INDEPENDENT NEWS AND COMMENT ON WORLD AFFAIRS
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Instead of a New Year Message for 2018, Secretary-General Antonio Guterres issued a Red Alert and followed up with a wide-ranging Press Conference on 16 January. The video above is the message; the Press conference video was not available as of 18 January.
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Secretary-General Antonio Guterres addressed a Press conference at UN headquarters on 16 January. The following is a lightly edited text of his introductory remarks and Q&A. [Probably because of some of the controversial statements he made (check out his views on the war on drugs), the video of the event is not available on UN WebTV as of 18 January.]
At the beginning of 2018, we must recognize the many ways in which the international community is [failing] and falling short. It is my duty as Secretary-General to tell the Member States where this is happening -- and to suggest ways out of our predicament. I am sounding an alarm about protracted conflicts and the spread of terrorism. We face a Gordian knot in the Middle East and potential nuclear catastrophe on the Korean Peninsula. Climate change is moving faster than we are. Inequality and nationalism are on the rise, while trust and solidarity are on the decline.
In the face of today’s challenges, the world needs bold leadership. We need less hatred, more dialogue and deeper international cooperation. With unity in 2018, we can make this a pivotal year that sets the world on a better course.
Later this month, I will join African leaders for the African Union Summit in Addis Ababa. One of my main goals as Secretary-General has been to strengthen ties with the AU, a key strategic partner across our agenda. Our relationship with the African Union is one of shared interests and mutual respect. This year, I will continue to advocate for strong international support for Africa’s Agenda 2063 and for Africa’s peace and security efforts, including through clear mandates and adequate, predictable financing.
Africans are changing the narrative on their continent, and this represents a gain for the entire world. Last year, we signed a new platform of cooperation for peace and security and I will be very happy to sign, during the summit in Addis Ababa, our new joint platform for cooperation in relation to development, including the alignment of the Agenda 2030 with the Agenda 2063 of the African Union.
In February, I will visit the Republic of Korea for the opening ceremony of the Winter Olympic Games in Pyonyang. I hope the Olympic spirit of friendship among nations will spread across the region and beyond.
Let me share some news about our efforts to ensure gender equality at the United Nations. With yesterday’s announcement of a new Special Adviser on Africa, we have achieved a milestone. For the first time in history, we have full parity in the top leadership of the United Nations, the 44-member Senior Management Group. We will continue to do more to empower women and uphold our core commitment to equality and gender parity.
At a time of troubling crackdowns on the independence of the media, I want to express that I will continue to defend freedom and safety of the press both in public and through diplomatic engagement. Thank you again for the work you do to illuminate ours
Questions and Answers
Question: Sherwin Bryce-Pease, South African Broadcasting. In your remarks to the General Assembly earlier, you said that the world had gone in reverse, that racism, nationalism and xenophobia were on the rise. You'll also be aware of the recent derogatory comments attributed to the United States' President as it relates to immigration from Africa and Haiti [and] the statement from the Africa Group of ambassadors here at the United Nations and the African Union condemning what it called "outrageous racist and xenophobic remarks." Do you support their call for a retraction and an apology from the United States President?
Secretary-General: Well, as far as I understand, the United States President has denied that he has said that. Our position is very clear. We need to have relations of mutual respect with all peoples in the world, and in particular, migration is a positive aspect. And migrants contribute not only to the welfare of their countries of origin but to the welfare of the countries where they are a part of the development process. The respect for migrants and the respect for diversity, ethnic diversity, religious diversity, is a fundamental pillar of the United Nations, and it will be a fundamental pillar of the action of the Secretary-General.
Question: James Bays from Al Jazeera. You and your predecessor have repeatedly said there's no military solution in Syria. And yet right now we have Turkey readying itself for possible military action. We have the US planning a new Kurdish border security force, and we have the Syrian Government, backed by the Russians, actively pursuing a military solution with the bombardment in Idleb and eastern Ghouta and the same Syrian Government, when it goes to Geneva, not engaging fully with the political process. With that backdrop, how do you reinvigorate the peace efforts? And is Sochi part of that?
Secretary-General: I think that that backdrop only shows how important it is to reinvigorate the Geneva process, and to reinvigorate the Geneva process, we are making all efforts in order to make sure that both Government and opposition give positive contributions to make the process move forward.
We were in Riyadh, and I believe Riyadh II was a very important moment to bring the different strands of the opposition together and to have the opposition participating constructively.
We have been… as you know, the positions we have assumed in elation with the last Geneva meeting where, in our opinion, the Government was not delivering on what was necessary. So, a new meeting [will be] convened [in] Geneva or probably to another location close to Geneva. And we hope that this time it will be possible to have constructive dialogue between Government and opposition.
Our position in relation to Sochi is still dependant on how things will develop in between. We believe that what you said only proves that, after all these years, if so many are still betting on military operations, it is clear that there is no military solution.
Question: Ali Barada from Asharq al-Awsat and from France 24. Do you see that there is a significant role that should be played by Bashar al-Assad in the solution planned for Syria? And are you happy about the work that has been done by your Special Envoy, Staffan de Mistura, and why?
Secretary-General: I am happy with the work Staffan de Mistura has done. I think it's really almost a miracle that he was able to stay the course and make this process move forward with all the difficulties and all the problems and all the obstacles that we have witnessed, and we have asked both Government and opposition to put no preconditions for the discussion. And so I'm not going to put myself a precondition in relation to the presidency of Syria.
It is essential for the two parties to come and discuss without preconditions. And, of course, obviously, the questions of governance, the questions of elections, and the questions of constitution are very important. And each one is entitled to have each one's position, but what, for us, is more important at the present moment is to make sure that the meaningful dialogue starts between Government and opposition without preconditions.
Every aspect of Security Council resolution 2254 is on the table: constitution, elections and transition. We have tried to organise the debate in a way to allow it to move forward, but none of these aspects is out of the table.
Question: Carole Landry from Agence France Presse. About North Korea. Do you think that war is avoidable in 2018 with North Korea? And you mentioned small signs of hope, and some people are dismissive that sending musicians and figure skaters to the south is going to make a real difference. And while you're at the Winter Olympics, will there be an opportunity for diplomacy?
Secretary-General: Well, I believe war is avoidable. What I'm worried is that I'm not yet sure that peace is guaranteed, and that is why we are so strongly engaged. As you know, I've sent my Under-Secretary[-General] of Political Affairs to Pyongyang. Today, I was very happy when the ambassador, the Permanent Representative of the Republic of Korea, said that his visit has contributed to the restart of the dialogue between the two Koreas. I think there some signals of hope.
What I believe is extremely important is to take profit of these signals of hope to make sure that a serious process leading to the peaceful denuclearisation of the Korean Peninsula takes place. I think there is a window of opportunity. That window of opportunity will, in my opinion, hopefully, make the war avoidable. But it is important that we don't miss the opportunities that those windows can provide.
N. Korea , UN Budget
Question: Edith Lederer from the Associated Press. Thank you very much. Mr. Secretary-General, first, a quick follow-up on North Korea. Is the UN playing or offering to play any role in bringing the opposing parties together?
And my question is about US budget cuts. The Trump Administration's been in the White House for a year, as you have been here at the UN. They arrived talking about budget cuts, and they are most recently talking about dramatic cuts to UNRWA (United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees), the agency for Palestinian refugees. How concerned are you that the US, as the biggest contributor to the UN, will make further devastating cuts to… not only to UN agencies and funds but to the UN budget? And how has this threat of funding cuts affected your first year and your dealings with the Trump Administration?
Secretary-General: First of all, in relation to the Korean Peninsula, since the beginning, I have said that we were available for all possible initiatives that the parties would want. And our objective is to make sure that those that are more relevant in this process are able to seriously talk to each other and to seriously find a way for the denuclearisation of the Korean Peninsula. And one of the messages that was very clearly conveyed by [Jeffrey] Feltman in Pyongyang was our belief that direct talks between those that are the key interlocutors in this process are absolutely essential.
We know the limitations of what we can do, but we are totally committed to contribute to the key actors to be able to engage in the kind of talks that can allow for the problem to be solved in line with the resolutions of the Security Council.
Now, in relation to budget cuts… just a moment. In relation to budget cuts, first, there were no budget cuts in relation to the regular budget of the United Nations. We kept a very strong dialogue with both administration and with Congress, and I have to say that the ambassador, Permanent Representative of the United States, was extremely helpful in this process. And even if, as you know, the budget is not yet entirely approved, but what is agreed and the figures that are agreed in the Senate and House of Representatives allow for the regular budget to be funded, and there were no cuts in relation to the regular budget. There are arrears, indeed, but arrears are a traditional aspect of the relationship between the United States and the UN.
In relation to peacekeeping, there is a problem in the sense that the Senate has approved the funding of 25 per cent, which doesn't correspond exactly to the quota. And we are, of course, hoping that the United States with the other Member States will be able to find ways to overcome this. It's not a catastrophic situation. It is a… I would say, specific problem that I hope will be… will have a solution in the dialogue among Member States.
Different is the situation of UNRWA. In UNRWA, I am very concerned. And I strongly hope that, in the end, it will be possible for the United States to maintain the funding of UNRWA in which the US has a very important share. I am… first of all, UNRWA is not a Palestinian institution. UNRWA is a UN institution created by the General Assembly ... and is providing vital services to the Palestinian refugee population, both in the occupied territories and in Jordan, in Syria, and in Lebanon. Those services are of extreme importance, not only for the well-being of these populations, and there is a serious humanitarian concern here, but also, in my opinion and the opinion that is shared by most international observers, including some Israeli ones, it is an important factor of stability.
So, if UNRWA will not be in a position to provide the vital services and the emergency forms of support that UNRWA has been providing, this will create a very, very serious problem. And we'll do everything we can to avoid the situation to occur.
In relation to other agencies, it is necessary to say that US has even in some aspects increased its funding. It's a different pattern from case to case. I would say, obviously, that the question that now is for us, the major concern is UNRWA.
Question: Celia Mendoza from VOA Latin America. You just came back from Colombia, and during your visit, Secretary-General, you had spoken about sending more aid for Colombia and their help of migrants coming from Venezuela. Can you spend a little bit of what could be the plan and if you are thinking about doing something from the United Nations to help those migrants in the other countries they're coming to, but also in Venezuela? We know there has been a report about hunger and about the lack of medicines in Venezuela and what the United Nations could do to help those people that right now are facing the struggles of not having access to medical service or to not having access to food in Venezuela.
Secretary-General: As you know, the United Nations can only work in countries at the request or with the support of governments of the countries. The Colombia Government has asked UN agencies and specifically UNHCR (United Nations Refugee Agency) and IOM (International Organization for Migration) have been active in the frontier areas in different forms of support in assistance to Venezuelans that cross the border.
There are several UN agencies that are now cooperating also in relation to different aspects of health and others in Venezuela itself, and in all parts of the world, we are doing the same. So, it's nothing exceptional. It's the normal way for us to operate in situations where there are massive movements of population. And we'll go on at the disposal of all governments to support governments that receive an influx of large groups of people. In some situations in the world, it's refugees. In others, [there] are people moving for other reasons, but we are always ready to support countries in helping not only the people that come but the communities, especially when those communities are poor and, in the case of Colombia, in areas where there is still a security concern.
Question: Michelle Nichols from Reuters. I'd like to ask you about Myanmar. Today Myanmar and Bangladesh announced a deal to return all the Rohingya refugees within two years. What concerns might you have about this deal? Have you also spoken with Aung San Suu Kyi about the detention of the two Reuters reporters? And what is your message to her about their arrest? And also, when do you plan to announce who will be your Myanmar Special Adviser? Have you decided who that will be? And, if so, who is it?
Secretary-General: I did not speak personally to Aung San Suu Kyi on the arrests. We had a very clear position and very clear contacts in the sense that we wanted those journalists to be liberated.
In relation to the agreement, usually, this is dealt with in trilateral agreements between the two states concerned and UNHCR. UNHCR was not involved directly in the management of the agreement even if they were consulted. And we believe it would be very important to have UNHCR fully involved in the operation to guarantee that the operation abides by international standards.
What is it that is essential on this is to make sure that the return is voluntary; it's in safety and dignity and that people are allowed to come back to their places of origin, which means that the huge effort of investment, because there is a lot of reconstruction to be done, and a huge effort of reconciliation is needed to allow it to take place properly.
The worst would be to move these people from camps in Bangladesh to camps in Myanmar, keeping an artificial situation for a long time and not allowing for them to regain their normal lives. We'll be, of course, ready to do everything possible, to support a movement taking place, as I said, based on voluntariness, safety, dignity, and in respect to international standards.
Question: China Central Television. Climate change is one of your priorities for 2018. Chinese President Xi Jinping also said in his New Year speech that China will honour its promises encountering global climate change. In what way the United Nations and China can work together?
Secretary-General: Well, I think, first of all, we welcome the strong commitment of China in relation to climate action, and China is, of course, crucial because of the dimension of its economy. It's important for us to recognise that the commitments made in Paris, in general, are not necessarily being fully met and the commitments made in Paris are not enough to make sure that the increase of temperature will stay below 1.5 or even 2 degrees, which means we need an enhanced ambition.
We are not yet winning this race. Climate change is still winning this race, and that is why I've been asking for an enhanced ambition, and I think the China role in this enhanced ambition is crucial. And I count a lot on the dialogue and cooperation that was established with the Chinese Government in this regard.
Question: Ibtisam Azem from al-Araby al-Jadeed Newspaper. What would you say to millions of Palestinians that they have a problem since 70 years? Why would they put their faith in the international community since Israelis creating facts on the ground? What would you say to them? And why would they put any faith in the UN and international community?
Secretary-General: Well, what we say is very clear, that we understand the suffering and predicament and sometimes the frustration, but we are committed and we will remain committed to push for the two-state solution. We are committed and we remain committed to oppose any unilateral action that undermines the two-state solution, and you know the positions I have repeatedly taken in relation to the settlements. We don't have the power to solve all problems, but my belief is that, when we know what the solution is, we need to stay the course and fight for that solution.
I have one experience in my life, and that experience was in relation to East Timor. For many decades, many people thought that East Timor had no solution. In the end, there was a solution. So, we should never lose hope. I understand how difficult the situation is today. Our commitment and our resolve remains the same, and we'll do everything possible for the two-state solution not to be undermined and in the end, for it to become a reality.
Iran supply of Missiles to Houthis
Question: Talal Al-Haj, from Al-Arabiya. Regarding the 9 January report of the Panel of Experts on Yemen that the remnants of the missiles, UAVs etc. in Saudi Arabia, fired by the Houthis are of Iranian make. They find that that Iran is in noncompliance with paragraph 14, Resolution 2216 that requires measures to prevent supply sale and transfer of the missiles and UAVs to the Houthis.
We have discussed this point before, and you acknowledged the right of Saudi Arabia to protect itself. What can be done to convince the Iranian Government to stop supplying the Houthis with such advanced missiles?
Secretary-General: We have clearly established since the beginning that there is an arms embargo, that the arms embargo needs to be fully respected, that even more attacks with missiles to cities are totally unacceptable. And we will do everything possible through diplomatic engagement, which is what we can do to avoid these kind of things to go on happening.
I think UNVIM has been doing a remarkable job, but ... But Yemen has a big coast, and Yemen has several borders. And so I don't think it is fair to consider that it is because of UNVIM that the arms embargo has been violated. I am absolutely sure that UNVIM has been doing its work with a lot of professionalism, and it's not because of UNVIM's failures that, illegally, arms have entered the territory of Yemen.
East Jerusalem as Palestine Capital
Question: On the Palestinian issue, again, the Jordanian Foreign Minister said last week that Jordan and other key Arab states were considering lobbying the UN and presenting a draft resolution to declare East Jerusalem the capital of Palestine and declare a Palestinian state in the coming weeks and months. What's your reaction to that? Is the UN the right forum for this?
Secretary-General: No, this is an area which is in the competence of the General Assembly, and it's strictly dependent on Member States. The Secretariat does no action on that. There are several resolutions, as we know, and, obviously, Member States are entirely free to adopt resolutions that they consider adequate to their purposes.
Our commitment and our interest is not in asking Member States to withdraw that resolution. It's to do everything we can for the promotion of the two-state solution to be a reality.
And, in my opinion, I've always said that I would like to see a Palestinian state and an Israeli state, both with capital in Jerusalem.
Question: Erol Andovic. You have spoken and you was at the wrapping up of the work of 24 years’ work of the ICTY, International Criminal Tribunal for Former Yugoslavia. And you said many times also that, at the end of that work, that Srebrenica is still haunting the United Nations conference.
At the same time, there is a huge archive left of the documents, millions of documents. What do you think, sir, where that archive should have finished, in which country or to stay in Hague and whether United Nations is entitled or you would like to see part of that documentation because of that Srebrenica issue and all other things at the United Nations?
