What a wonderful welcome. I should have come more often. One should not believe everything one hears. Who said the Secretary-General has no friends in Washington? Look at you today.
Mr. President [John DeGioia], Members of the Faculty, Excellencies and dear friends, especially the young ones.
It is wonderful to be here today. Let me start by saying how deeply moved and gratified I am to be giving the Oliver Tambo Lecture. Oliver Tambo embodied the aspirations of all peoples for freedom, equality and social justice. And I also feel particularly honoured to receive an honorary degree from this great university.
Of course, I know it is not just me you honour tonight –you are also paying tribute to the United Nations for its global work for peace, development and human rights.
Nowhere is this work more appreciated, than in Africa.
In 1997, when I became the second Secretary-General from Africa, I felt my continent was the place least equipped to tackle the three overarching challenges of our age –the need for more security, the demand for better development, and the rising cry for human rights and the rule of law.
Africa stood sidelined in the world economy.
Africa was also the scene of some of the most protracted and brutal conflicts.
And, many of the continent's people felt they were unjustly condemned to be exploited and oppressed, generation after generation, since colonial rule had been replaced by an inequitable economic world order, and sometimes by corrupt rulers and warlords at the local level.
In the decade since then, Africans have undertaken a remarkable struggle to confront these three global challenges. With unprecedented vigor and resolve, they are working to build a new, more hopeful Africa.
As they do that, my fellow Africans justifiably look to their allies in the international community for strong and sustained support.
Friends, development remains the foremost African need, both as an end in itself and as a foundation of security. And there is encouraging progress to report. Most African economies are now better run: inflation, averaging 8% a year, is at historic lows in many countries. Last year, Africa's economy grew by almost 5%, and is expected to do even better this year and next.
There have been welcome advances on debt relief, as well as encouraging initiatives on aid and investment. The world has also recognized HIV/AIDS as a major challenge and a break on development, and begun to confront it. I am proud of the role the United Nations has played in the establishment of the global fund to fight HIV/AIDS, Malaria and Tuberculosis. Development and the Millennium Development Goals now occupy centre stage in all the work of the United Nations.
Yet, the magnitude of African needs leaves little room for complacency.
The truth is that, for Africa, the “global partnership for development” remains more a phrase than a fact. About 50% of all Africans have never made or received a phone call. A minuscule proportion have ever logged on to the internet. The global green revolution has bypassed African farmers, whose ranks have also been decimated by the HIV/AIDS epidemic. Ours is the only continent that cannot feed itself today, much less ensure food security for its people. And, bucking the worldwide trend, sub-Saharan Africa has sunk deeper into poverty. Overall, the continent lags behind in the race to achieve the Millennium Goals by 2015.
Nowhere is it more important, therefore, to ensure that the benefits of globalization are shared at every level of society.
Africa needs more and better aid, it needs fairer trade, and it needs a green revolution to improve agricultural production and feed its people.
Security constitutes the second African challenge. About half the world's armed conflicts, and some three-quarters of the UN's peacekeepers, are in Africa.
But compared to a decade ago, there are fewer inter-State conflicts than there used to be and many civil wars have ended.
In Burundi, the peaceful and democratic conclusion of the transitional process was a milestone for that country and, hopefully, for the Great Lakes region. Wars have stopped in Angola, Ethiopia-Eritrea, Liberia, Mozambique, Sierra Leone and southern Sudan. Guinea-Bissau, Togo and Madagascar have all been through peaceful restoration of constitutional order. And the Democratic Republic of the Congo only yesterday held the second round of its democratic elections for the first time in forty years.
I am proud that the United Nations assisted in all these events. And, I am proud of what my fellow Africans have achieved in ending many of the conflicts that disfigured our continent.
But, here too, we should be under no illusion.
In far too many reaches of the continent, people are still exposed to brutal conflicts, fought with small but deadly weapons.
Every day, in Darfur, more men, women and children are being driven from their homes by murder, rape and the burning of their villages. Beyond Sudan, less visible but no less deadly conflicts?in Cote d'Ivoire, Somalia and northern Uganda?cry for African resolve and international attention.
