Strasbourg, France

08 October 2012

Secretary-General's keynote address to the World Forum for Democracy

Je suis très honoré de me trouver dans cette noble institution qu’est le Conseil de l’Europe. Je remercie le Secrétaire général, Thorbjørn Jagland, de me donner l’occasion de m’adresser à vous.

Je félicite M. Jagland pour son leadership visionnaire dans l'organisation du premier Forum mondial de la démocratie.

C’est pour moi un privilège d’être ici aux côtés de Mme Tawakkol Karman. Lauréate du Prix Nobel et chantre de la démocratie, elle écrit des pages de l’histoire en défendant des principes immuables.

Depuis près de deux ans, on réclame la démocratie en Afrique du Nord, au Moyen-Orient et au-delà. La soif de dignité est universelle et impérieuse.

Europe is an inspiring example of what is possible.

This Council has 47 vastly different countries united in purpose … and committed to resolving their differences through dialogue.

When this body was established in 1949, one could barely imagine that Europe –
torn apart by war – would be a beacon of stability, peace and prosperity in the world.

Your founders embraced this bold ideal.  They developed a vision from the horrors of war. They shared an unshakeable belief in human reason and dignity. They knew that this vision transcends national borders.

They were convinced that people can change the world for the better.

This World Forum for Democracy upholds these values. It asks direct questions about what affects people today. And it draws on the vision of its participants.

I welcome the Forum’s focus on bridging the gap between old models and new realities. This is the critical challenge facing us.

United Nations Member States have clearly defined democracy as a universal value.

In the Millennium Development Declaration adopted on our sixtieth anniversary, world leaders resolved to “spare no effort to promote democracy and the rule of law.”

Just last month at the United Nations General Assembly, we carried this idea forward at the first-ever high-level meeting on the rule of law. It put this issue at the top of the global agenda.

Now the challenge is to listen to people. Where governments fail to live up
to their obligations under international law, we have to remind them to do so.

We have to listen to new and emerging democracies – but we also have to pay attention to established democracies where citizens may feel disenfranchised. One of the great strengths of democracy is that it has the ability to adapt to new realities.
But governance can only evolve through inclusive dialogue and broad engagement.      

The United Nations is taking practical actions to promote democracy around the world.

Our Democracy Fund, the UN Development Programme, UN Women, the UN Peacebuilding Fund and the UN Secretariat are working with other partners within and beyond the United Nations to foster democracy around the world.

More fundamentally, our work to promote human rights and empower people serves
the broader goal of strengthening the ability of citizens to participate in the decisions affecting their lives.

I am encouraged by what a local leader of a UN Democracy Fund project said:
namely that our support is much more than a source of funding – it is “a source of pride, of legitimacy, of convening power, of inspiration to others to take our work further.”

Je ne suis ni de la même génération, ni du même continent que Tawakkol Karman. Mais comme elle, je suis convaincu que tous les êtres humains doivent avoir les mêmes droits fondamentaux et la même liberté de choisir leur destinée.

Quand j’étais étudiant en Corée, je suis descendu dans la rue, avec d’autres, pour protester contre la dictature.

En tant que Secrétaire général, je suis du côté de tous ceux qui, partout dans le monde, revendiquent pacifiquement leur droit à la démocratie.

Je m’intéresse de près à la promotion de la démocratie en raison de mon vécu personnel. C’est en Corée en 1948 que des élections ont été pour la première fois surveillées par l’ONU. Quand mon pays est né, c’est l’ONU qui a joué le rôle de sage-femme.

L’aide des Nations Unies a également permis aux Coréens d’échapper à la pauvreté. Ca aussi, c’est un élément de la démocratie: la même chance pour tous de se construire un avenir meilleur.

I have consistently urged leaders to stop flouting human rights and start meeting the legitimate demands of their people.

This is my message to leaders around the world, from President Assad of Syria to others who must listen to their citizens before it is too late.

The situation in Syria has dramatically worsened.  It is posing serious risks to the stability of Syria’s neighbours and the entire region.
The escalation of the conflict along the Syrian-Turkish border and the impact of the crisis on Lebanon are extremely dangerous.

They show that this is a regional calamity with global ramifications.

I am deeply concerned by the continued flow of arms to both the Syrian Government and opposition forces.

I urge again those countries providing arms to stop doing so.

Militarisation only aggravates the situation and puts civilian people in more misery.

I am calling on all concerned to abandon the use of violence, and move toward a political solution. That is the only way out of this crisis. 

Syria shows how the current transitions that have inspired so much hope and change have also brought uncertainty and fear. Success is not guaranteed.
It takes time to build democracy. But we must join forces to nurture progress
until democracy takes a firm root in all countries around the world.

I remain convinced that we must seek a political solution to this conflict in Syria.
I call on those who have influence over any side in Syria to exert it to promote a political solution, and empower political leaders, not armed groups or the regime’s military.

Our goal is to create the appropriate conditions for a credible political transition that meets the legitimate aspirations of the Syrian people, and ensure their equal rights and human dignity.

This is the primary motive for the mission of the Joint Special Representative, Mr. Lakdhar Brahimi who is heading back to the region this week.

The United Nations has scaled up its humanitarian assistance very significantly.
But as winter approaches, we need donors to contribute more generously to address the growing needs of those inside Syria and over 300,000 refugees in neighbouring countries.

I have focused the work of the United Nations in the coming years on helping countries make the transition smoothly from insecurity to stability … and from authoritarianism to democracy.

These twin goals guarantee progress. This is a key plank in my five-year action agenda.

Democracy is not just a matter of giving people a voice … it advances development.

The democratic ideal demands that mothers in South Sudan have the same chances of survival as mothers in Sweden, where virtually all maternal deaths are prevented. The sad reality is one South Sudanese woman in seven will never live to see her baby.

That is why it is so critical to achieve the Millennium Development Goals.

There has been progress since the Goals were adopted a dozen years ago. But for the mothers of South Sudan and countless others around the world, we have to press for urgent action.

We are racing to achieve the MDGs by 2015.

And we are laying the groundwork for the period after that.

I have put together a top-level panel to lead our effort. It is co-chaired by British Prime Minister Cameron, Liberian President Johnson-Sirleaf and Indonesian President Yudhoyono.

I am very proud that Ms. Karman is serving on that panel. I thank Ms Karman for her participation.

Thank you very much.

Their approach will be participatory. They are seeking the views of development experts and ordinary citizens around the world.

Together, we want to forge our targets for the future.

I call on you to help us move forward as a global family – and reach our shared goals.

Le Conseil de l’Europe synthétise la transformation d’un continent. L’ambition qui a inspiré vos pères fondateurs est aujourd’hui un moteur de progrès partout dans le monde.

Je vous demande d’aider ceux qui n’arrivent pas encore à concrétiser cette ambition.  C’est le meilleur moyen de rendre hommage à vos pères fondateurs, ainsi que d’édifier un monde meilleur pour tous.

Robert Schuman a dit du Conseil qu’il était le laboratoire dans lequel se faisaient
les expériences sur la coopération européenne.

J’irai plus loin, en disant que le Conseil de l’Europe est le laboratoire dans lequel se font les expériences sur la coopération mondiale, à partir de nos valeurs et de nos principes communs.

Je compte sur vous, le Conseil de l’Europe, pour vous faire le champion de la démocratie.

Je vous demande de faire connaître vos ambitions et d’aider ceux qui rencontrent des difficultés, afin que la démocratie devienne une réalité dans tous les pays du monde.