Secretary-General: No, I think what's essential is to guarantee that the archive is well preserved. We have full confidence in the institutions in The Hague. As you know, there is a mechanism that prolongs… continues, so we have full confidence in the institutions in The Hague to do it.
What is absolutely essential is that the archive is not lost and that the archive will be open for all independent analysts and people interested to be able to use it for a more widespread knowledge of the reality that has happened.
We are not claiming that we want to keep the archive in New York or whatever. We are open to discuss any solution guaranteeing the preservation of the archives. For the moment, we have a situation in which, as you know, the court is replaced because there are many remaining things for the future by the mechanism that was created, and we fully trust the mechanism.
I think the states would have the right to consult the archive. I think it's good that an archive of this nature is kept by an independent institution.
UN Reform, Transparency
Question: Mr. Secretary-General, Richard Roth, Cable News Network.
You have been in office over a year. You promised transparency. The reform of the UN, the streamlining, big themes, but the public never really knows what has been accomplished in that spirit. Can you give me one example of something that you found that shocked, disappointed, horrified you, regarding the bloat, the labyrinth of the UN system, something that at meetings you say to people, listen, I can't believe that we have 200 people doing this or somebody's stupid brother-in-law was hired to do this. There's got to be one example. Otherwise, people just hear these theoretical complex ideas of reform. If I'm going too fast, I will slow down.
Secretary-General: No, the area that has worried me much and in which we are working hard and I hope that will be working successfully, there are some indicators that are very positive. For instance, the time that Member States were using to appoint the authority to investigate situations of sexual exploitation and abuse moved from  days to , just to give an example of how seriously Member States are taking this question.
But the area that I would say has corresponded to the biggest concern and the thing in which I felt more uncomfortable as Secretary-General of the UN are the forms of sexual exploitation and abuse perpetrated by UN staff, military or civilian, in several circumstances where they are supposed to protect the populations. And this is an area where we have developed a number of actions. You know that we have appointed the first victims advocate at global level, four at operations level, that we have now the compact signed by more than 80 countries, that more than 50 leaders have joined our circle of leadership.
As I said, we start to see, both in our own operational procedures and in Member States, an enhanced commitment, but the problem is not yet solved. There's a long way to go. And this is something that really I cannot accept, I mean, that UN members that are supposed to protect populations violate human rights and especially in the area of sexual exploitation and abuse.
Question: France yesterday said their peacekeepers did not abuse women, children in the Central African Republic.
Secretary-General: Well, there is a report I've seen on that. I've seen part of the things in the report are related to things that have happened long time ago. Others are more recent. This is exactly one of the areas where we are trying to be more active to make sure that we really change the situation on the ground. But we are not in a state of denial. We are in a state of recognition of a problem and of considering a priority to tackle the problem to eliminate it.
UNRWA Budget Cuts
Question: Margaret Besheer, Voice of America. A follow-up on the UNRWA. Have you received official notification from the Trump Administration? There were reports before we came down here this afternoon that they've sent a letter to UNRWA, $60 million to be withheld… withheld now and another 65 million under review. Have you been notified of this? And have you spoken to Ambassador [Nikki] Haley about it?
Secretary-General: It's probably my fault, but this is an information I have not [received]. I mean, I've been in close contact with UNRWA, but what you are saying now, I was not yet informed.
Question: So no… no official confirmation at all from the Americans…
Secretary-General: No, there might be something I do not know, because, I mean, it's impossible to accompany things by the minute. Until I was informed, there was no official notification of a position, but it might have happened.
UN Bribery Case, Cameroon
Question: Matthew Lee, Inner City Press. In November, there was a… there was an indictment announced in Federal Court downtown of the head of an ECOSOC (Economic and Social Council)-accredited NGO for bribing, allegedly bribing, the President of the General Assembly, Sam Kutesa, to benefit the China Energy Fund Committee. And I wanted to ask you, that remains still in the Global Compact, and there hasn't been even an audit or anything created.
Why haven't you started an audit in that case? Why is the beneficiary of what's described as bribery in the UN still in the Global Compact? And how do your reforms preclude or make impossible this type of bribery that's now happened twice under John Ashe, may he rest in peace, and under Sam Kutesa?
And, also, on Cameroon, you visited, I know, in late October. Since then, some Anglophone leaders have been arrested… or abducted in Nigeria, where I know your deputy was. I wanted to know what the UN system is doing about this now cross-border problem.
Secretary-General: Well, as a matter of fact, in relation to that, we have done several initiatives, and some of them even led to the release of people, and we will go on engaging with all the states involved.
In relation to other cases, I would like to say that I'm not aware of presence in the Compact or whatever. I will have to look into it. I will look into it. What is clear for me is that we don't want the Compact to have companies that do not abide by the set of principles that were defined in the constitution of the Compact. There is a code of conduct that is there, and that should be respected. So, I don't know exactly what happened in the compact in that regard. I will look into that.
Question: Abdelhamid Siyam from the Arabic Daily al-Quds al-Arabi. Since the United States, Trump Administration took the side of Israel become unacceptable mediator in the Middle East process, can the UN fill the void?
Secretary-General: So the first question… yes. Let me be very clear. The UN is ready to play whatever role both parties are ready to accept us to play. I have no doubt that United [States] as a negotiator at the leverage that the UN has not. And so I don't think that there should be a false hope that the UN can now do things that probably are very difficult to obtain. But the UN is always at the disposal of the parties for whatever is possible to do for a solution to be found.
Now, there has been, as you know, as you said, a lot of land that have been now used in settlements, and it's true, but we are believing and, according to the opinion of our people, that a solution… two-state solution is still possible, including eventually aspects of land swaps, including the possibility of… I mean, it can have one settlement in Palestinian territory and the Palestinian law. I mean, there are many solutions for that.
But we still believe that the two-state solution is possible. Obviously, as settlements grow, this makes it more difficult. But we still believe the two-state solution is possible, and we still believe that, without it, we don't see a Plan B.
US Force on Syria Border
Question: Turkish News Agency. I'd like to ask about the US decision to establish a border security force on the Syrian border. The decision has already led to tension between Turkey and the US, and Russia also warned about a possible division in the country, and Syria sees it as an attack on its sovereignty. I was wondering if you have a comment or any concerns about this decision.
Secretary-General: As you know, too many countries have had troops in Syria. I think if the Syrian people could be able to solve alone its problems, it would probably be much better.
Events in Iran
Question: Benny Avni. The events in Iran; at least two dozen were reportedly killed. More than thousand… thousands were arrested. ... [crosstalk] Well, if you want to correct my questioning, please do that. The international community has been relatively silent about this. Do you have anything to say about the situation there, which is volatile?
Secondly, yesterday, President [Mahmoud] Abbas delivered a speech in which he said there's no relation between Zionism and Jews and that Jews have no… and he indicated that Jews have no relation to the land of Israel. Does that present a problem for the two-state solution? He also used very colourful Arabic language towards the President of the United States and said that the United States can no longer be a mediator. Is that… does that factor in your assessment of the situation?
Secretary-General: First, you know, in my life, I have been in government against which there were demonstrations, and I was a demonstrator for different purposes. So, if there is something I cared a lot about is… and I must say, when I was in government, there was no demonstrator arrested or demonstrations repressed.
If there is something I care a lot is for the right of demonstration, of peaceful demonstration of any people. So, I care about the right of Iranian people to demonstrate, and we have clearly stressed that that right should be respected. We also appeal for demonstrators to do it peacefully, but the right of demonstration is an essential part of the human rights in any place in the world.
Now, one of the reasons why we believe that we need to have a two-state solution with Israelis and Palestinians is that we believe that there is a link between these two people with that land. There is no way we can solve in another form this problem.
I understand that the relationship between the United States and the Palestinian Authority is difficult and complex at the present moment. We have the recognition of Jerusalem, so there are many difficulties and complexities in that relationship. I hope that this will not undermine the possibility of Israelis and Palestinians to seriously discuss the way out for both to be able to construct finally a solution for this too-long-lasting problem.
Question: Abbadi from Le Dossier du Maroc. You said that the year 2017 should be the year of peace, and you just expressed your disappointment, saying that it remains elusive. I would like to quote Chinese President Xi Jinping what he said about .... Global peace. I quote, a good China-US cooperation will serve as an anchor for global stability and a booster for world peace. In your capacity as the Secretary-General of the United Nations, what importance do you attribute to these bilateral relations in the promotion of peace and security in the world?
Secretary-General: A vital importance. As you know that one of the things that today is very widespread in intellectual discussions about the future is so-called Thucydides trap, according to which and based on the old war between Sparta and Athens, when a power emerges and another power has been dominant, there is a serious risk of confrontation between the two. And so it is obvious that, with the rising influence of China and international affairs that I think is a welcome development and United States being traditional the biggest power, it's absolutely vital that these two countries have a constructive, positive relationship, as it is vital that the US and Russia and Russia and China and other big powers have a positive relationship.
Question: Maurizio Guerrero from the Mexican News Agency, Notimex. Portugal effectively decriminalised drugs more than 15 years ago, a policy by
Secretary-General: Which was done by me.
Correspondent:: Right, exactly. [Laughter]
Secretary-General: And it was not drugs. It was the consumption.
Question: The consumption of all drugs, yes. A policy that has been regarded and, by all metrics, has been successful, and it's perfectly in line with the conventions of the United Nations. So my question is, would you actively recommend Member States to consider these policies, given the high cost of the so-called war on drugs? Thank you.
Secretary-General: Well, it would not be nice if I would be now making self-propaganda, no? [Laughter] First of all, the policy that was approved was not simply a problem of decriminalisation of consumption. It was not legalisation. It was decriminalization, in the sense that the state guarded the responsibility to support the people, looking into their health, into their treatment, and there was a responsibility, an interacting with the persons on this. And there was a number of other measures of prevention, of public health related to this, the introduction of several other policies to complement it, so it was not just one single measure. And we kept a very strict policy of criminalisation of traffic of drugs.
This policy, according to the indicators that are now available, proved to be successful, not only because it diminished the risks for the people and for society, but in the end, consumption decreased in the follow-up of the introduction of the policy.
I mean, it's up to each country to define its own policy. Not as Secretary-General of the United Nations, as former Prime Minister of Portugal, I'm particularly proud of what we did. It was not easy. It was not a [consensus] measure. I think it worked.
It's up to each country to decide its policies, but I think, if I can… I think that there is a serious discussion that is needed about drugs, the so-called war on drugs. And I believe the discussion should be without prejudice, without pre-established parameters, because this is one of the most complex problems that we face. It has a personal dimension. It has a dimension of public health. It has a dimension of impact on the structure of states. We see states being dramatically impacted in their institutions because of this.
So, this is an area in which I would suggest open discussion without prejudice and without predetermined positions, because I don't think anybody can be sure that there is one single solution for the problem. This is very complex in many dimensions, and it is a very serious problem that need to be addressed.
We tried in Portugal at the time, and I'm now speaking in my past capacity, to find what we thought was the best solution for a country that was a small country. We couldn't adopt a policy not taking into account the environment, so we were not entirely free, but a small country, for a small country that would optimize the situation of the people. No? Having the people as the centre, and I think it was successful.
Question: Masood Haider. Dawn Newspaper of Pakistan. My question is about 400 Palestinian children in Israeli jails, according to latest figures available, and one of the thing that is happening is, once when the children are picked up by the Israeli authority, they are then transferred to the prisons in Israel itself, which is considered to be a violation of the fourth Geneva Convention and that the children are treated brutally. Have you been able to talk to the Israeli authorities about this treatment of the Palestinian children? They're between 12 and 17 years old.
Secretary-General: The answer is yes. This is one of the things we have discussed in my visit to Israel and Palestine.
Spokesman: Kyodo News.
Question: [inaudible], Kyodo News Japan. My question is about DPRK's (Democratic People’s Republic of Korea) visit… participation for Olympic Games. In General Assembly, you expressed that it is encouraging, but on the other hand, full implementation of sanction resolution is very important at this moment. And I have seen growing concern, which is that, if a large number of people come from DPRK to South Korea, especially with logistic help by South Korea, for example, for transport or where to stay, that could undermine the effort of implementation. What do you think about that kind of concern? And I'd like to ask you if you have spoken with South Korean government or US government about that point.
Secretary-General: No, I have to say that we have full confidence in South Korea to be able to handle that in a way that will present no risk. I think South Korea is a very developed country with very solid capacities. We are absolutely sure that this will be properly handled.
My only concern is sometimes that we look at these symbols of goodwill and positive indications, and we forget that the main problem is yet to be solved. And so, this is… if there is a risk is for people to think, oh, no, now things are solved. No. It's very important that we have these conversations between the two Koreas. It's very important that we have these Olympic Games, but let's not forget that the central problem is yet to be solved, and that’s to make sure that the international community commits strongly to that.
Question: Olga Denisova with RIA Novosti Russian News Agency. As you may know, Russian athletes will be going to South Korea without the right to play national anthem and to carry the national flag. What do you think of such participation of the team in Olympic games?
Secretary-General: Well, as you know, this is a very complex question relating to rules and regulations about the Olympic Games and questions of doping and etc. I don't think I am the right person to comment on that. I would like to say that I have a lot of admiration; many times in my life I've seen Olympics Games and I've seen Russian athletes doing fantastic performances, and I hope that all these problems that have been existing will be solved to allow for, in the next Olympic Games, to have a full-fledged presence of Russian athletes.
18 October 2017: Secretary-General Antonio Guterres told the Press today that he would travel to the Central African Republic (CAR) early next week to spend United Nations Day (24 October) with a peacekeeping operation that has lost 12 of its members this year alone and is undergoing an especially difficult set of problems.
Overall, 2017 has been a really bad year for UN peacekeepers: 67 have died so far this year, more than double the 32 fatalities in 2016. Through most of 2017 there were 110,000 peacekeepers serving in 16 operations around the world. In September the number of missions fell to 15 as a 14-year operation in Haiti ended.
Negative Public Focus
All too often in recent years, the public focus on UN peacekeeping has been negative because of the criminal activity of sexual predators in a number of operations. In Haiti, UN peacekeepers brought cholera, starting an epidemic that has killed over a thousand people so far.
The situation was made much worse by the refusal of the last Secretary-General to accept responsibility for the cholera in Haiti. The same was true of the situation in CAR, where the UN was accused of hushing up the activities of a group of pederasts and victimizing a whistleblower.
Valuable Role, Difficult Circumstances
The Secretary-General's visit is intended to highlight and pay tribute to the sacrifice of peacekeepers, but in his statement, he dwelt also on the particular difficulties in the CAR. The following are excerpts from the statement:
"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.
"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.
"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.
Critical Time for CAR
"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.
"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."
4 October 2017: Announcing a trip to the Caribbean to survey the damage done by unprecedented back-to-back hurricanes, Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has appealed for $113.9 million to cover humanitarian needs for the immediate period ahead. He made the announcement to the Press on arrival at UN Headquarters today, the first opportunity to do so after the end of the tumultuous opening debate of the 72nd General Assembly.
"The Prime Minister of Antigua and Barbuda reported that the entire population of Barbuda had been left homeless," he noted. "The Prime Minister of Dominica declared that he had come to the United Nations 'straight from the front line of the war on climate change'." He will be leaving on Saturday for those countries to see "what more the United Nations can do to help people recover" and to review operations already in progress.
Mr. Guterres said that when he met Caribbean leaders last week they wanted urgent help but "even in the wake of utter devastation, they urged the world to act for tomorrow."
"We should not link any single weather event with climate change, but scientists are clear that such extreme weather is precisely what their models predict, and they predict it will be the new normal of a warming world," he said.
AID Being Delivered
To date, the United Nations and its partners have provided a variety of humanitarian assistance to the Caribbean region by air and by sea: 18 tons of food; 3 million water purification tablets; 3,000 water tanks; 2,500 tents; 2,000 mosquito nets and school kits; 500 debit cards for cash assistance. The Organization would continue to help, working closely with the Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency.
The Secretary-General commended countries directly delivering aid to the Caribbean countries, including those acting through South-South cooperation, but noted that "on the whole, I regret to report, the response has been poor." He urged donors to respond more generously in the weeks to come.
Record Breaking Events
Pointing out that it "is rare to see so many storms of such strength so early in the season," Mr. Guterres said, "Hurricane Irma, which devastated Barbuda, was a Category 5 hurricane for three consecutive days – this is the longest on satellite record. Irma’s winds reached 300 kilometers per hour for 37 hours -- the longest on record at that intensity. Hurricanes Harvey and Irma marked the first time that two Category 4 storms made landfall in the United States in the same year. And, of course, they were followed by Hurricane Maria, which decimated Dominica and had severe impacts across Puerto Rico."
There had also been changes in major climate systems, Mr. Guterres said. "Sea levels have risen more than 10 inches since 1870. Over the past 30 years, the number of annual weather-related disasters has nearly tripled, and economic losses have quintupled. Scientists are learning more and more about the links between climate change and extreme weather.