Peace may be spreading on the continent, but a continent at peace –which is what we are all after –a continent at peace remains an idea in search of realization. Most Africans realize today that they need to work together to pacify the continent, and I often say that no-one invests in a bad neighbourhood. And when a continent is seen by many as a continent at war, we do scare them away, and Africans have realized that and are doing whatever they can to settle these conflicts, so that they can focus on the essential task of economic and social development.
Ultimately, a peaceful Africa requires more than the mere absence of war. It is sustainable only if accompanied by democratic transformation and good governance, the third leg of African progress.
In recent years, the continent has experienced a democratic renaissance. Most African States?more than ever ?now have democratically elected Governments. And these Governments, through the New Partnership for Africa's Development, have explicitly agreed to uphold human rights and democracy, to fight corruption and promote good governance.
Today, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, the President of Liberia, is the first woman ever to be elected President of an African State. And that speaks more eloquently than words ever could about advances in the rights of women. So does the fact that, in sub-Saharan African countries, the share of women in single or lower houses of parliament is higher than in the developing countries of southern or western Asia.
Throughout Africa, ordinary citizens are engaged as never before. From education and HIV/AIDS to good governance and human rights, a vibrant and growing civil society movement has helped energize the African agenda. Africans are standing up for their rights and demanding them - and they know these rights - and Governments are beginning to listen. Indeed, by demanding honest and accountable leadership, civil society actors are proving a critical check on Africa's sad history of misrule.
Africa's governance is important and the governance gains I'm referring to are real, but they remain tenuous in the face of grave challenges. Despite elections and better leaders, bad apples remain. And even some elected Governments continue to suppress opposition parties and tolerate large scale corruption, or practice it. Too often, the exploitation of natural resources continues to benefit only a few.
But while African democracy may not be perfect, it is promising. The more accountable Governments are, the more likely they are to be responsive to the needs of their people –whether the need is to prevent famine, fight poverty, or halt the spread of HIV/AIDS.
Africa needs more Mandelas and more Oliver Tambos. But an emerging generation of accountable and elected African leaders is important and these leaders increasingly mean what they say, and they do what they say. They recognize that human rights are African rights too, and that without good governance, no amount of aid, no degree of diplomacy, and no number of peacekeeping operations can, on their own, lift Africa out of poverty, halt the spread of disease, or end deadly conflict.
Now that the tide is turning, and Africans are holding their leaders to account, we have a real opportunity to help Africans help themselves.
In an earlier decade, Oliver Tambo spoke of the “responsibility to break down barriers of division” and create a just and prosperous South Africa “where there will be neither whites nor blacks, just South Africans, free and united in diversity”. Were he alive today, I know he would speak equally forcefully for all of us to join hands to break the barriers that separate Africa from global prosperity.
As Africans strive to build peace, struggle to entrench democracy, and work to strengthen rule of law, we must work with them, and invest in them, to build the better future that can and must be theirs.
Thank you very much.
Q: Mr. Annan, how do you cope with being misunderstood in such a role?
SG: Well, in some ways it's more painful to be misunderstanding than to be misunderstood. But, let me say that it's not always easy?it's not always easy to be misunderstood for motives, to be questioned and impugned. And, you also understand that it's part of the world we live in and it's part of the work and, of course, I don't expect everyone to accept everything that I say or to agree with everything that I propose. But I must say that I try to speak for the voiceless and for the weak. And there are times when I say things about human rights, about human dignity, about rule of law and democracy which I know would empower others - particularly those in civil society in some difficult countries - they can quote me and not go to jail.- the Secretary-General said. But if they say it themselves, they will be in trouble. Of course, some of the people who also hear what the Secretary-General said are not always that happy. And, sometimes tend to misunderstand. But that's okay too. Many do understand.
Q: Thank you for coming this week. I had a question about the current conflict between Eritrea and Ethiopia. I wanted to know what exactly the justification was for the UN for not enforcing the treaty, and I wanted to know if you could perhaps comment on what future plans are as how to correct the stalemate, as presently it's not working well.
