Vienna, Austria

10 July 2012

Secretary-General's message to the UN-League of Arab States General Meeting on Cooperation - delivered by Levent Bilman, Director, Policy and Mediation Division, Department of Political Affairs]

It is a pleasure to convey warm greetings to all the participants in this meeting.  I attach great importance to cooperation between the United Nations and the League of Arab States, and I welcome this first meeting since 2008.

The Arab region has experienced momentous transformations since we last gathered.  The flame of democracy lit in Tunisia more than a year ago continues to inspire all Arab peoples to fight for dignity, freedom and human rights. We see young people and women in the vanguard of this struggle, and the first free and transparent elections in Egypt and Libya.  However, we also see people in Syria continuing to suffer from unacceptable violence.

The Arab Spring has provided new avenues for collaboration and a new sense of purpose. The United Nations has long cooperated with the League, but today those ties are much, much closer and are bringing more tangible results. We saw it in Libya; it was at the request of the League that the Security Council took the crucial decisions to protect civilians in Libya. And we see it now in Syria, with the designation of my predecessor Mr. Kofi Annan as our Joint Special Envoy and Messrs. Nasser al-Kidwa and Jean Marie Guehenno as Deputies Joint Special Envoy.

I am deeply concerned that the situation in Syria has significantly deteriorated, that the six-point plan proposed by the Joint Special Envoy has not been implemented, and that the UN Supervision Mission in Syria was compelled to halt its operational activities due to the intensification of violence and high level of security threat to its personnel. Unity among the international community will be critical for the success of our efforts to end the bloodshed, alleviate the suffering of the population and find a peaceful solution through a political transition. I greatly value the continued support of the League of Arab States, and I hope that we will be able to make the launching of a political process a reality. The agreement of the Action Group in Geneva on principles for a Syrian-led transition was a significant step forward, which now needs to be implemented.

The impasse in the Middle East peace process remains another major concern for our two organizations. Together, we must create the conditions for meaningful negotiations.  The Palestinian Authority needs the continuing support of the international community for its commendable state-building efforts, including financial help to ensure the payment of salaries  and delivery of services to the population.  We must also ensure that UNRWA receives the funds it needs to provide its vital assistance.  I urge LAS members do to their part on both counts.

I will also look to the Arab League to promote the peaceful resolution of differences between Sudan and South Sudan, to support Somalia, and to work for peace in Iraq, where the security and political situation in Iraq remains fragile.

Beyond these immediate challenges, the full United Nations system remains committed to engage with Arab States across a broad agenda of mutual concern.  Since 2009 the Peacebuilding Fund has provided more than $29 million to Somalia, Libya and Yemen. The OCHA-LAS Plan of Action aims to enable adequate joint responses to humanitarian crises.  The Economic and Social Commission for West Asia will continue its cooperation on three strategic priorities -- equitable growth and sustainability; regional integration and good governance and resilience.

I launched my "Sustainable Energy for All Initiative" in Abu Dhabi earlier this year.  Several UN agencies are working with your members on an aid for trade initiative.  We are keen to do more with you to ensure food security, protect the environment and fight the illicit trafficking of drugs and arms.  Our joint work to promote human rights, freedom of expression and the rule of law is especially important during this period of transition.

Indeed, as dramatic changes in the region continue, the United Nations and the League of Arab States must work even more closely to meet the legitimate aspirations of the region’s peoples, especially those of youth. We are close, longstanding partners, and I offer you my very best wishes for a productive meeting.