"Climate change is warming the seas. This, in turn, means more water vapor in the atmosphere. When storms come, they bring more rain. A warmer climate turbocharges the intensity of hurricanes. Instead of dissipating, they pick up fuel as they move across the ocean.
"The melting of glaciers, and the thermal expansion of the seas, means bigger storm surges. With more and more people living on coastlines, the damage is, and will be that much greater.
"Scientific models have long predicted an increase in the number of Category 4 and 5 hurricanes. This is precisely what is happening – and even sooner than expected.
Building Resilience to Climate Change
The United Nations would continue to resilience to climate impacts and recovery from them, Mr. Guterres said. "Innovative financing mechanisms will be crucial in enabling countries, like the Caribbean ones, to cope with external shocks of such significant magnitude."
"We know that the world has the tools, the technologies and the wealth to address climate change, but we must show more determination in moving towards a green, clean, sustainable energy future. Once again, I urge countries to implement the Paris Agreement, and with greater ambition. That is why I will convene a Climate Summit in 2019, as you know."
Press Conference Full Text
13 September 2017: Secretary-General Antonio Guterres in a Press conference preceding the 72nd session of the General Assembly focused attention on UN reform and highlighted two political crises, the ethnic cleansing of the Rohingya community from Myanmar and the nuclear tests conducted by North Korea. He also answered questions on numerous other issues. The full text of the Press conference follows.
Guterres: We have a very busy week ahead. Global leaders will gather here next week at a time when our world faces major threats – from the nuclear peril to global terrorism, from inequality to cybercrime. Hurricanes and floods around the world remind us that extreme weather events are expected to become more frequent and severe, due to climate change. No country can meet these tests alone. But if we work together, we can chart a safer, more stable course. And that is why the General Assembly meeting is so important. Today I want to mention two issues at the top of global concerns – and two reform initiatives.
MYANMAR: First, the situation in Myanmar. Grievances that have been left to fester for decades have now escalated beyond Myanmar’s borders, destabilizing the region. The humanitarian situation is catastrophic. When we met last week, there were 125,000 Rohingya refugees who had fled into Bangladesh. That number has now tripled to nearly 380,000. Many are staying in makeshift settlements or with host communities who are generously sharing what they have. Women and children are arriving hungry and malnourished. I urge all countries to do what they can for humanitarian assistance to be provided.
As you know, I wrote an official letter to the Security Council to express my concern. I welcome the Council’s decision to discuss this crisis today. I have condemned the attacks made by the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army in Rakhine State, but there have been disturbing reports of attacks by security forces against civilians, which are completely unacceptable. Aid activities by UN agencies and international non-governmental organizations have been severely disrupted. I call on the Myanmar authorities to suspend military action, end the violence, uphold the rule of law, and recognize the right of return of all those who had to leave the country. I urge them to ensure the delivery of vital humanitarian aid by United Nations agencies, Non-Governmental Organizations and others.
I repeat my call for an effective action plan to address the root causes of the crisis. The Muslims of Rakhine State must be granted nationality or, at least for now, a legal status that allows them to lead a normal life, including freedom of movement and access to labour markets, education and health services. Read More
NORTH KOREA: Turning now to the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. The nuclear and missile tests by the DPRK have created great instability and tension on the Korean peninsula, throughout the region and beyond. Unity in the Security Council is critical. This week’s unanimous adoption of a new resolution sends a clear message that the DPRK must comply fully with its international obligations. I call on all Member States to ensure the full implementation of this and other relevant Security Council resolutions. But Security Council unity also creates an opportunity for diplomatic engagement – an opportunity that must be seized. The solution can only be political. Military action could cause devastation on a scale that would take generations to overcome.
UN REFORM: I would also like to announce two new initiatives to strengthen the work of the United Nations that are part of my broader reform agenda. When I took office, I called for a surge in diplomacy for peace. Since then, I have increased my own engagement and worked to improve our institutional capacity to conduct mediation. As part of this effort, I am announcing today the establishment of a new High-Level Advisory Board on Mediation.
The Board is made up of 18 internationally-recognized personalities who bring experience and skills, deep knowledge and extensive contacts to this extremely important task. The names will be distributed to all of you. I will look to the Board to provide me with advice and to back specific mediation efforts. I am confident they will help us to collaborate more effectively with regional organizations, non-governmental groups and others involved in mediation around the world.
Today I am also launching my gender parity strategy for the United Nations. This roadmap fulfils an urgent need, a moral duty, an operational necessity – and a personal priority. The strategy now completed aims to achieve parity at senior levels by 2021, and across the board by 2028. I have already started to do my part. Since January, over half of my appointments to the Senior Management Group have been women – a total of 17 women and 15 men so far, including both appointments and renewal of mandates. There is a large majority of men in the present mandates, which means that in the new appointments, the high percentage of women is even higher.
But more than statistics, we will need to change our own attitudes and approaches. We must lead by example on gender equality and women’s empowerment, which is one of the greatest human rights challenges and opportunities in our world.
Finally, I know the headline crises rightly fill our screens and working agendas every day. But I want to shine a spotlight on an under-reported emergency. In the Central African Republic, we have seen a 37 per cent increase in refugees and displaced people in just the last three months. This is grave cause for concern in a country where more than half the population are in dire need of assistance. I hope global leaders will give this crisis their attention during their talks next week.
I would also like to highlight that when we do act together, we can achieve results. The international humanitarian system sounded the alarm earlier this year about the threat of famine in Somalia, Yemen, South Sudan and northern Nigeria. I remember this was my first press conference in this room. Despite serious food insecurity in these countries, which has tragic consequences, famine as such has so far been kept at bay – thanks to coordinated efforts by governments, Non-Governmental Organizations, donors, and the United Nations system. I want to express my deep appreciation to the work of all my colleagues in the UN humanitarian agencies. You, the media, have also played a very important part. Some 13 million people in these four countries are receiving life-saving aid each month. We must continue to meet the needs of all those who look to us for support. But this is a reminder that when we act together as united nations, we can make a meaningful difference in people’s lives.
Thank you very much for your attention, and now, of course, I will be able to take your questions. Read More
Question: Secretary-General, good to see you. Thanks for this briefing. And, on behalf of the UN Correspondents Association, good luck for your first UNGA as chief of the United Nations, and have a lot of hand sanitizer on standby. [Laughter] My question is... [Laughter]
Secretary-General: I don't need to sanitize. [Laughter]
Question: Lots of handshakes. Let me quote you your words last week, "I am totally committed to the reform of the UN to make it more effective, more nimble, more able to respond, for people to feel that the UN is working for them." Do you believe, Secretary-General, that given the mass exodus of the Rohingya that we're seeing across the border of Myanmar and Bangladesh that the United Nations has lived up to your words, or is the reputation of the United Nations again being sacrificed at the altar of the Security Council, given its ineffective response to date?
Secretary-General: I think there are three dimensions on this. One dimension is the action of the Secretary-General, the High Commissioner for Human Rights and the other officials that have been, very clearly, living what I believe is necessary in order to make the Myanmar authorities find a way to address the dramatic situation that exists and, as I mentioned, take the necessary measures. On the other hand, it's important to recognise the huge effort of UN agencies and other non-governmental organisations supporting the refugees in Bangladesh in extremely difficult circumstances, you can imagine, with this massive flow. Unfortunately, we are not allowed to do the same inside Rakhine State at the present moment and [that is] one of the reasons of my appeal. On the other hand, I wrote an official letter to the Security Council. I don't know if you are aware, but the last official letter sent by the Secretary-General to the Security Council on an issue was in 1989 about Lebanon, which means that this was a very important commitment from my side to ask the attention of the Security Council. And I'm happy the Security Council has introduced it in today's discussion, and I hope the Security Council will be able to have a very clear message in relation to the situation in Myanmar.
Question: Secretary-General, James Bays from Al Jazeera. I asked you this question last week, and it's about how you term the violence that's being carried out right now in Myanmar. Your High Commissioner for Human Rights said it seems to be a textbook example of ethnic cleansing. Given the situation has gotten so much worse in the last week, do you believe this is ethnic cleansing?
Secretary-General: Well, I would answer your question with another question. When one-third of the Rohingya population had to flee the country, can you find a better word to describe it?
Question: Thank you, Mr. Secretary-General. I'll do just two follow-ups, one on... one on North Korea and one on Myanmar. On Myanmar, the Security Council has, so far, failed to agree on any kind of a statement. Your letter was, of course, exceedingly important. Are you prepared to follow up your letter by invoking Article 99, which says, and I quote, the Secretary-General may bring to the attention of the Security Council any matter which, in his opinion, may threaten the maintenance of international peace and security?
And, on the DPRK, diplomats tell me that you've been on the phone constantly trying to work on ways to resolve this crisis. Russia's UN Ambassador said after the vote that the United States' unwillingness to include the idea of having you use your good offices to resolve the dispute, quote, “gives rise to very serious questions in our minds”. So, I wonder if you could respond to that, and could you give us an update on your contacts and whether you've made any headway and what you’re planning as a follow-up during the GA?
Secretary-General: Well, first of all, I didn't invoke formally Article 99, but what I did was exactly to draw the attention of the Security Council for the situation, and I've done it officially. And I invoked the regional destabilisation - that it is taking place. I think we sometimes give too much importance to the formalities. I think the substance is what matters, and I think the substance here was clear. And I hope that the Security Council will, indeed, have a meaningful discussion. And I had the opportunity to brief the Security Council again yesterday during our monthly lunch. So it's a matter that I'm following with a lot of interest and a lot of personal commitment. I visited Rakhine State many times in the past in my past capacity, and this is a matter that I feel very deeply in my heart. The suffering of the people is something that... I mean, I feel very, very strongly.
In relation to the good offices of the Secretary-General, the good offices of the Secretary-General can only be implemented when there is a consensus in the Security Council about the need to use them. That consensus was not yet reached or not reached. So, of course, I am available. I am ready to do whatever is considered necessary. But one thing it is clear; a mediation can only take place when the parties to a conflict all want that mediation to occur.
Question: Mr. Secretary-General, this is Majeed Nizamuddin Gly of Rudaw Media Network. My question is about... about the Kurds. A nation that has been living under occupation, oppression, and genocide ever since colonial powers made a choice for them and forced them into modern Iraq. Now for the first time in modern history on September 25 during UNGA, the Kurds want to exercise their right of self-determination. Just like Saddam Hussein, some politicians in Baghdad just yesterday threatened the Kurds with bloody civil war and military campaign in response to that referendum. My question is, don't you think the Kurds, like any other nation, have the... have the right of self-determination, a right that's enshrined in the UN Charter? Thank you.
Secretary-General: I don't subscribe to many of the comments that you made in describing the situation. But let me be very clear on one thing. Iraq is facing an extremely decisive moment in its history. Iraq was victim of a dramatic attack of Da’esh that occupied large chunks of the country, and it has been slowly reoccupying its territory, which is not yet completed. At the same time, we are deeply concerned with the need for an effective reconciliation of the different communities in Iraq. So, our advice at the present moment is for an enhanced dialogue, mainly between Erbil and Baghdad, to come to an understanding on the near future. And I would hope that unilateral decisions from one side or another would not undermine the belief I have that this is a very sensitive moment in Iraq and that we need to do everything possible to the benefit of the Iraqi people in its entirety, including, of course, the Kurdish population, to which I have a lot of personal sympathy. I visited Kurdistan many times. I've relations with many of the Kurdish leaders. I understand their concerns. But my appeal is at the present moment for dialogue between Erbil and Baghdad to make sure that we are able to stabilise a situation that is still extremely fragile.
Question: Thanks, Secretary-General. Just a follow-up on Myanmar. How... sorry. How concerned are you that there's a risk of genocide taking place in Myanmar? Have you spoken with Aung San Suu Kyi since you last spoke to her on Wednesday? And with regard to your mediation board, which crisis tops the list for them?
Secretary-General: First, in relation to Myanmar, yes, I've spoken several times with Aung San Suu Kyi. And I believe that we are facing a very dramatic situation, and that is the reason why I appealed to the Security Council to seriously consider the situation and... [Inaudible question] Again, we can... the question here is not to establish a dialogue on the different kinds of technical words that have different meanings. I think the question is to say, this is a dramatic tragedy. People are dying and suffering at horrible numbers, and we need to stop it. That is my main concern.
And in relation to the mediation efforts, if I would have to consider a priority situation in which I believe progress can be made in the short term, even if many others, of course, deserve our attention, but if you ask me to choose this situation, which I believe progress can be made in the short term, and correspond for us undoubtedly to a very important priority, I would select Libya. I think there is an opportunity in Libya, and I appeal for all countries that have an influence in Libya, and I appeal for all Libyans to seize this opportunity and to be able to overcome the divisions and move in the direction of a solution. And my Special Representative is working very hard. We will have again an important moment here during the General Assembly to bring together all people involved, and I think there is an opportunity for peace and stability in Libya.
Question: Thank you. Secretary-General, do you plan to meet with President [Donald] Trump? What will be your message to him on a couple of specific things that you've alluded to - firstly, North Korea, secondly, Myanmar, and thirdly, climate change, which you've also spoken to in the past?
Secretary-General: Well, first, I plan to meet with President Trump. I don't plan to tell him about North Korea or Myanmar anything different from what I told you. I think we need to be able to tell the same thing to everybody that we meet about every issue, because, if not, we will not be credible. And, in relation to climate change, my position is very clear. I do believe climate change is a serious threat. I do believe recent events have proven it again. I do believe that the Paris Agreement is something that must be implemented by the international community and with an enhanced ambition. And I do believe that the green economy is not only necessary to rescue the planet, it is also the smart way to look into development at the present moment. But this is not new. I've said it many times.
Question: Thank you very much, Mr. Secretary-General. Iftikhar Ali from Associated Press of Pakistan. I originally wanted to ask you about Myanmar, but I now go to the lingering crisis that is Afghanistan, a country about which you have deep knowledge. The UN, sir, has a large presence in Afghanistan to promote peace and stability, but the... under the new United States policy, more troops are being sent to Afghanistan to bring about a military solution. Sir, do you think there is a military solution to the crisis in Afghanistan?
Secretary-General: I don't think there is a military solution to the crisis in Afghanistan, as I don't think there is a military solution for practically any crisis in the world. I believe it is important in Afghanistan to invest in the conditions to create a political solution. I believe that is possible. I believe that means the engagement in dialogue with the relevant parties, and I think that, even when the United States have announced their surge, they were also saying that they believe a political solution is necessary. So, it is clear for me that, independently of short-term measures that might be taken, the political solution is the long-term road that we need all to move on.
Question: Apostolos Zoupaniotis, Cyprus News Agency. Mr. Secretary-General, on July 6, you decided to close in Crans-Montana, Switzerland, the Cyprus conference, a conference that you have described previously as open-ended. What prerequisite is... right now you place in order to continue your good offices mission and your initiative? And also, when are you planning to issue your good offices report on Cyprus?
Secretary-General: It's very simple. I plan to use my good offices as soon as the parties are in agreement for those good offices to be put in place. And the report, I hope it will be presented... we are still working on it. I hope we will be presenting it probably end of this month, beginning of next month, after the high-level session, which, as you can imagine, we are all completely overwhelmed. But it is to come soon.
Question: Mr. Secretary-General, clearly, the most watched leader next week at the UN will be Donald Trump. Can you tell me, how do you think he's going to be received at the UN given his policies, his statements on the organisation, his remarks? And is there anything he might say that... that you hope he might... that you're hopeful that he might say?
Secretary-General: Well, I think that all the efforts I've been making until now are in the direction of trying to create conditions for the relationship between the United States and the United Nations to be a constructive relationship. And I hope that that will also be the message of President Trump, and I hope that, if that is the message that will be conveyed, that that message will be well received.
Question: Thank you, Secretary-General. Abdelhamid Siyam from the Arabic daily al-Quds al-Arabi, based in London. I wish this press conference will extend for two hours to ask about Libya, Syria, Iraq, Yemen, but my question would be about Palestine. You just visited the area, sir. First, do you think there... truly there are enough land to establish an independent contiguent, sovereign, viable Palestinian state? That's one question. The second, you have been requested to treat Israel as a normal state, and your Spokesman said so: Israel needs to be treated as just a normal state. Is there any country in the world that has been in violation of Security Council resolution and General Assembly resolution, Human Right Council, ICJ (International Court of Justice) as much as Israel? Thank you very much.
Secretary-General: Well, what I said, first of all, is that I believe the two-state solution is a must, that there is no Plan B to the two-state solution. And, obviously, for the two-state solution to be possible, we need to have a territory adequate for both states. And that is the reason why we have taken a very clear position in relation to the settlement activity that you know. Second, I never used the word "normal". What I said is that Israel needs to be treated with the same rights and obligations as any other state. And that, I think, is true for Israel or for any other state that does whatever is done. There are rules that need to be abided by. And, of course, if they are not, they should... the non-implementation of rules should be clearly denounced and condemned. But all states, as I said, must have the same obligations and the same rights. And this, I think, is unquestionable. I didn't make any comment of the characteristics of the state.
