilateralism and its principled foreign policy across the broad spectrum of our work from human rights to peace and security, to addressing the challenges of development and humanitarian aid, Germany has been on the frontline of all aspects of activity in the United Nations. And this has been demonstrated once again, through the role that Germany has played on the Security Council over the last two years. Foreign Minister Maas has shown great dedication and personal engagement throughout Germany's membership of the Security Council. We participated in various meetings together during this year. He has chaired indeed meetings of the Council on such important issues as but pandemics and security, sexual violence in conflict, climate and security, international humanitarian law, and non-proliferation. 
I am also happy to recognize Germany's crucial support for peacebuilding, including its role in the Peacebuilding Commission and I look forward to co-chairing with Minister Maas a replenishment conference for the UN's Peacebuilding Fund in Germany and thank you very much for your generosity.  
I want to express my gratitude to the German government and the people for their generous humanitarian and development support. We also discussed the situation in Libya, the Sahel, Sudan, Ethiopia, and several other crises around the world.  
And with regard to Libya, I'm particularly grateful for Germany's role, including the hosting of the Berlin Conference on Libya last January and all the efforts to help to forge a way forward and continue to galvanize the constructive engagement of the international community in support of the Libyan people.  
On the Sahel, I commend Germany for its continued commitment to the region's development and stability, including to the Coalition for the Sahel, the participation in MINUSMA and the European Union Training Mission.  
On Sudan, I appreciate Germany's important contribution to UN efforts in the Security Council, and for its leadership in the Friends of Sudan group.   
And regarding Ethiopia, we fully share the importance of a peaceful Ethiopia, facilitating the prosperous future for its people and for stability and development of the Horn of Africa region. But I again underline the importance of unfettered access for humanitarian assistance as well as the swift resumption of the rule of law, human rights and a secure environment in which not only human rights are respected, but in which reconciliation becomes possible and public services are delivered. Beyond the immediate protection of civilians, the UN, together with our partners stands ready to support Ethiopian-led initiatives to encourage inclusive dialogue, reconciliation, and post conflict reconstruction.   
And once again, I'm pleased to be in Germany, and I'm very grateful for the warm welcome that I have started with and will go on tomorrow.  
Question: You praised Germany’s role in the Security Council but there has been criticism of its failures for example in Syria where the Council could not agree on what to do with border crossings and humanitarian aid. Can you comment on that? 
Our position has always been very clear in relation to emergency assistance in Syria. We believe that the dramatic situation of the Syrian people requires both cross line and cross border operations. And of course, we regret the fact that the Security Council was not able to maintain the different cross-border possibilities that exist in the past, even if at least, it was possible to rescue one of the crossings, which, of course, we will be using at the maximum capacity possible. But our position has been that we will need more opportunities both for cross border and for cross line support to the Syrian people. 
It’s important to say that not everything is going wrong in Syria. The ceasefire agreement has been holding, in agreement between Turkey and Russia, it is proving to work in this regard.  Let's hope that the ceasefire is maintained. But we have appealed for a global ceasefire in the entirety of the Syrian territory, which is not yet reached.  
At the same time, we are pushing for a serious negotiation between the Government and the opposition in the context of the conference. And there I have to say, there has been the positive role of Russia in putting pressure on the Syrian government, to be more flexible in its positions in relation to the agenda of the conference and to the substantive points that are necessary to make progress in order to find a political solution for the Syrian people.  
There is no military solution in Syria. Now, that is absolutely clear. The solution is political and we must move forward with the Geneva talks and enlarge them to different areas that were foreseen in Security Council resolutions. 
There have been disappearances in Iraq. Are there any results? Are the United Nations making an effort to find out about the disappeared people? 
The Mission of the United Nations in Iraq is extremely engaged, doing everything we can in order to make sure that the authorities move effectively in the finding of the people and at the same time creating the conditions for accountability to exist in these dramatic situations. 
Yes, thank you very much. Mr. Guterres. You've touched on my question briefly, but I would still like to phrase it the way it was originally intended. There's been a resurgence of the debate here in Germany in recent months as to whether the country of Europe could do more, or should do more not only for their own defense and security for regional and global stability, but those demanding more spending on defense and military hardware? Then there are those who say that diplomatic efforts and humanitarian aid by Europe, Germany are not being taken into account sufficiently. In light of vastly higher demand for humanitarian aid, the COVID-19 pandemic, how has this debate shifted? Or how should it shift? 
Well, one of the things that I do not intend to intervene on is on the internal debate of NATO on what should be financed or not. I will give you what is the global perspective. We are witnessing at the present moment in the world, an arms race and an increase in military expenditure. And at the same time, we are seeing the dramatic impacts of COVID-19. We're seeing the dramatic impacts of climate change, we are seeing dramatic impacts of conflicts, we are seeing humanitarian action being more needed that ever and dramatic gaps in financing of humanitarian operations in several areas. From Yemen, where we are risk of a famine of catastrophic proportions, to several African locations, to the Palestinian situation. And so obviously, if I may make a general comment, I think it's time to spend less money on arms, and more money in addressing the needs that the world faces today. How that translates itself into the [inaudible] of different countries or different groups, it's up to them to decide. 
Good afternoon, Secretary General. Thank you for taking these questions. Documents from the World Health Organization seen by my AP colleagues show that the COVAX program is very short on funds, and making it unlikely that the poorest people in the world will get the vaccine that the rich are already receiving now. Are you in discussions perhaps in parallel with WHO about what governments can do now to make the COVAX a success? And with whom specifically are you discussing? Thank you very much.  
We had yesterday a very important meeting in the UN system in relation exactly to the COVAX. And there are two things clearly needed if we want to be effective, in support to the developing world. And if we are not effective in supporting the developing world, we might fail in the developed countries. Let's not forget that if you don't eradicate the disease, the virus can mutate, and vaccines that at a certain moment are effective can no longer be effective if things change.  
So we need to be able to make the vaccine available to everybody everywhere and affordable to everybody everywhere. Now, to reach that there are two things that that are essential. First, to fully fund the COVAX. We have a gap, at the present moment, the activities are moving on, but we have a gap of $5 billion until the end of January, and a global gap of more than $20 billion that needs to be addressed in the context of the programme. And at the same time, I see countries that have bought more vaccines than several times the volume of their population. Countries made bids in that regard. It's very important that countries that might have at a certain moment a larger number of vaccines than the ones they need, put those vaccines at the disposal of the COVAX in order for them to move the support to the developing world. It is not with vaccinationalism that we are going to defeat COVID-19. It is with international cooperation. Governments have the obligation to protect their peoples, but they cannot protect their peoples if other peoples are not protected. And nature always strikes back, as we unfortunately have been witnessing in relation to COVID-19, in relation to climate change.