SG: That conflict between Eritrea and Ethiopia is a classic example of the tragedy of our continent. Two poor countries desperately in need of development, desperately in need of food security to be able to protect their people [who] went to war. Went to war over a territory, over a misunderstanding of a region called Badme, which is a barren place. They spent hundreds of millions of dollars to buy equipment, to arm their military and they fought. We had negotiated a peace agreement in Algiers and deployed UN peacekeepers, after we had established a neutral zone. And the UN peacekeepers were deployed. We set up a demarcation commission which was to work with the two parties, come up with a binding decision and then move on with the demarcation. Both parties had indicated they will accept it, but at the end of the demarcation we could not make progress. And, I think it was rather complex in the sense that 85 percent of the territory?of the border?was not in question. But about 15 percent was contested. In fact, one of the parties?Ethiopia?said why don't you go ahead and do the demarcation and then wait for the 15 percent. But the 15 percent was 100 percent of the problem. And, we needed to deal with that 15 percent to be able to contain it. We have not been able to get both parties to cooperate with us on the demarcation. And, the UN peacekeepers, who were there to help enforce the agreement - both of them had signed - couldn't impose it on them.
Today there is a stand-off, and we are doing whatever we can to bring the two parties together and find a way of doing the demarcation. It has not been easy and we are persistent. Ethiopia/Eritrea has been very difficult. It often refuses to receive envoys?from me, from the US Government and others. So, you can't make progress, if you can't even get a talk. We have tried to bring the parties together. It has not worked. Eritrean position is - let the international community and Ethiopia do the demarcation and then we will talk. Ethiopia says let's talk and then we'll do the demarcation. So we are in this situation. And, what I'm worried about, is that we need to handle it very carefully before it leads to another explosion. and the scarce resources which are needed for more essential things are again diverted to military action.
Q: Mr. Secretary-General, I would like to know how you are playing your role as Secretary-General of the UN in applying Security Council Resolution 194 that allows the Palestinian refugees to go back to their homes. And, my second question is, what was your feeling during last July when you were also standing in the Security Council and saying 'stop war' and no-one was hearing you?
SG: I think on the Palestinian issue?it's one of the most difficult one[s] and complicated one[s]. The UN resolutions are very clear and the basis of that is land for peace. And, these resolutions are not self-enforcing. You need to get the cooperation of the parties to implement them. And, as you know, there have been many peace processes which have not led to the creation of a Palestinian state. And, I hope that the dream is not lost forever. This is one of the reasons why we are telling the parties not to create facts on the ground that will change the reality to such an extent that even when you have a Palestinian state, it may not have a territory that is continuous and that is viable, and so the discussions are going on. In fact, after the Lebanese crisis, when I went to the region, I visited 13 countries in 15 days. Almost every leader I met said Lebanon must be a wake up call. And, we should not only try to settle and pacify Lebanon, but we should build on that and deal with the comprehensive issue of peace in the region, settle the Palestinian issue and the Syrian Golan Heights issue. So, there's a renewed interest in the peace processes in the Middle East. And, again, even beyond the region, everyone is pressing for this. But, let me say that the resolutions have to be implemented in cooperation with the parties involved.
On the Lebanese issue, obviously I would have preferred if we had received cessation of hostilities earlier. And I kept calling for cessation of hostilities. I began that at the G8 meetings in St. Petersburg. And, as the fighting went on, I thought it was a rather cynical four weeks or so, because it became obvious to me that the war was unwinnable by either side, yet the destruction and the pain for the civilians continued. But what is important is that in the end we did get the Council action?the Council took a decision?cessation of hostilities was called for, I negotiated with the two prime ministers and the ceasefire has held since it went into force. And, we are now working hard to consolidate the ceasefire and build a permanent cease fire and eventually move on to a more stable relationship between the two countries.
Q: Mr. Secretary-General, let me just say it is a pleasure to call you a fellow Hoya. My question is this?some people have been looking ahead and saying that the African zone could possibly be susceptible to unifying under a single currency, and eventually even turning into some sort of EU-like entity, with low trade barriers or no trade barriers, and some sort of unified financial planning through the central bank. Do you see the UN as having a role in bringing this about, and, if so, what particular type of role do you see?