Question: Veronica Figueroa para 24 Colombia; Mr. Secretary-General.
El Presidente colombiano va a venir la semana que viene y acaba de pedir otra misión de acompañamiento para el cese al fuego con el ELN. ¿Están las Naciones Unidas preparadas para acompañar a Colombia en un proceso, si necesitan hacerlo? Y también viene el Ministro de relaciones exteriores venezolano. ¿Esta Asamblea va a dictar la posición de las Naciones Unidas en la situación de derechos humanos en Venezuela?
Secretary-General: Con total sinceridad, hay que decir que las noticias de Colombia son las mejores noticias que tenemos en el mundo y estamos muy entusiasmados con el acuerdo de cese al fuego entre el ELN y el Gobierno colombiano. Naturalmente, de acuerdo con lo que será necesario y las discusiones que se están haciendo, estamos no solamente preparados pero muy interesados en ayudar concretizar el éxito de este cese al fuego. Y naturalmente, en relación con Venezuela, pensamos que… van a empezar de nuevo las negociaciones entre el Gobierno y la oposición – y yo estuvo en contacto muy estrecho durante todo este tiempo con el Presidente Zapatero en relación con esto – y hicimos ayer, yo creo, una nueva declaración apoyando a esas negociaciones. Creemos que una solución política con el acuerdo de las dos partes es absolutamente necesaria para salvaguardar la democracia y los derechos humanos en Venezuela.
Question: Thank you. Nizar Abboud of Al-Mayadeen Television in Lebanon. My question is regarding Yemen. Yemen, of course, the... cholera is very... is getting out of control, more than 600,000, as you well know. And the rate of increase is 5,000 or more a day. When... do you think that the United Nations should tell the Coalition, which is carrying out that attack against Yemen continuously, enough is enough? And what else can the United Nations do to alleviate the suffering of Yemenis?
Secretary-General: What we are doing at the present moment, exactly in relation to that concern, through our Special Representative, is to try to negotiate an agreement allowing for both the harbour of Hudaydah and the airport of Sana’a to be open to allow for the humanitarian aid that is absolutely crucial to be able to reach the populations in distress. And the humanitarian situation in Yemen is, as you know, catastrophic. So we are totally committed to try to reach an agreement with the parties to make it possible to have full and effective access for humanitarian aid, which will be absolutely crucial also in relation to the cholera. There are other aspects that he is engaged in, but these two are the most important. But we also believe that this should be confidence-building measures to allow to restart effective political negotiations to put an end to this conflict that is one of the bloodiest and most dramatic conflicts of our time.
Question: Sorry, just a quick follow-up. Do you believe that the Coalition is... can really conduct an investigation on... on slaughter in Yemen? Or this... should this be done by International Tribunals or any independent... [Cross talk]
Secretary-General: As you know, there are initiatives in the context of the Human Rights Council that are taking place. Independently of that, any party to any conflict can conduct its own initiatives. But, as you know, there is exactly an initiative of this sort at the present moment in the Human Rights Council.
Question: Mr. Secretary-General, Benny Avni of the New York Post. So to follow up on Abdelhamid question, in your visit to Ramallah, you didn't meet President [Mahmoud] Abbas. Could you explain why? And he was a... I believe it was reported you met [Recep Tayyip] Erdogan that day. And, also, on Trump, there will be a lot of pressure on you from different quarters, including in the United States, to confront him directly on several political issues that were mentioned here. Will that be your style, or are you going to be a little more... a little less confrontational?
Secretary-General: First of all, the reason is very simple. I mean, I had the opportunity to meet the Prime Minister and a number of very relevant high officials of the Palestinian Authority. The visit went very well. And so I understand that, for reasons that have to do with the questions of unity between West Bank and Gaza, the visit of President Abbas to Turkey was absolutely crucial. And I respected, of course, that choice. There was no diplomatic incident at all related to it. On the contrary, there was a very meaningful dialogue taking place.
I... you will be able to listen to my speech in the beginning of the Assembly, and when you listen to my speech, your question will be answered, not by opinions I might issue today, but by the proof that is in the words that I will pronounce in the General Assembly.
Question: Thank you, Mr. Secretary-General. Ahmed Fathi, American Television News. Back to UN reform, you have announced a short while ago that you're going to be submitting a plan for UN Mission in Libya reform. Would that plan or new ideas be sort of a blueprint for other UN Missions in order to... to contribute to the peacekeeping operations around the world that UN is undertaking? And what will be your message to the Member States with regard to the financing of the DPKO (Department of Peacekeeping Operations), since there are some reductions. Maybe not major this year but for future years, we are anticipating much larger reductions from the US side. Thank you.
Secretary-General: Now, first of all, what was done is something that I believe should be a normal way to proceed, which means, in all missions, we need to have regularly evaluations of the mission. This one was done by Jean-Marie Guéhenno, and based on this evaluation, we are now taking the measures to adapt the mission to the needs of the new situation that exists in Libya. I think that we should… that doesn't mean that the same conclusions of the evaluation will apply in all other evaluations, but this procedure of evaluating regularly our missions and adjusting them to the realities on the ground is, I think, essential. And one of the reasons that I've asked for the management reform aspect is to have the possibility to implement quickly the conclusions of any evaluation in relation to the changes that will be necessary on the ground of each operation.
Now, in relation to peacekeeping, I am very keen on preserving the integrity of our peacekeeping operations in all its aspects. We have given instructions, because that, I think, the right thing to do when we deal with Member States that pay their contributions based on their own citizens' taxes - we have given instructions to look carefully into all the procedural aspects of our missions in order to make savings where those savings do not undermine the efficiency of the mission. To give an example, we hope to have a 15 per cent reduction in air assets by a more rational use of the air assets that are present. And this kind of policy will be followed systematically. We cannot afford to misspend $1 when all the dollars are necessary, dollars, Euros, yens and whatever are the currency, when all the money is necessary to make sure that our missions have the necessary level, equipment, and capacity to deal with the problems of the situations we face in line with the diagnostic of those situations. So, my intention is to do everything to preserve the integrity of the peacekeeping missions, but, of course, to do also everything possible to make it in the most effective and cost-effective way.
Question: On the US policy and the paying for UN policy in general... yeah, yeah, the US policy... for US policy, America first, and now that you seem is focusing on people. So what's the link between the two?
Secretary-General: Well, we can have different opinions about the use of the word "first". Now, when I was Prime Minister of Portugal, I always considered that, for me, as Prime Minister of Portugal, Portugal would come first. But it's my deep belief that the best way to preserve the American interests is to engage positively in global affairs and to engage positively in support to multilateral organisations like UN.
Question: M. Secretary-General, un question en Français. Lors de sa visite à Berlin, le Président israélien [Reuven] Rivlin a déclaré à Angela Merkel qu’Israël pourrait être forcée de prendre des mesures préventives contre le Hezbollah pour retirer l’arsenal d’armes de cette organisation. De son côté, l’Ambassadrice [Nikki] Haley n’a pas ménagé les menaces contre la FINUL (United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon) et aussi contre le Hezbollah. Vous-même, vous avez été dans la région pendant le renouvellement de mandat de la FINUL qui avait demandé beaucoup de négociations ardues, vous n’avez pas été au Liban pour constater de visu ce qui se passait sur le terrain. Est-ce que vous pensez que le Liban est en péril, quelles sont les mesures préventives qu’il faut prendre pour préserver la force de la FINUL, et aussi quel est le message que vous avez à donner au Président [Michel] Aoun lorsque vous allez le rencontrer, surtout qu’il s’agit du Hezbollah ? Thank you.
Secretary-General: Je crois qu’en ce qui concerne et les autorités libanaises et la communauté internationale, pour moi la question clef, c’est le renforcement des institutions nationales libanaises, et surtout de l’armée libanaise. Je crois qu’il faut donner au Liban tous les attributs nécessaires à l’exercice effectif et total de sa souveraineté. Et là, une question clef de mon point de vue, c’est le renforcement de l’armée libanaise et mon appel à la communauté internationale, c’est de garantir au Liban tout l’appui – d’ailleurs si vous regardez la générosité libanaise face aux réfugiés qui sont entrés au Liban, que le Liban mérite -, de donner au Liban tout l’appui pour qu’il puisse renforcer ses institutions et notamment son armée. A mon avis, c’est la meilleure mesure préventive que l’on puisse avoir en relation avec les risques de conflits qui pourraient exister entre Israël et les milices du Hezbollah. Et je crois que le rôle de la FINUL est exactement de renforcer le rôle d’une armée libanaise qu’on veut renforcer elle-même, pour être un facteur de stabilité dans la région. Et nous sommes en train de faire une révision en demandant des capacités accrues aussi du point de vue du fonctionnement de la FINUL. Mais à mon avis, la question clef et la priorité, et pour le Liban et pour la communauté internationale, c’est le renforcement de l’armée libanaise et de son rôle, notamment dans le Sud du Liban.
Question: Sure. Thanks a lot. Matthew Lee, Inner City Press, on behalf of the Free UN Coalition for Access, hoping for readouts of your diplomatic merry-go-round upstairs during the GA week. I want... you speak the lot about reforms. It's something I tried to ask at the stakeout but thanks for giving me the question. This case of John Ashe, who I know has deceased~-- may he rest in peace, but there was a court decision this summer in which basically it painted a picture of the UN as being quite susceptible to bribery. There was a Chin... a Macau-based businessman, Ng Lap Seng, was found guilty. So, I won't go through it all except to say, I wanted to know what your view of whether the UN... beyond just some reforms to the PGA's (President of the General Assembly) office, whether it has instituted enough reforms. Your... your... the former PGA yesterday sitting here said that there are crows picking around the side of the UN. There are a lot of business interests... basically, they try to buy their way into the UN by hooking up with a small state. So, I wanted to know whether your reforms will address that. And there's also a Code Blue report out today about sexual abuse where they say that, of cases they've uncovered, many of them are not disclosed in the conduct and discipline website. What's your plan during this GA week to try to address the sexual abuse issue of peacekeeping? Thank you.
Secretary-General: Well, in addition to the sexual abuse, as you know, we have taken already a number of measures. A global victims advocate was appointed, and four victims advocates were appointed in the four situations that are more dramatic in several African contexts. We are preparing a compact to be signed with Member States in order to make sure that there is effective commitment in relation to this. I'm creating a circle of leadership with Heads of Government and State to assume engagement of states in making sure that everything is investigated properly. And so, we are really committed to make the best we can in this area, knowing the difficulties and the problems and sometimes even the... especially, my main concern is with the victims that sometimes have an enormous problem in coming with their cases because of the risks that they might face in different conditions with the community or even with the country or even if the UN Mission is not properly organised. So, we are deeply committed to that. But the best protection in relation to abuses is the whistleblower policy protection. We have introduced a first group of measures to enhance the whistleblower protection when I assumed functions immediately in January. So, it's probably my first measure. And after that, we have introduced a number of other reforms, which I believe are bringing our whistleblower protection policy to the state of the art. And if that's not the case, if there are other things to be suggested, we are ready to introduce them, because that is the best guarantee that people can detect and denounce things that happen and that they will be protected if they do so. This is, for me, an absolute must and the best possible guarantee an organisation can have in relation to the risks of abuse of power or abuses of any other kind or of corruption or whatever. So this is a big concern for me, and I think we are acting as we can but with total determination to address the problem.
Question: Thank you, Secretary-General. BBC, Bahman Kalbasi here. Secretary-General, last week, the ambassador to the UN, the United States ambassador to the UN, basically laid the groundwork for the Trump Administration to leave or kill the JCPOA (Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action) or Iran deal, as it’s known. What would you say to Mr. Trump given that IAEA (International Atomic Energy Agency) has said eight times so far that Iran has been in full compliance with the nuclear deal?
Secretary-General: I think this agreement is a very important agreement. I think that it contributed to an important de-escalation at the moment, and it is a factor of stability. And it's my opinion that all parties should do everything possible for this agreement to be preserved.
Question: RFI a sorti une enquête aujourd’hui sur la mort des deux experts de l’ONU qui montre qu’il y a eu des défaillances notamment du Board of Inquiry concernant des traductions. Il semble que les deux experts aient été pris dans un guet-apens et que l’Etat congolais pourrait être impliqué. Quand est-ce que l’ONU va annoncer une enquête indépendante sur la mort des deux experts ?
Secretary-General: Nous sommes en train de faire les consultations que j’ai annoncées au Conseil de sécurité et aux familles pour mettre en place notre dispositif à nous. Il y avait différentes possibilités ; la plus efficace serait à mon avis l’intégration d’experts indépendants à l’intérieur du système congolais. Je ne sais pas si ce sera possible ou non. Sinon, nous prendrons notre initiative : nos collègues du Département des Affaires politiques sont en train de faire toutes les consultations nécessaires pour mettre en place le système qui puisse être le plus efficace possible pour que la vérité soit connue.
Question: Thank you very much. Mr. Secretary-General, the crisis in the Gulf, the dispute between Qatar and three of its neighbours and Egypt, I understand, of course, you want to leave the solution for the regional mediation efforts and you support the... and you said that; you support the Kuwaiti mediation efforts. But it's been months now, and this mediation hasn't really bear fruits and it's going round in circles. Isn't it time that your office and your high office took part in this mediation pushing the parties closer together and avoiding a very dangerous situation that could threaten the peace and security of that area?
Secretary-General: Well, first of all, I want to express my total confidence in the Kuwaiti mediation. I went to Kuwait on purpose just two weeks ago to express that confidence and to express our full support. I don't see ourselves creating a parallel initiative. We are ready to fully support that mediation. And, in our contacts with the parties, because we have contacts with the parties, not mediation, but contacts, we have been insisting on the need to find a political solution because this is, of course, not only impacting negatively in relations among the countries, but it is having wider aspects that it would be useful to eliminate by an agreement. We will go on with these kind of efforts, but I want to reaffirm our total support to the Kuwaiti mediation, and I have to say that I believe that they have been doing an excellent work with the difficulties that we all know. I also would like to underline what Secretary of State [Rex] Tillerson has done in relation to this. We've been following all these efforts with a lot of interest. But, as I said, it's not our intention to duplicate efforts but to strengthen the efforts that exist.
Question: Just a follow-up, sir: [inaudible] they're trying their best and [inaudible] has done his best, but the situation is getting worse. The verbal attacks between the countries are getting worse. Isn't it time to look at strengthening through your offices the Kuwaiti mediation efforts? That's what I'm trying to say. It's... it's not working.
Secretary-General: Look, it's... mediations cannot replace political will of the parties. So, I don't think it's by duplicating mediation efforts that we will solve the problems. I think what our appeal is is for the political will of the parties to overcome the situation. But, as I said, we will remain engaged and in very close contacts... I was, again, yesterday with the ambassador of Kuwait... in very close contact and fully supporting their efforts.
Question: Thank you, Mr. Secretary-General, for this press conference. I hope you will be in a position to give more regular press conferences so that someone... some of us do not have only a rare opportunity to ask you a question.
Secretary-General: If I may interrupt, we have... I was told that we would have more regular contacts, and you will witness that I did two stakeouts and a press conference. I'm indeed accelerating these contacts. [Laughter] But, as you understand, I have a lot of other things to do, too. [Laughter] And, if I'm always here, I might not be able to do the things that might be news for the press conference. [Laughter]
Question: US Ambassador Nikki Haley said that she wants to see the Secretary-General of the United Nations an Executive Officer. That has a lot of implications. There are many people who, given the complexity of the problems, wants to see strong leadership coming out of the Secretary-General, going beyond invoking Article 99 and good offices. What do you think of that idea?
Secretary-General: It's very simple. We have a constitution; that is, the Charter. I'm doing everything I can within the limits of the Charter with the widest possible interpretation of the Charter. But I cannot violate the Charter. The moment I violate the Charter, all my capacity to act will be totally undermined.
Question: Thank you, Secretary-General. [Off mic, inaudible] I have a follow-up on Myanmar, if you had contact with Suu Kyi after she decided not to come to the UN? And then my question is... is on Libya and on the refugees crisis, if... the relocation of the refugees is still an unsolved problem, and my question is if you plan to discuss the issue with Italy and other European countries and if you have any positive signal from some country?
Secretary-General: I have not had any contact after yesterday evening when I read that Aung San Suu Kyi was not coming. There is a channel that is open between the two of us; that is, contacts are taking place between people we have designate, but I have not any contact after that announcement. In relation to the second question, the answer is yes. I intend to discuss the issue, and I think it is very important that Europe plays a constructive role in relation to the management of global migration affairs. And I hope that that will be translated into some effective steps, but I wouldn't like to go further at the present moment, because it would undermine the possibilities of useful contacts.
Question: Thank you, Secretary-General. How concerned are you with the latest diplomatic rift between the United States and Russia? The two countries have been sending out diplomats, closing consulates and diplomatic facilities. Do you foresee any consequences or any complications of this for the UN work, for example, peace efforts in Syria? And also, a short second question: Do you agree with the notion that the civil war in Syria is over, and now it has transformed into fight against terrorism? Thank you so much.
Secretary-General: Well, first of all, I think it is obvious that an important pillar for international peace and security should be a very positive and constructive relationship between the United States and the Russian Federation. And I can only wish that that relationship is established. And, of course, when that relationship is not good, the international community as a whole suffers. I think this is obvious, and it is clear for me that many of the problems in the world are easier to solve if the two countries have a common position and work together to address those problems.
I think that in Syria, we still have a number of different things happening. We still have de-escalation zones with some of them with some problems. We still have aspects of fighting. We don't have a political solution between Government and opposition. We have a fight against terrorism but a fight that is conducted in different fronts in different ways, and I think that there is a risk of fragmentation in Syria that is very important to take into account. So, I would say Syria still needs a lot of attention of the international community, and I hope that, both in Astana and in Geneva, it will be possible to make progress in the near future to allow for a political solution to finally be a way to create the conditions to stabilise the country in the future.
18 March 2017: Rima Khalaf quit as Executive Secretary of the Beirut-based West Asian Regional Commission of ECOSOC after she was ordered to remove from the agency's web site a report accusing Israel of practicing "apartheid" in its treatment of Palestinians. The report was written by Richard Falk, a former appointee of the Human Rights Commission known for his extremist views See here for a video on him from UN Watch, a pro-Israeli organization based in Geneva. The Palestinian organization promoting a boycott of Israel welcomed the report and Khalaf's resignation as a principled act. See here. The following is Khalf's letter of resignation two weeks before the end of her current contract:
I have carefully considered your message conveyed through the Chef de Cabinet and assure you that at no point have I questioned your right to order the withdrawal of the report from our website or the fact that all of us working in the Secretariat are subject to the authority of its Secretary-General. Nor do I have any doubts regarding your commitment to human rights in general, or your firm position regarding the rights of the Palestinian people. I also understand the concerns that you have, particularly in these difficult times that leave you little choice.
I am not oblivious to the vicious attacks and threats the UN and you personally were subjected to from powerful Member States as a result of the publication of the ESCWA report “Israeli Practices towards the Palestinian People and the Question of Apartheid”. I do not find it surprising that such Member States, who now have governments with little regard for international norms and values of human rights, will resort to intimidation when they find it hard to defend their unlawful policies and practices. It is only normal for criminals to pressure and attack those who advocate the cause of their victims. I cannot submit to such pressure.
Not by virtue of my being an international official, but simply by virtue of being a decent human being, I believe, like you, in the universal values and principles that have always been the driving force for good in human history, and on which this organization of ours, the United Nations is founded. Like you, I believe that discrimination against anyone due to their religion, skin color, sex or ethnic origin is unacceptable, and that such discrimination cannot be rendered acceptable by the calculations of political expediency or power politics. I also believe people should not only have the freedom to speak truth to power, but they have the duty to do so.
In the space of two months you have instructed me to withdraw two reports produced by ESCWA, not due to any fault found in the reports and probably not because you disagreed with their content, but due to the political pressure by member states who gravely violate the rights of the people of the region.
You have seen first hand that the people of this region are going through a period of suffering unparalleled in their modern history; and that the overwhelming flood of catastrophes today is the result of a stream of injustices that were either ignored, plastered over, or openly endorsed by powerful governments inside and outside the region. Those same governments are the ones pressuring you to silence the voice of truth and the call for justice represented in these reports.
Given the above, I cannot but stand by the findings of ESCWA’s report that Israel has established an apartheid regime that seeks the domination of one racial group over another. The evidence provided by this report drafted by renowned experts is overwhelming. Suffice it to say that none of those who attacked the report had a word to say about its content. I feel it my duty to shed light on the legally inadmissible and morally indefensible fact that an apartheid regime still exists in the 21st century rather than suppressing the evidence. In saying this I claim no moral superiority nor ownership of a more prescient vision. My position might be informed by a lifetime of experiencing the dire consequences of blocking peaceful channels to addressing people’s grievances in our region.
After giving the matter due consideration, I realized that I too have little choice. I cannot withdraw yet another well-researched, well-documented UN work on grave violations of human rights, yet I know that clear instructions by the Secretary-General will have to be implemented promptly. A dilemma that can only be resolved by my stepping down to allow someone else to deliver what I am unable to deliver in good conscience. I know that I have only two more weeks to serve; my resignation is therefore not intended for political pressure. It is simply because I feel it my duty towards the people we serve, towards the UN and towards myself, not to withdraw an honest testimony about an ongoing crime that is at the root of so much human suffering. Therefore, I hereby submit to you my resignation from the United Nations. "
12 March 2017: The UN Department of Public Information continues to harass blogger Matthew Russell Lee because it finds him irritating. A year after evicting him from a small shared office in the UN Press area -- and thus depriving him of easy access to the headquarters complex -- DPI seems to be moving to exclude him from access even to events open to the Press. The eviction from his office in early 2016 was without any warning or due process, and seems to have been impelled by Lee's coverage of the bribery scandal that led to the arrest of former General Assembly president John Ashe (who was later found dead in his home-gym, ostensibly the victim of an accident). The prime mover in his eviction seems to be DPI Under-Secretary-General Cristina Gallach (seen here in an interaction with Lee during a UN Press briefing).
Since the eviction, Lee claims he has been prevented from covering official UN events ranging from "formal General Assembly meetings to a January 27 event about the Holocaust." On 24 January, he had to leave a discussion of propaganda before it concluded because his "non-resident" Press pass requires him to leave the building by 7 in the evening. Lee recounts that on January 17, "for an event involving Gallach herself as a speaker, despite having been invited -- not by the UN -- and having its RSVP confirmed, Inner City Press was stopped by UN Security and not allowed to enter." Other journalists at the UN offer Lee little support because he has accused the office-holders of the UN Correspondent's Association (UNCA) of being corrupt too. He has posted video of a physical confrontation with one of them outside Cipriani restaurant in Manhattan.
Lee's rather incoherent reporting on his various travails has led many observers to dismiss him as a troublemaker, but that is to miss the important point that a public institution like the UN cannot exclude and mistreat a journalist because he offends the sense of decorum of some of its bureaucrats.
20 January 2017: A leaked memo to staff from the Executive Office of the Secretary-General sets out the principles that will guide its work and explains the roles of members of the core team Antonio Guterres has assembled on the 38th floor.
No changes are foreseen in the role of the Chef de Cabinet, Ribeiro Viotti of Brazil; he will continue to be the primary coordinator of the work-flow into and out of the EOSG. The Deputy SG, Amina Mohammed of Nigeria, will lose the enhanced role assigned to former DSG Jan Elisasson of Sweden, who carried much of the slack created by Ban Ki-moon's incompetence.
The memo defines for the first time the roles envisaged for the newly created posts of Policy Adviser held at the level of Under-Secretary-General by Kyung-wha Kang of South Korea, and the Assistant Secretary-General for Strategic Coordination held by Fabrizio Hochschild of Chile. The following is the full text of the memo (not officially authenticated but generally accepted to be genuine).
Terms of Reference for the New/Revised EOSG Posts and Units
These Terms of reference will go into effect on 1 January 2017 upon the inauguration of Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, and will be reviewed six months after implementation
Principles that Guide the EOSG
• The Secretary-General, Deputy Secretary-General, Chef de Cabinet, Senior Adviser on Policy and the Assistant Secretary-General for Strategic Coordination will function as a team and expect the staff of the Executive Office to do likewise.
• The role of EOSG will not be operational, nor will it supplant the functions of line departments. Rather it will aim to empower and draw upon the work of the Departments as well as Agencies, Funds and Programs, fostering cooperation between them in pursuit of the priorities set by Member States and the Secretary-General.
• EOSG will be forward-looking, open to new ideas and welcoming of dissenting views, drawing on and commissioning research and inputs from a wide variety of internal and external sources to support senior decision-making and strategic thinking.
• Strategic communications will be an integral part of EOSG functions, both internally for clarity of the leadership message within the United Nations family and externally for the maximum impact in public perception.
• Based on the work of Departments, Agencies, Funds and Programs, consultation with Member States and others, the EOSG will lead the development, dissemination and oversight of implementation of the vision and strategy of the Secretary-General on cross-cutting priority issues requiring a joined up, coherent United Nations effort involving multiple parts of the Organization.
The Deputy Secretary-General
• The functions of the Deputy Secretary-General will revert to those spelled out in General Assembly resolution 52/12B, with a special focus on sustainable development, including the management of the reform of the United Nations development system, financing for development, humanitarian-development nexus, climate change, migration, global health and related issues.
The Chef de Cabinet
• The functions of the Chef de Cabinet will include the management of the EOSG, overview of Secretariat management reform, interface with Member States, senior appointments, supervision of the Assistant Secretary-General for Strategic Coordination and the units that fall under his or her purview, supervision of the Special Adviser on Improving United Nations Response to Sexual Exploitation and Abuse, and chairing of the Management Committee.
Senior Adviser on Policy
• Support the Secretary-General in maintaining a holistic overview and strategic oversight of policy matters across all pillars of the work of the United Nations.
• Initiate and lead horizontal and vertical integration for system~wide coherence on conflict prevention policies, tools and operations.
• With the support of the Assistant Secretary-General for Strategic Coordination, monitor emerging global issues and brewing crises, analyzing their implications for the United Nations and advising the Secretary-General on appropriate options and responses.
• Ensure that relevant policy opportunities and challenges are identified and addressed in a timely manner.
• Ensure that fresh thinking and outside perspectives are introduced into the policy-making process, including through close links with the United Nations University and other United Nations and external research entities and by commissioning research where needed.
• Undertake ad hoc assignments as requested in support of specific policy priorities of the Secretary-General.
• Liaise closely with the Deputy Secretary-General and with the Assistant Secretary-General for Strategic Coordination to ensure that prevention and other priorities of the Secretary-General are integrated into key decision-making processes.
• Liaise closely with the Director of Strategic Communications and with the Spokesperson of the Secretary-General, assist in developing communication messages and strategies related to key policy initiatives. ·
Assistant Secretary-General for Strategic Coordination
• Reporting through the Chef de Cabinet and working closely with the line Departments, support the Secretary-General and the Deputy Secretary-General with analysis and advice across the political, peacekeeping, development, humanitarian, human rights and rule of law portfolios.
• Oversee and ensure strategic coordination, coherence and integrated information and analysis in the work of the Political, Peacekeeping, Humanitarian and Human Rights Unit (PU); the Strategic Planning and Monitoring Unit (SPMU); the Rule of Law Unit (RoLU); and the Sustainable Development Unit (SDU), which formally reports to the Deputy Secretary-General and collaborates closely with the Assistant Secretary-General.
The four units will function as the Strategic Coordination Team (SCT) under the oversight of the Assistant Secretary-General for the purposes of providing fully integrated information and analysis to support senior decision-making. The four teams will work closely together to provide fully integrated information and analysis to support senior decision-making.
• Provide the secretariat support for the newly-established Executive Committee (EC) as the primary decision-making forum of the Secretary-General, by maintaining a forward agenda that corresponds to the priorities of the Secretary-General, commissioning policy options from relevant United Nations entities, drawing on the UNOCC, overseeing consultations, providing substantive support, quality control and follow-up, liaising closely with the Senior Adviser on Policy.
• Chair the Deputies Committee (DC), which discusses the EC agenda towards agreement, for onward proposal for endorsement or further discussion and decision-making by the EC.
Strategic Planning and Monitoring Unit
• Reporting through the Assistant Secretary-General and the Chef de Cabinet, and working closely with the relevant line Departments and the Senior Adviser on Policy where appropriate, support the Secretary-General with priority-setting, forward planning, strategic analysis, enterprise risk management, and ensuring strategic direction in budget proposals and strategic 'planning frameworks.
• Coordinate the drafting of the Annual Report of the Secretary-General on the Work of the Organization.
• Coordinate the production of key strategic reports that cut across sectors and units.
• Prepare planning papers and monitor the work of the United Nations on key issues as requested.
• Support senior management in setting strategic priorities and direction for budget formulation and allocation of resources so as to ensure effective, efficient and strategic use of resources.
• Support the Secretary-General in designing and organizing senior management retreats and similar strategic planning meetings of the senior leadership.
• In close collaboration with Political Unit, support analysis and planning for United Nations conflict response efforts, with a particular focus on new and transitioning peace operations, by preparing strategic considerations and options on the basis of information and advice from the system; translating the guidance of the Secretary-General into strategic directives that set out overall parameters for potential United Nations engagement; ensuring that the strategic directives and relevant planning policies of the Secretary-General are adhered to across the lifetime of an operation; and enhancing integrated conflict analysis and planning capacity across the system.
Political, Peacekeeping, Humanitarian and Human Rights Unit
• Reporting through the Assistant Secretary-General and Chef de Cabinet, and working closely with the relevant line Departments, provide the Secretary-General with situational awareness, trend analysis and advice on emerging and ongoing issues of interest and concern across the political, peacekeeping, humanitarian and human rights portfolios;
• Support senior management decision-making on country situations and relevant thematic files.
• Ensure effective and coordinated United Nations system analysis, reporting and response on situations of interest and concern to the Secretary-General.
• Ensure high-quality and well-coordinated inputs to the public and private communications of the Secretary-General and diplomatic engagement with Member States and others.
• Ensure that human rights concerns are adequately reflected in the above work, including through continued mainstreaming of the Human Rights Up Front approach.
Sustainable Development Unit
• Reporting to the Deputy Secretary-General, and in close collaboration with the Assistant Secretary-General for Strategic Coordination, support the strategic engagement of the Secretary-General and Deputy Secretary-General on sustainable development, including financing for development, climate change, migration, global health and related issues.
• Support the Deputy Secretary-General in overseeing implementation of and continued global advocacy for the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the United Nations-supported Climate Action Agenda.
• Monitor progress in the follow up to United Nations summits and conferences and internationally-agreed development goals, particularly in the context of Africa and LDCs, the Addis Ababa Action Agenda, and the G-20.
• Follow major intergovernmental debates and meetings related to the development pillar, including in the United Nations General Assembly, ECOSOC and major conferences, and maintain substantive communication on development issues with different parts of the United Nations system, Member States, and other stakeholders including civil society.
• Serve as primary conduit for and honest broker vis-a-vis the United Nations development system to help relevant entities align their strategies and messages and to ensure that initiatives, policies and documents reflect the priorities of the Secretary-General.
• Sustain effective action on the global health agenda, including the new approach to cholera in Haiti.
• Follow up to the United Nations Summit for Refugees and Migrants including the intergovernmental process leading to an international conference on migration in 2018 and related initiatives.
Rule of Law Unit
• Reporting through the Assistant Secretary-General and the Chef de Cabinet, serve as the EOSG focal point for legal questions, the rule of law; counter-terrorism and prevention of violent extremism; international justice and accountability; organized crime and drugs.
• Develop system-wide strategies, policy direction, best practice materials and guidance for the Organization in promoting rule of law and maintain a repository of such material.
• Prepare the Annual report of the Secretary-General on Strengthening and coordinating United Nations rule of law activities.
• Support the intergovernmental dialogue on the rule of law.
• Enhance partnerships between the United Nations, Member States and the many other actors engaged in rule of law activities."
List of Posts
A list at the end of the memo notes the following posts as part of the EOSG:
USG Senior Adviser on Policy
ASG for Strategic Coordination
D 2 Director of PU (Political Unit)
D 2 Director of DU (Sustainable Development Unit)
D 2 Director of SPMU (Strategic Planning and Monitoring Unit)
D l Chief of Rule or Law Unit (RoLU)
D 2 Director of Strategic Communications
D 2 Director of Office/Management Reform
D 1 Chief of Senior Appointments
D l Chief of Management and Administration
D 1 Chief of Scheduling and Travel
D l Special Assistants (to SG, DSG, USG)
P 5 Senior Officers (Political Affairs, Development, etc.)
P4 Officers (Political Affairs, Development, etc.)
15 February 2017 – Secretary-General António Guterres is obviously finding it hard to accommodate competing demands for top UN posts from China, Russia and the other Permanent members of the Security Council. China wants the top Peacekeeping job that France has held for 20 years. Russia wants the top political post that the United States now holds.
Guterres signaled his quandary on 14 February by announcing the establishment of an internal review team that will recommend changes to the UN Secretariat peace and security strategy, functioning and architecture. The team will be headed by Tamrat Samuel of Eritrea, a veteran UN insider. The team is expected to report by June and its report will then be subject to consultations with member States.