SG: That is a real challenge. As you know, we have the African Union with 53 members and sometimes we talk of an African common market. In fact, President [Al-]Qadhafi of Libya talks of an African army and an African parliament. But, let's look at it objectively. Look at the European Union. It started with six members and built up slowly. And, the economic and social conditions at the time were much easier than the situation in Africa today. We are starting with 53 - from a much lower base economically and socially and institutions - as well as institutions - trying to develop an African Union that we hope in time will be like the European Union. The European Union of 25 recently decided they would admit two new members. And, many of them said, after that we need to pause, we are becoming too large.
When you look at the African situation, I think we can cooperate. And I must say, the African Union has done some very useful and good things. For example, in Darfur, they put in a force when nobody would go in - and, that is extremely important. They have been able to get involved in conflict resolution in Africa. I mentioned Côte d'Ivoire. You have the west African regional organization, ECOWAS, and the African Union fairly engaged in seeking a solution and working with the Security Council. So, there are quite a lot of constructive and positive things that they can do. But, to expect the day when it becomes a sort of African Union and something similar to the European Union, is going to take a long time, a long, long time. I don't think I will see it in my lifetime. I don't know if my brother Africans here think it can happen, but I think it's not –it's good to have a dream, it's good to aspire to something. I think that also forces them to work a bit more together, but I do not see an African equivalent of the European Union in the decades to come.
Q: Mr. Secretary-General, thanks for coming today and thanks to Georgetown for having you. You do have a lot of friends in Washington, DC. I worked for the members of the Congressional Black Caucus, who I think are all very close friends of yours. So, you know you at least have 43. And, I think a whole lot more by the audience today. You mentioned in your talk Darfur, Cote D'Ivoire, Somalia, Uganda. It seems to me that these conflicts and the death and destruction you talk about, sometimes come on the scene or are given the press that they need, but then they fade, much like Haiti. And, what I'm wondering is, how is it that you can, or the United Nations can, continue to keep these things on the radar screen. And US/UN relations - how they can affect change in Africa as well?
SG: You raised a very interesting question. We have conflicts that we call the 'forgotten conflicts.' Forgotten conflicts in the sense that no one seems interested in them, however hard we try. We've had experience with some conflicts which, for some reason, catches the public imagination and the public responds very urgently. Others, nobody seems to care. It's not just conflict situations - sometimes even humanitarian situations, natural disasters. I mean, take the tsunami. We got all the money we needed in a record time and in fact it was oversubscribed. In some other situations, we are lucky to get 14 percent of all the resources we need to mount an operation. The press sometimes will be there when there's action and fighting or war and blood. When that recedes, they either go home or they are called home. And, sometimes it's a good thing when they go home - you realize perhaps there's not that much killing going on. But, let me say that we have tried to find ways of alerting the public to these forgotten crises and we issue a list of 10 regularly to remind people that they are there, shared with the press. But, somehow, it doesn't get a pick-up. But, I think we perhaps need to, not only work with the press, we need to perhaps get key countries, key donor countries and the African Union engaged in this aspect aswell, so that we constantly bring to the surface those hidden crises that I'm referring to. And in some cases they are not so hidden, but there's no interest.
On the question of UN/US relations, I think it is extremely important that the US and the UN have good relations. The UN needs the US and the US needs the UN. The US, because of its size and importance in the world, has a natural leadership position within the Organization and can work with other like-minded governments to get a lot done. And, when we all work together, we see the results. Where we are divided, we also know what happens. I think on the whole, we have over the years -let's say for the 10 years I've been Secretary-General - on the whole, I've worked well with the administrations. I worked extremely well with the Clinton Administration. I'm working well and I had very good working relations with Secretary of State Powell and I'm working well with Secretary Rice and the President himself. I know that not everyone is enamored of the United Nations. We have some friends and some not so friendly, in this city and in other cities. And that is the way life is. But, I hope?sometimes I wish our friends could stand-up and perhaps be a little more vocal and not leave too much space to the others.
Thank you very much.