Pending the completion of that process, the Secretary-General has extended by one year the current contracts of Jeffrey Feltman, as Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs, Oscar Fernandez-Taranco, as Assistant-Secretary-General for Peacebuilding Support, and Atul Khare, as Under-Secretary-General for Field Support.
Also, Jean-Pierre Lacroix, of France has been appointed for a one-year term to head the Department of Peacekeeping Operations, replacing his compatriot Hervé Ladsous.
Lacroix is currently the Director for the UN and International Organizations section of the French Foreign Ministry and will be hard to displace whatever the ultimate dispensation is at the Department of Peacekeeping Operations.
Another factor that must be taken into account is the interest formally expressed by the new United States Ambassador Nikki Haley in the reform of UN Peacekeeping. It is now an $8 Billion+ expense, outweighing the UN Regular budget by more than a third.
November 2016: According to a story published by the Russian website Sputnik, the Secretary-General designate Antonio Guterres could take as long as six months to appoint his own cabinet-level team. The story cited Russia's UN ambassador Vitaly Churkin and coincided with Guterres' meeting with Russian president Vladimir Putin.
Both Russia and China are said to have asked for prominent posts at UN Headquarters in New York in the Peace/Security area. At present a Chinese national heads the Department for Economic and Social Affairs; Beijing is rumored to want the post of Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Affairs that has been a "French post" since Kofi Annan's first term 20 years ago. No Russian holds a cabinet-level post in New York.
14 October 2016: The day after the General Assembly appointed Antonio Guterres of Portugal to be the 9th Secretary-General of the United Nations, he announced a five-member transition team to help prepare for his 1 January 2017 assumption of office. Three of its members have worked with Guterres at UNHCR, where he was High Commissioner until December 2015. The team leader is a longtime aide to Ban Ki Moon. The members of the team are:
Kyung-wha Kang (Republic of Korea), currently Assistant-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs, will be the team leader. She has served as Director General of International Relations at the ROK Foreign Ministry and as Deputy High Commissioner for Human Rights.
Melissa Fleming (USA), currently Head of Communications at UNHCR, will be Senior Adviser to Guterres and spokesperson for the transition team. She has previously worked for the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). The general expectation is that Fleming will replace Ban’s chief spokesman Stéphane Dujarric.
Michelle Gyles-McDonnough (Jamaica), currently UNDP Deputy Assistant Administrator and Deputy Regional Director Designate for Asia and the Pacific, will be Senior Adviser. She is a lawyer who has previously been adviser to the Secretary General of the Organization of American States (OAS).
João Madureira (Portugal), currently Minister Counsellor in the Permanent Mission of Portugal to the UN, will be a Senior Adviser.
Radhouane Nouicer (Tunisia), currently Regional Adviser for the Yemen Humanitarian Crisis, will be Senior Adviser. He served at UNHCR for over 18 years in the field and as Director of the Middle East and North Africa Bureau.
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26 December 2017: The following is an excerpt from a speech on "The United Nations and Current Threats to International Peace and Security," delivered by Secretary-General Antonio Guterres delivered at The Hague on 22 December.
"We are all aware that this is a moment of profound uncertainty and risk unparalleled in the post‑cold war period. Beyond the nuclear question, other threats to international peace and security are evolving rapidly and are increasingly transnational and interlinked. Climate change is moving faster than we are. Water scarcity is a growing concern. And his Majesty the King has played a very important role in relation to mobilizing the international community on addressing the water problems.
"Inequality is rising. Cybersecurity dangers are escalating, as some of the same advances in technology that have generated so many gains have also made it easier for extremists to communicate, broadcast distorted narratives of grievance, recruit followers and exploit people. The misuse of digital surveillance poses serious challenges to the free exercise of democratic rights and processes.
"Civil wars almost tripled in the decade between 2005 and 2015, including a sixfold increase in fatalities between 2011 and 2015. Civilians continue to bear the brunt of armed conflict, resulting in massive humanitarian needs. Today’s conflicts are increasingly exacerbated by transnational factors such as drug smuggling and human trafficking, and provide a source of income for armed groups.
"And we have also seen a rise in the internationalization and regionalization of conflicts, as in Syria, Libya and Yemen. When one looks today at the Middle East, we see a global Middle East crisis. It’s no longer only the Israel‑Palestinian question or the Syrian crisis or the Iraq crisis or the… all these things are interlinked. Both sides of the gulf in a very complex situation of conflict and a widespread threat moving from the Mediterranean to the Indian Ocean, and in ways that are totally unpredictable in relation to the near future. We don’t know where the next crisis will emerge, how serious it will be and how we will be able to face it.
"Europe itself is home to a number of unresolved protracted conflicts, and faces threats — such as violent extremism and human trafficking — linked to conflict dynamics beyond its borders. These developments are taking place within a polarized international community. Divisions in the Security Council and divergences with or within regional organizations constrain efforts at unified action. And we are also seeing a rise in nationalist, xenophobic and populist agendas, namely in the West. The integration of newcomers to the region remains a considerable challenge.
"Like the United Nations, European institutions are facing a drop in trust and have struggled to create political consensus and adapt their collective security tools. So, we have our work cut out for us. It is clear to me that in face of greater instability and volatility, we must work harder to prevent the crises that take such a high toll on humanity, undermine institutions, and reverse development progress.
"We must tackle the immediate grievances and root causes of conflict that divide societies and cause States and citizens to use violence and repression as a means of achieving their goals and resolving their differences. A prevention agenda may seem an ambitious project in a moment of global polarization and political flux. But fortunately, with the 2030 Agenda, we have a clear, credible and common road map in relation to development and many aspects that we can centre around development. Because the framework includes Goal 16, dedicated to “peace, justice and strong institutions”, governance is a central question in our concerns.
"For my part, upon taking office I initiated a wide‑ranging reform process to streamline United Nations management, align the United Nations development system with the 2030 Agenda, and strengthen the United Nations peace and security architecture. The latter involves a strong focus on early warning and early action to avoid crises, and peacebuilding in order to sustain peace. And I have also established a High-level Advisory Board on Mediation as part of a broader and necessary surge in diplomacy for peace. And this is particularly worrying when the, I would say, most relevant brand of the United Nations — that are the “Blue Helmets” — the peacekeeping missions face such a challenging environment in many contexts where there is simply no peace to keep.
"The question of the future of peace operations will now be submitted to a strategic review in which we hope the Netherlands will play a very important role. And we are extremely grateful for your continued commitment to peacekeeping, even in the very difficult situations where peacekeeping takes place. The presence of the Netherlands forces in Kidal [Mali] is the demonstration of that fact. This is something that must be at the centre of our discussions in the Security Council during the next year, and we count a lot on the Netherlands to help us do the necessary strategic reviews and reforms.
"The magnitude and complexity of global challenges are too immense for any country or organization to tackle alone. We need to do more to devise joint strategies and to draw on our comparative advantages. The United Nations is strongly committed to deepening our partnership with key regional partners like the European Union and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe. At the same time, and in relation to peace operations, our cooperation with the African Union is a key strategic objective that we are already fully implementing in the context of the enhanced platform of cooperation between the two organizations.
"Together, we must spread a common message of tolerance and present an alternative vision to the xenophobic agendas that fuel conflict and the animosity in the region and around the world. Prevention is urgent. And I look forward to hearing your thoughts on how, together, we can spread the message and the practice of peace. "
19 September 2017: I am here in a spirit of gratitude and humility for the trust you have placed in me to serve the world’s peoples.
“We the peoples”, and the United Nations, face grave challenges.
Our world is in trouble. People are hurting and angry. They see insecurity rising, inequality growing, conflict spreading and climate changing. The global economy is increasingly integrated, but our sense of global community may be disintegrating. Societies are fragmented. Political discourse is polarized. Trust within and among countries is being driven down by those who demonize and divide. We are a world in pieces. We need to be a world at peace.
And I strongly believe that, together, we can build peace. We can restore trust and create a better world for all.
I will focus today on seven threats and tests that stand in our way. For each, the dangers are all too clear. Yet for each, if we act as truly united nations, we can find answers.
First, the nuclear peril. The use of nuclear weapons should be unthinkable. Even the threat of their use can never be condoned. But today global anxieties about nuclear weapons are at the highest level since the end of the Cold War. The fear is not abstract. Millions of people live under a shadow of dread cast by the provocative nuclear and missile tests of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. Within the DPRK itself, such tests do nothing to ease the plight of those who are suffering hunger and severe violations of their human rights.
I condemn those tests unequivocally. I call on the DPRK and all Member States to comply fully with Security Council resolutions.
Last week’s unanimous adoption of resolution 2375 tightens sanctions and sends a clear message regarding the country’s international obligations. I appeal to the Council to maintain its unity. Only that unity can lead to the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula and -- as the resolution recognizes -- create an opportunity for diplomatic engagement to resolve the crisis. When tensions rise, so does the chance of miscalculation. Fiery talk can lead to fatal misunderstandings. The solution must be political. This is a time for statesmanship.
We must not sleepwalk our way into war.
More broadly, all countries must show greater commitment to the universal goal of a world without nuclear weapons. The nuclear-weapon states have a special responsibility to lead. Today, proliferation is creating unimaginable danger, and disarmament is paralyzed.
There is an urgent need to prevent proliferation, to promote disarmament and to preserve gains made in these directions. These goals are linked. Progress on one will generate progress on the other.
Let me turn to the global threat of terrorism.
Nothing justifies terrorism -- no cause, no grievance.
Terrorism continues to take a rising toll of death and devastation.
It is destroying societies, destabilizing regions and diverting energy from more productive pursuits.
National and multilateral counter-terrorism efforts have indeed disrupted networks, reclaimed territory, prevented attacks and saved lives.
But we need to intensify this work. Stronger international cooperation remains crucial against terrorism.
I am grateful to the General Assembly for approving one of my first reform initiatives: the establishment of the UN Office on Counter-Terrorism.
Next year, I intend to convene the first-ever gathering of heads of counter-terrorism agencies of Member States to forge a new International Counter-Terrorism Partnership.
But it is not enough to fight terrorists on the battlefield or to deny them funds.
We must do more to address the roots of radicalization, including real and perceived injustices and high levels of unemployment and grievance among young people.
Political, religious and community leaders have a duty to stand up against hatred and serve as models of tolerance and moderation.
Together, we need to make full use of UN instruments, and expand our efforts to support survivors.
Experience has also shown that harsh crackdowns and heavy-handed approaches are counterproductive.
As soon as we believe that violations of human rights and democratic freedoms are necessary to win the fight, we might have lost the war.
Third, unresolved conflicts and systematic violations of international humanitarian law.
We are all shocked by the dramatic escalation of sectarian tensions in Myanmar’s Rakhine State. A vicious cycle of persecution, discrimination, radicalization and violent repression has led more than 400,000 desperate people to flee, putting regional stability at risk.
I take note of State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi’s address today – and her intention to implement the recommendations of the Advisory Commission on Rakhine State that was chaired by Kofi Annan within the shortest time possible.
Let me emphasize again: The authorities in Myanmar must end the military operations, allow unhindered humanitarian access and recognize the right of refugees to return in safety and dignity. They must also address the grievances of the Rohingya, whose status has been left unresolved for far too long.
No one is winning today’s wars.
From Syria to Yemen, from South Sudan to the Sahel, Afghanistan and elsewhere, only political solutions can bring peace.
We should have no illusions. We will not be able to eradicate terrorism if we do not resolve the conflicts that are creating the disorder within which violent extremists flourish.
Last week I announced the creation of a High-Level Advisory Board on Mediation. Those eminent individuals will allow us to be more effective in brokering peace around the world.
The United Nations is forging closer partnerships with key regional organizations such as the African Union, the European Union, the League of Arab States and the Organization of Islamic Cooperation.
We continue to strengthen and modernize peacekeeping – protecting civilians and saving lives around the world.
And since taking office, I have sought to bring together the parties to conflict, as well as those that have influence on them.
As a meaningful example, I am particularly hopeful about tomorrow’s meeting on Libya.
Last month, I visited Israel and Palestine. We must not let today’s stagnation in the peace process lead to tomorrow’s escalation. We must restore the hopes of the people. The two-state solution remains the only way forward. It must be pursued urgently.
But I must be frank: in too many cases, the warring parties believe war is the answer.
They may speak of a willingness to compromise.
But their actions too often betray a thirst for outright military victory, at any cost.
Violations of international humanitarian law are rampant, and impunity prevails.
Civilians are paying the highest price, with women and girls facing systematic violence and oppression.
I have seen in my country, and in my years at the United Nations, that it is possible to move from war to peace, and from dictatorship to democracy. Let us push ahead with a surge in diplomacy today and a leap in conflict prevention for tomorrow.
Fourth, climate change puts our hopes in jeopardy.
Last year was the hottest ever. The past decade has been the hottest on record.
Average global temperature keeps climbing, glaciers are receding and permafrost is declining.
Millions of people and trillions of assets are at risk from rising seas and other climate disruptions.
The number of natural disasters has quadrupled since 1970.
The United States, followed by China, India, the Philippines and Indonesia, have experienced the most disasters since 1995 – more than 1,600, or once every five days.
I stand in solidarity with the people of the Caribbean and the United States who have just suffered through Hurricane Irma, the longest-lasting Category 5 storm ever recorded. And Maria is already on its way.
We should not link any single weather event with climate change. But scientists are clear that such extreme weather is precisely what their models predict will be the new normal of a warming world.
We have had to update our language to describe what is happening: we now talk of mega-hurricanes, superstorms and rain bombs.
It is time to get off the path of suicidal emissions. We know enough today to act. The science is unassailable.
I urge Governments to implement the historic Paris Agreement with ever greater ambition.
I commend those cities that are setting bold targets.
I welcome the initiatives of the thousands of private enterprises – including major oil and gas companies – that are betting on a clean, green future.
Energy markets tell us that green business is good business.
The falling cost of renewables is one of the most encouraging stories on the planet today.
So is the growing evidence that economies can grow as emissions go down.
New markets, more jobs, opportunities to generate trillions in economic output.
The facts are clear. Solutions are staring us in the face. Leadership needs to catch up.
Cinquièmement, les inégalités croissantes minent les fondements de la société et le contrat social.
L’intégration des économies mondiales, l’expansion du commerce et les avancées technologiques spectaculaires ont apporté des bienfaits remarquables.
Plus de personnes se sont extirpées de la pauvreté extrême que jamais auparavant. La classe moyenne mondiale est aussi plus importante que jamais. Davantage de personnes vivent plus longtemps et en meilleure santé.
Mais les progrès ne sont pas équitables.
Nous voyons des disparités criantes dans les revenus, l’égalité des chances et l’accès aux résultats de la recherche et de l’innovation.
Huit hommes représentent autant de richesse mondiale que la moitié de l’ensemble de l’humanité.
Des régions, des pays et des communautés entiers restent loin des vagues de progrès et de croissance, livrés à eux-mêmes dans les « Rust Belts » de notre monde.
Cette exclusion a un prix : frustration, aliénation, instabilité.
Mais nous avons un plan visant à changer de cap – pour parvenir à une mondialisation équitable.
Ce plan est le Programme 2030.
La moitié de notre monde est de sexe féminin.
La moitié de notre monde a moins de 25 ans.
Nous ne pouvons pas atteindre les objectifs de développement durable sans tirer parti du pouvoir des femmes et nous appuyer sur l’énorme énergie des jeunes.
Nous savons à quelle vitesse peut s’opérer la transformation de nos jours.
Nous savons qu'avec une richesse et des actifs mondiaux équivalent à des milliards, nous ne sommes pas en manque de financements.
Trouvons la sagesse d’utiliser les outils, les plans et les ressources déjà entre nos mains pour parvenir à un développement durable et bénéfique à tous – un objectif en soi mais aussi notre meilleur instrument de prévention des conflits.
Le côté obscur de l’innovation est la sixième menace que nous devons affronter et il est passé de la frontière à la porte d’entrée.
La technologie continuera d’être au cœur des progrès partagés. Mais l’innovation, aussi essentielle soit-elle pour l’humanité, peut avoir des conséquences imprévues.
Les menaces liées à la cybersécurité s’accentuent.
La guerre cybernétique devient de moins en moins une réalité cachée. Elle est de plus en plus capable de perturber les relations entre États et de détruire certaines des structures et des systèmes de la vie moderne.
Les progrès dans le cyberespace peuvent certes autonomiser les personnes, mais ce qu’on appelle le « Dark Web » montre que certains utilisent ce potentiel pour nuire et asservir.
L’intelligence artificielle est une nouvelle donnée qui peut stimuler le développement et améliorer les conditions de vie de façon spectaculaire. Mais elle peut aussi avoir un effet dramatique sur les marchés du travail et, en fait, sur la société mondiale et sur le tissu social même.
Le génie génétique est passé des pages de la science-fiction au marché – mais il a engendré de nouveaux dilemmes éthiques non résolus.
À moins qu’elles ne soient traitées de manière responsable, ces avancées pourraient causer des dommages incalculables.
Los Gobiernos y las organizaciones internacionales sencillamente no están preparados para esta nueva situación.
Las formas tradicionales de regulación simplemente ya no son válidas.
Está claro que este tipo de tendencias y capacidades exige una nueva generación de pensamiento estratégico, de reflexión ética y de regulación.
Las Naciones Unidas están dispuestas a ser un foro en el que los Estados Miembros, la sociedad civil, las empresas y el mundo académico puedan reunirse y hablar sobre el camino a seguir, en beneficio de todos.
Finally, I want to talk about human mobility, which I do not perceive as a threat even if some do. I see it as a challenge that, if properly managed, can help bring the world together.
Let us be clear: we do not only face a refugee crisis; we also face a crisis of solidarity.
Every country has the right to control its own borders. But that must be done in a way that protects the rights of people on the move.
Instead of closed doors and open hostility, we need to re-establish the integrity of the refugee protection regime and the simple decency of human compassion. With a truly global sharing of responsibility, the number of refugees we face can be managed.
But too many states have not risen to the moment.
I commend those countries that have shown admirable hospitality to millions of forcibly displaced people. We need to do more to support them.
We also need to do more to face the challenges of migration. The truth is that the majority of migrants move in a well-ordered fashion, making positive contributions to their host countries and homelands.
It is when migrants move in unregulated ways that the risks become clear – risks for states but most especially risks for migrants themselves exposed to perilous journeys.
Migration has always been with us.
Climate change, demographics, instability, growing inequalities, and aspirations for a better life, as well as unmet needs in labour markets, mean it is here to stay.
The answer is effective international cooperation in managing migration to ensure that its benefits are most widely distributed, and that the human rights of all concerned are properly protected.
From my experience, I can assure you that most people prefer to realize their aspirations at home.
We must work together; development cooperation must be oriented in such a way to make sure that they can do so.
Migration should be an option, not a necessity.
We also need a much stronger commitment of the international community to crack down on human traffickers, and to protect their victims.
But let us be clear, we will not end the tragedies on the Mediterranean, the Andaman Sea and elsewhere without creating more opportunities for regular migration. This will benefit migrants and countries alike.
I myself am a migrant, as are many of you in this room. But no one expected me to risk my life on a leaky boat or to cross a desert in the back of a truck to find employment outside my country of birth.
Safe migration cannot be limited to the global elite.
Refugees, internally displaced persons and migrants are not the problem; the problem lies in conflict, persecution and hopeless poverty.
I have been pained to see the way refugees and migrants have been stereotyped and scapegoated – and to see political figures stoke resentment in search of electoral gain.
In today’s world, all societies are becoming multicultural, multiethnic and multi-religious.
This diversity must be seen as a richness, not as a threat. But to make diversity a success, we need to invest in social cohesion, so that all people feel that their identities are respected and that they have a stake in the community as a whole.
We need to reform our world, and I am committed to reforming the United Nations.
Together, we have embarked on a comprehensive reform effort:
-- to build a UN development system to support States in bettering peoples’ lives;
-- to reinforce our ability to safeguard people’s peace, security and human rights;
-- and to embrace management practices that advance those goals instead of hindering them.
We have launched a new victims-centered approach to preventing sexual exploitation and abuse.
We have a roadmap to achieve gender parity at the United Nations – and we are already on our way.
We are here to serve: to relieve the suffering of “we the peoples”; and to help fulfill their dreams. We come from different corners of the world. Our cultures, religions and traditions vary widely – and, I would say, wonderfully. At times, there are competing interests among us. At others, there is even open conflict. That is exactly why we need the United Nations. That is exactly why multilateralism is more important than ever. We call ourselves the international community. We must act as one, because only together, as united nations, can we fulfil the promise of the Charter and advance human dignity for all. Thank you. Shokran. Xie Xie. Merci. Spasibo. Gracias. Obrigado.
27 July 2017: A global town hall convened yesterday by Secretary-General Antonio Guterres to reassure UN staff about his stewardship of the Organization proved roundly counterproductive. If anything, his performance made it clear they should buckle their seatbelts.
The red lights began to flash with Mr. Guterres' opening statement in which he declared dislike of reform and preference for being "in the field" where he thought the real work of the Organization was done.
His view of the United Nations as "a field-based Organization" was based on the fact that "two-thirds of [UN] staff are in the field." That is a massive misinterpretation, for the disproportionate field presence merely reflects the UN's consistent failure to maintain international peace and security that has made peacekeeping such a large and staple activity.
Reform Issues Seen as Logistical
Several other assertions reflected a similar lack of cognizance. One was his belief that the primary problems to be addressed by reforms were managerial and logistical. He enumerated them as over-centralized management, slow program delivery, structural fragmentation, weak performance, ineffective implementation and lack of transparency.
There was no mention of the Organization's precarious political predicament during a period of global economic, social and technological change. A murky reference to the visit to Moscow of Under-Secretary-General Shiv Khare for "negotiations" might have have been a reference to Mr. Guterres' current predicament -(see 21 July story below) but it is difficult to say.
Lack of Trust
One political concern Mr. Guterres did mention as meriting attention under the rubric of reform was the "lack of trust" of Member States in UN Management. He did so without noting its genesis or significance. The problem is rooted in the traditional unresponsiveness of UN brass to the concerns of developing countries which constitute the preponderant majority of UN membership.
Under his predecessor and on his own watch, the phenomenon has been most blatant in the UN's disregard for the linked issues of terrorism, drug trafficking and money laundering that are of high concern to developing countries. Just last week the Secretary-General's benchmark report on the implementation of the 2030 Agenda omitted all mention of those issues despite the fact that Goal 16 requires it.
Failure to See Basic Realities
Mr. Guterres signalled his incognizance of basic UN realities in a number of ways. Why couldn't the UN budget process be annual as in "every country," he asked; the Organization's biennial cycle is to accommodate the unsynchronized budgetary appropriations processes of 193 Member States.
Another eyebrow raiser was his declaration that some peacekeeping forces should be replaced with peace enforcement action under Chapter VII of the Charter. The problem with that suggestion, of course, is that the conflicts involve the interests of permanent members of the Security Council.
Perhaps the most conclusive indication that the UN now has a leader quite out of his depth was the Secretary-General's placid mention of the mess of a report he has submitted to ECOSOC on UN reform.
As for staff participation in the Global Town Hall, it reflected a general anxiety about salaries, pensions and incompetent management. The final staff participant, ostensibly chosen at random from the New York audience, made a point that anyone who has worked for the UN would endorse: that accountability cannot exist in a system that does not hold individual managers responsible for their actions.
30 May 2017: The following are excerpts from a speech on Climate Action by Secretary-General Antonio Guterres at New York University today:
My grandfather was born in 1875. He could not have imagined the world we live in today. Now I have three grand-daughters of my own – the oldest is eight. I cannot imagine the world they will inhabit decades from now, when they will be my age. But not knowing is no excuse for not acting to ensure that we do not undermine their future. I want my grandchildren to inherit a healthy world, free of conflict and suffering -- and a healthy planet, rooted in low-carbon sustainable solutions.
The world is in a mess. Countries and communities everywhere are facing pressures that are being exacerbated by mega-trends like population growth, rapid and many times chaotic urbanization, food insecurity, water scarcity, massive movements of population and migration… the list can go on and on. But one overriding megatrend is far and away at the top of that list – climate change. Climate change is a direct threat in itself and a multiplier of many other threats -- from poverty to displacement to conflict.
The Reality of Climate Change
Let’s start with the reality of climate change today. The science is beyond doubt. The world’s top scientists have been shouting it from the rooftops. “Human influence on the climate system is clear. The more we disrupt our climate, the more we risk severe, pervasive and irreversible impacts.” Last year was once again the hottest on record. The past decade has also been the hottest on record. Every geo-physical system on which we depend is being affected, from mountains to oceans, from icecaps to forests, and across all the arable lands that provide our food. Sea ice is at a historic low; sea levels are at a historic high, threatening the existence of low-lying island nations and cities.
On land, glaciers are retreating almost everywhere – a risk to the breadbaskets of the world as rivers fed by glaciers run dry. Soon the famous snows of Kilimanjaro will exist only in stories. Here in the United States, only 26 of Glacier National Park’s glaciers remain. When it was made a Park in 1910, there were around 150. I hope you will never have to rename it “no-Glacier National Park”! Further north, we see an unfolding crisis of epic proportions. The ice caps in the Arctic Ocean are shrinking dramatically. Some even predict that the Arctic Ocean could be ice-free by the summer of 2020.
That would be catastrophic for Arctic wildlife. It would be a death-blow to the ways of life of indigenous peoples. And it would be a disaster for the world. Why? Because ice reflects sunlight. Dark water much less. That means warming will accelerate.
Frozen tundra will thaw earlier and freeze later, releasing vast amounts of methane into the atmosphere. Methane is a far more potent greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide. This will mean more ice melting from the Greenland ice cap. It could alter the Gulf Stream and affect food production, water security and weather patterns from Canada to India.
We are already seeing massive floods, more extreme tornadoes, failed monsoons and fiercer hurricanes and typhoons. But slow-motion disasters are also speeding up. Areas where drought once struck every decade are now seeing cycles of five or even two years between droughts. Moreover, dry spells are lasting longer, from California to the Sahel.
Moral Imperative for Action
The moral imperative for action is clear. The people hit first and worst by climate change are the poor, the vulnerable and the marginalized. Women and girls will suffer as they are always the most disproportionately affected by disasters. The nations that will face the most profound consequences are the least responsible for climate change and the least equipped to deal with it. Droughts and floods around the world mean poverty will worsen, famines will spread and people will die.
As regions become unlivable, more and more people will be forced to move from degraded lands to cities and to other nations. We see this already across North Africa and the Middle East. That is why there is also a compelling security case for climate action. Around the world, military strategists view climate change as a threat to global peace and security. We are all aware of the political turmoil and societal tensions that have been generated by the mass movement of refugees. Imagine how many people are poised to become climate-displaced when their lands become unlivable.
Last year, more than 24 million people in 118 countries and territories were displaced by natural disasters. That is three times as many as were displaced by conflict. Climate change is also a menace to jobs, to property and to business. With wildfires, floods and other extreme weather events becoming more common, the economic costs are soaring. The insurance industry raised the alarm long ago. They have been joined by many others across the business community. They know that the time has come for transformation.
The Paris Agreement
This is why governments adopted the Paris Agreement in 2015, with a pledge to limit global temperature rise to well below 2 degrees Celsius and as close as possible to 1.5 degrees. It is worth taking a moment to step back and reflect on the unity that was forged in Paris.
There has been nothing like it in terms of enabling the global community to work on an issue together that none of us can solve on our own. As of today, 147 Parties representing more than 82 per cent of greenhouse gas emissions have ratified the Paris Agreement.
Every month, more countries are translating their Paris pledges into national climate action plans. It is reason to build ever broader coalitions – with civil society and business, with cities and states, with academia and community leaders. Indeed, all around the world, cities, regions, states and territories are setting their own ambitious targets. Thousands of private corporations, including major oil and gas companies, are taking their own action. They know that green business is good business.
It is not just the right thing to do, it is the smart thing to do. Some may seek to portray the response to climate change as a fundamental threat to the economy. Yet what we are witnessing in these early years of a systemic response is the opposite. We are seeing new industries. New markets. Healthier environments. More jobs. Less dependency on global supply chains of fossil fuels.
Last year, solar power grew 50 per cent, with China and the United States in the lead. Around the world, over half of the new power generation capacity now comes from renewables.
In Europe, the figure is more than 90 per cent. The falling cost of renewables is one of the most encouraging stories on the planet today. In the United States and China, new renewable energy jobs now outstrip those created in the oil and gas industries.
China aims to increase its renewable energy by about 40 per cent by 2020. Major oil producers are also seeing the future and diversifying their economies. Even Saudi Arabia announced plans to install 700 megawatts of solar and wind power.
And industry experts predict India’s solar capacity will double this year to 18 gigawatts. The International Energy Agency has indicated that investing in energy efficiency could increase global economic output by $18 trillion dollars -- more than the outputs of the United States, Canada and Mexico combined.
Future spending on energy infrastructure alone could total some $37 trillion dollars. Science is speaking to us very clearly about what is happening. Innovation is showing us very clearly what can be done.
If we want to protect forests and life on land, safeguard our oceans, create massive economic opportunities, prevent even more massive losses and improve the health and well-being of people and the planet, we have one simple option staring us in the face: Climate action.
As Secretary-General, I am committed to mobilize the world to meet this challenge. I will do so in at least five concrete ways.
First, I will intensify high-level political engagement to raise the bar on climate action. The Paris pledges are historic but still do not go nearly far enough to limit temperature rise to well below 2 degrees and as close as possible to 1.5 degrees. Commitments so far could still see temperatures rise by 3 degrees or more. So we must do our utmost to increase ambition and action until we can bend the emissions curve and slow down global warming. Most immediately, I will also press for ratification of the Kigali Amendment to the Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer. Next week’s Ocean Conference at United Nations Headquarters is yet another opportunity to build momentum.
Second, I will rally the full capacity of the United Nations development system behind climate action and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, especially at the country-level. Because that is where true change will be achieved. As we support Member States, I will continue to emphasize the urgency of empowering the world’s women and girls. There can be no successful response to a changing climate without also changing mind-sets about the key role of women in tackling climate change and building the future we want.
Third, I will use the convening power of the United Nations to work with Governments and all major actors, such as the coal, oil and gas industries, to accelerate the necessary energy transition. Eighty per cent of the world’s energy still comes from fossil fuels – oil, gas and coal. We cannot phase out fossil fuels overnight. We have to engage the energy industry and governments to use fossil fuels as cleanly, sparingly and responsibly as possible, while transforming our energy systems. I will work with all actors to promote a global energy transition, the greening of investments in infrastructure and transport, and progress on carbon pricing. More and more politicians, policy makers and business actors are calling for a carbon price as the green economy’s missing link.
Putting a price on carbon at a global scale could unleash innovation and provide the incentives that industries and consumers need to make sustainable choices.
Fourth, I will work with countries to mobilize national and international resources to support mitigation, adaptation, resilience and the implementation of their national climate action plans. And I will focus on strengthening resilience of the small island states against the existential threat that climate change poses to them. I will encourage developed countries to fulfil the pledges they have made to support developing countries – including for the Green Climate Fund. As a matter of global solidarity, the international community must also help developing countries increase their capacity to generate their own resources and to gain access to capital markets. The international financial institutions have a key role to play to help deliver innovative financing that matches the enormous needs.
Fifth, I will encourage new and strengthened partnerships for implementing the Paris Agreement through North-South, South-South and triangular cooperation. We need to harness the enormous potential of these partnerships. In all these areas, I will use every possible opportunity to persuade, prod and push for progress. I will count on the vital forces of civil society to do the same. Looking further ahead, I also intend to convene a dedicated climate summit in 2019 to make sure we reach the critical first review of Paris implementation with the strong wind of a green economy at our backs.
16 May 2017: "In order for the participating countries along the Belt and Road to fully benefit from the potential of enhanced connectivity, it is crucial to strengthen the links between the Initiative and the Sustainable Development Goals," Secretary-General Antonio Guterres told an international gathering in Beijing. "As projects under the initiative unfold, let us work together to uphold international environmental and social standards, and to ensure that the benefits reach beyond cities into rural areas."
He added, "With the initiative expected to generate vast investments in infrastructure, let us seize the moment to help countries make the transition to clean-energy, low-carbon pathways -- instead of locking in unsustainable practices for decades to come."
Neither SDGs nor inclusive development is a prominent part of China's One Belt One Road (OBOR) initiative, which has geopolitics and trade as its primary focal points.
The Secretary-General also reminded affluent nations that development aid continued to be necessary. "As the Belt and Road attracts public and private funding, let us recognize that countries will still need official development assistance," he said; "I urge donors to fulfil their long-standing commitments, namely the Addis Ababa Plan of Action. And just as the initiative opens new corridors for goods, let us also keep open the channels for dialogue, so that any possible tensions among the countries touched by this undertaking can give way to mutual benefit."
In a tactful but effective way, Mr. Guterres managed to pack the OBOR agenda with the critical developmental concerns of the United Nations.
11 May 2017: Secretary-General Antonio Guterres held a joint press conference at the London Somalia Conference with British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson and Somali president Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed Farmajo. The following is the full text of the message from the Spokesman's office to the Press. (See our comment at the end.)
"Thank you very much first of all, to the Government of the United Kingdom, to Boris Johnson, for having had the initiative of this conference, and to the President of Somalia for having created the political conditions that allowed it to happen.
"And this conference was an unmitigated success. This conference has created the conditions for an opportunity to materialize. An opportunity that we cannot miss. An opportunity to take Somalia out of decades of conflict, of poverty, and of terrible suffering from Somali people. An opportunity to defeat terrorism and to establish peace. An opportunity to allow for the build up of national Somali institutions and lay the foundations of a normal economic and social development process.
"And this opportunity is possible because we have in Somalia a President of the Government that has a strategy and a plan of action that makes sense and deserves the support of the international community. But now, for the opportunity not to missed, the international community needs to come together and to massively support Somalia.
"First of all, responding to the appeals to increase humanitarian aid, to be able to face the dramatic challenge of food and security and disease in the country.
"Second, to fully support the Government in the build up of national institutions in particular, as it was mentioned by the Foreign Secretary, the national army and the national police force that need to be built in a coordinated way and under the strategy of the Somali Government.
"The international community needs also to be able - in between, before those national institutions are able to fully protect the Somali people - the international community must give strong and predictable, financial and equipment supports to AMISOM, to the Mission of the African Union, which with enormous sacrifice and enormous courage has been fighting [Al-] Shabaab, in very dramatic circumstances, but creating the conditions that allow this conference and this opportunity to take place.
"AMISOM deserves a much stronger support and a much more predictable support from the international community.
"And finally, it is very important for us all to be able to support the new National Development Plan of Somalia - to create the conditions for it to be possible - through all the instruments of development cooperation, including with the necessary technical mechanisms to be put in place and the guarantees of sustainability, including an effective process of debt relief.
"If the international community is able to respond to the challenge, I’m sure that this opportunity will not be missed and I’m sure that Somalia will be the success story we need in our troubled world.
Question about the training of the national army and police force of Somalia.
"Secretary-General: I think that what we have witnessed until now in Somalia is an effort by different countries, training different groups, in different parts of the country, with different doctrines. And that is a recipe for disaster, it’s not a recipe to form a true national army and a true national police force.
"What I think is important in this conference is the recognition that there must be a coordinated effort in which training takes place, in close articulation with the strategy of the Government, and the Government plan, in order to build one army, with one doctrine, and with the links and the forms of cohesion that an army needs to have in order to be able to fight with success an insurgency or any terrorist group.
"Now, that takes time, it is true. And that is why we believe it is necessary, in between, to go on supporting AMISOM. But not only with a ‘business as usual’ approach: I do believe we need to make sure that support is given in a more effective and predictable way, and to also create the conditions for AMISOM, together with the Somali forces, to be able in the near future to take the appropriate offensive actions that are necessary to reduce Al-Shabaab’s influence, namely in the south of the country.
"So, the two things go together: at the same time, support AMISOM until conditions are met for AMISOM to go down and build up national institutions, army and police force, but in a coordinated and effective way, and not with different kinds of actions in different places that will not lead to the creation of the institutions the country needs.
It is mystifying to receive this when the people who sent it presumably are the same ones that denied me UN Press accreditation, cut off my access to UN Web TV and took me off the list of the daily UN Documents distribution.
The content of the message is equally intriguing. Somalia has been on the international agenda since the days of the "Cold War" (when it was a vicious tyranny allied to Moscow). It has been a UN responsibility for over three decades, a place considered high risk for UN International staff to even visit for much of that time.
During that period the European Union's various mafias have used the seas off Somalia as a dumping ground for toxic waste and other criminal elements have run profitable piracy and gun-running businesses.
It is good that Mr. Guterres wants to unify training of the Somali national army, but the current arrangements are not from choice. The factions and tribes that have made the country ungovernable -- with considerable help from the criminal elements noted above -- have to be brought together first before they can be forged into an instrument of national control and policy. Perhaps the Europeans have decided to make that possible. If so, it is good news and worthy of a shout or two from the UN roof top. But it remains to be seen if that has happened. Impossible to tell from the excerpt of the Press Conference.
19 February 2017: In a wide-ranging talk to the annual gathering of the world's top security officials at Munich, Secretary-General Antonio Guterres repeatedly referred to "fragile States," the multiplication of conflicts, their inter-relationship and "root causes" without once mentioning drug trafficking, money laundering and their role in shaping the disastrous terrorist conflicts ravaging the world. There was no mention of the multi-trillion dollar illicit drain of funds from developing countries, a problem the African Group, and more recently the Group of 77 has specifically asked him to address. The only reference to illicit drain of resources was in answer to a question from the audience.
The inter-linkages he did mention were those between the "global mega-trends" of "climate change, population growth, urbanization, many times chaotic urbanization, food insecurity, water scarcity, massive movements of people." He pointed to "dramatic consequences, namely the competition for resources, increasing the probability of conflicts to take place and generating dramatic humanitarian situations."
The avoidance of the truth about the international situation was particularly vivid when he noted that the wealth of the eight richest men in the world equaled that of the poorest half of humanity. That comparison by the British charity OXFAM neatly directs attention away from those who run the global black market with its command center in London's financial district. The illicit flow of funds from developing countries is estimated at over $7 trillion in just the first decade of the 21st Century. For details see here.
The following is the full transcript of the speech on 18 February, along with his answers to questions from the audience. Key issues are highlighted in red.
Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen, it is indeed a great pleasure for me to be back in Munich now in this new capacity.
We live in a dangerous world. We are witnessing a multiplication of new conflicts, old conflicts seem never to die – be it in Afghanistan or Somalia – and these conflicts are becoming more and more interlinked and linked to a new threat of global terrorism. If one looks from Nigeria to Mali to Libya, Israel-Palestine, Syria, Somalia, Yemen, Afghanistan, it is clear that all these crises are connected to each other. Fighters moving from one place to another and sometimes going back to countries of origin, namely here in Germany, representing a huge threat to our common global security.
Now, many of these conflicts were borne of the fragility of states. In the beginning, they were internal conflicts, sometimes asymmetric, normally with huge violations of international humanitarian law and huge suffering, displacement of populations, but then other states become involved – either as parties to the conflict or supporters of the parties to the conflict. They internationalize, [become] interlinked, more strongly, and the truth is that they have been developing in a world where power relations became unclear.
I lived the Cold War, the bipolar world. I lived as Prime Minister [during] the period of a unipolar world. Now, yet we are not in a multipolar world, we are in a kind of chaotic situation, probably leading to a multipolar world. But in these chaotic situations with unclear power relations, impunity and unpredictability have been the name of the game. And it is in this context that I believe that we need and, I’ve said it several times, a surge in diplomacy for peace. Members States will have to assume the leading role, but I presume the Secretary-General of the United Nations can, using his good offices, be an added value in that surge, acting as a catalyst, sometimes a convener, but always as a bridge-builder and an honest broker. And trying to make countries understand, especially those that are involved as parties to a conflict or as supporters of the parties to a conflict, that independently of their differences, their contradictions, their different perspectives, the truth is that the danger for them and the danger for us all, let’s say Syria, for instance not only the suffering of the Syrian people, not only the destabilization of the region, Iraq, refugees in Jordan and Lebanon – but the threat feeding global terrorism, the threat to us all is such and the threat to the countries involved is such that I believe the intelligent thing to is to come together and put an end to this kind of conflict.
It will not be easy. We will also need a lot of preventive diplomacy, a lot of efforts in mediation, and we especially need to have a strategy to address the root causes of these kinds of conflicts in the world.
There are things that are obvious: the alignment of the sustainable and inclusive development with the sustaining peace agenda. It is clear that development is an important element in the prevention of conflicts, especially if it is inclusive and sustainable.
It is clear that we need to address the fragility of states and to support states, institutions, civil societies, to become stronger, more resilient that will help diminish the tendency for states to be involved in conflict situations.
It is also very important to understand the linkages with what I would call today’s global mega-trends. If one looks at climate change, population growth, urbanization, many times chaotic urbanization, food insecurity, water scarcity, massive movements of people – all of these trends are becoming also more and more interlinked, enhancing each other, strengthening each other, and there have been dramatic consequences, namely the competition for resources, increasing the probability of conflicts to take place and generating dramatic humanitarian situations.
And I would say climate change and population growth are probably the two key elements. And in climate change, the commitment of the international community to stick to the Paris Agreement and to be more ambitious than the Paris Agreement was and to make sure that we stay the course in regard to it is absolutely essential. And I would say on population growth that new attention needs to be focused on that, especially in Africa. And for me, a key condition to address it is the combination of education and the empowerment of women and girls. This is probably the best way to be able to address the problems of excessive population growth that is impacting dramatically in some parts of the world.
At the same time, it is important to recognize that the asymmetric effects of globalization are also contributing to these problems of global peace and security. Globalization has been an incredible generator of wealth, of prosperity, improving living conditions mostly everywhere in the world, decreasing absolute poverty quite substantially.
But globalization had its losers. Globalization – it was asymmetric, as I said – and there is, in some parts of the world, in several communities, the feeling that they were left behind, that nobody was taking care of them, and this has generated with the increase of inequalities.
Fortune has just published that the eight richest persons in the worldhave a wealth that is similar to the wealth of half of the poorest part of the world’s population. And, of course, too excessive of inequalities are also an generator of instability and unrest. And all of this has undermined the confidence between peoples and public opinion and their political establishments, and also the confidence in relation to international organizations.
We see huge pockets of youth unemployment, and I believe that is probably the biggest threat in relation to our global security. There is nothing worse than a young man or woman [who has] graduation from university, not having chance to find a job, not having any hope, nothing worse than this situation and nothing better for the recruitment of violent extremist organizations or of terrorist organizations.
And at the same time, this lack of confidence between peoples and their political establishments is something that needs to be looked at, not as blaming the people, but as trying to understand the reasons and trying to figure out why these rust belts of this world are generating a huge change in the geography of politics. Understanding the people, understanding their concerns, their anxieties and fears, and caring for them, and trying to find solutions for them is absolutely essential to re-establish the confidence between political establishments and populations.
The philosopher that has more influenced my political life has been Habermas, and for Habermas, one of his contributions to thinking is that one of the key elements of a modern democracy is the permanent interflow of communication between political societies and civil societies, and the fact that that flow of communication has an impact on the political decisions and an impact on the change of that action that might be necessary in political decisions, independently of the electoral moment of the electoral periods.
Now, the challenge for us is: how do we get into this interflow of communication in a digital era? With the new information and communication technologies, in a world in which everything goes at enormous speed, but we absolutely need to preserve the capacity of countries, of governments, of institutions, to have long-term strategies, to have visions for the future. And one of the worst worrying symptoms of today’s difficulties in the world is that there are so few countries that show the capacity to present a long-term strategy in relation to their own objectives.
So, in this context of a lack of confidence of people in relation to their own institutions, there is also a lack of confidence of people in relation to multilateral institutions. And when one needs to respond to global challenges, more and more global capacity, more and more multilateral instruments, the truth is that for the EU [European Union], for the UN, for other organizations, we also feel that lack of confidence. And the only responsive reform – we need to deeply reform our international institutions in order to be able to meet the expectations of the peoples of this world.
In the case of the UN, we are engaging in three areas of reform.
First, the peace and security strategy, operational setup, and architecture. We are investing essentially in peacekeeping- we need to be able to shift more and more resources to prevention and peace-building. On the other hand, the operational setup in peacekeeping takes place in countries where there is no peace to keep, and there is, I think, a solid debate that needs to be engaged on about this puzzle – robust peacekeeping, peace enforcement, counter-terrorism. How can these things be linked in operational setups around the world and how can we ensure that way that we operate is effective and meets the requirement of populations and the protection of populations? And how can we use partnerships with other entities, taking profit of our competitive advantages – the EU, the AU [African Union], other organizations around the world?
And finally, the structures: our structures are also dysfunctional in the UN in relation to the capacity to manage the peace continuum from prevention to conflict resolution to peacekeeping to peacebuilding and to long-term development.
The second area of reform: the UN development system. We are too fragmented. We need coordination and accountability and we need to make sure that independent capacity of evaluation is established to measure not only our agencies’ performance according to our mandates, but how they perform in relation to contribution to our global goals that were fixed in the summits of last year, in climate change and in the Sustainable Development Goals.
And then, management reform. The rules and regulations of the UN have been made – if there was a conspiracy to make sure that we would not be able to operate, that conspiracy would lead exactly to the rules we have. And we need to engage with Member States to make them understand that it is not [by] micromanaging the Organization that we are going to be effective and cost-effective – that we need to have flexibility, that we need to have simplifications of procedures, to have decentralization of decisions, to have, again, transparency and accountability in order to be able to deliver.
Allow me a last observation as we are here in this Munich conference.
We have a situation in which we are completely obsessed with the crises of today and with the need to respond to them. But I think that we need to also consider that the problems of peace and security in the future will have new dimensions for which we need to be prepared.
Today, cyberspace is already a major concern for us all. Let’s be clear: we lack the multilateral instruments to address the problems of cyberspace. But we have artificial intelligence, genetic engineering, that are there, enormous progress in the private sector, enormous potential for a generation of well-being for mankind – or for man and women-kind. But at the same time, huge risks in many dimensions – in security dimensions, but also in ethical dimensions. And there is a lack of knowledge in government, in international organizations, about what these new areas represent, the private sector being clearly ahead with scientific and technological breakthroughs that really are changing the nature of relations in our world. To develop a capacity of analysis, of discussion, and to be able to think about models of governance for these new areas of scientific and technological development that will be essential in our lives in ten years’ time, is absolutely crucial. I believe that when people will meet herein 10 or 20 years’ time in Munich, we will probably be discussing other things in relation to the priorities of today, but I hope we don’t get to those discussions too late and [having done] too little.
Q: [On Syria]
SG: I think peace is only possible when none of the parties to the conflict think they can win. I’m not sure we are yet there in Syria. I’m afraid that some might still think, and I think it’s a total illusion, that they might win that war, so I’m not optimistic about the short-term solution for the Syria crisis.
But I believe the effort should be to convince those that are relevant to the parties to the conflict – and we have the United States, Russia, we have Turkey, we have Saudi Arabia, we have Qatar, we have Jordan, we have a number of countries – and, too, some of these countries have been directly involved, either in the conflict or in supporting the parties to the conflict, and to convince each of these countries that the Syria conflict has become a terrible threat for them – not only for us all, but for them – and that it s in their best interest to stop the conflict independently of the different perspectives that they have about the conflict is, I think, absolutely necessary, and I believe that we are not yet there.
And so I think it is essential to put on track the political process. I hope that Geneva will be possible. It was very important to have in Astana a ceasefire, but the political process is essential. And also, I think it’s important to say that there is no way we can defeat Daesh if we don’t find a political, inclusive solution for Syria and for Iraq.
The idea that we can fight terrorism and let populations feel marginalized – not represented, angry – is, in my opinion an illusion. To defeat terrorism, it is necessary to fight terrorists on the ground, but it is necessary to eliminate the situations that allow for them to easily recruit new people and to replace those that are eventually killed in anti-terrorist action. And one of the things we will be doing in our UN reform, and I hope to have the General Assembly’s support for that, is to reform the UN counter-terrorism structure and to make sure that we are much more effective in support to Member States in this regard. The UN is not going to fight terrorism on the ground, but we have 38 organizations in the UN dealing with counter-terrorism and, as you can imagine, this is not the right way to do it. So we are going to present to the General Assembly a project of reform to bring things more effectively together and to establish more effective mechanisms of coordination and command.
Q: [On the proposal for Salam Fayyad to serve as the Secretary-General’s Special Representative in Libya]
SG: As I said several times, I think it was a serious mistake. I think that Mr. Fayyad was the right person in the right place at the right time, and I think that those who will lose will be the Libyan people and the Libyan peace process. And I believe that it is essential for everybody to understand that people serving the UN are serving in their personal capacities. They don’t represent a country or a government – they are citizens of the world representing the UN Charter and abiding by the UN Charter.
Q: [On the role of market economies and development aid in the eradication of poverty]
SG: I think, for the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals, we have to combine a number of instruments. For me, the most important instrument is to support countries to generate their own resources, and that has to do with tax reform. It also has to do with the capacity to create environments for investment to be attracted, and it also has to do with our capacity to work together, to fight against tax evasion collectively, to fight against illicit financial flows and money laundering, to support countries in their effort for themselves to reform their tax systems and to make the environment more friendly to business.
On the other hand, development aid is also essential. It is a relatively small part of the total, but it is also essential. In many countries, there is no other way. We have situations of fragility in the world in which it is obvious that the private sector will not be coming so soon because of the extreme fragility of those situations, and there, development aid is an absolute must. But then we have to empower the international financial institutions to leverage more resources and to facilitate access to capital markets and to private sector investment, so it’s combining all these instruments that we’ll be able to eradicate poverty.
But let’s not forget one thing. The biggest contribution for the dramatic reduction of poverty in the last decades was China. We can discuss whether China is or is not a market economy, but we should not forget that China, from the statistical point of view, we really had a fantastic improvement in the [reduction of the] number of absolute poor, but that extraordinary result comes largely from the Chinese contribution.