Press Conference by Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon at United Nations Headquarters

14 December 2009
Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Press Conference by Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon at United Nations Headquarters

Following is a transcript of UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s press conference held in New York today, 14 December 2009:

Good morning, ladies and gentlemen.

It is a great pleasure to meet you in Conference Room 4.  I understand that Room 226 is going to be renovated.  I hope you will bear with this inconvenience for better facilities, better conditions.  Again, I am pleased to have this press conference, for the first time together with my new Spokesperson, Mr. Martin Nesirky.  You have already been working with him for two weeks.  I am sure that you will continue to work with him very closely, with the responsibilities as a Spokesperson.  I hope you will work with him amicably and harmoniously.  Thank you very much.

As you know, I am on my way to Copenhagen this afternoon.  But I wanted to come here before I get on the plane.

Ever since taking office, almost three years ago, you have heard me speak on climate change as the defining challenge of our era.

At every stop, at every turn, I have stressed that climate change is the leading political and economic issue of our time.

Now is the moment to act.

In Copenhagen, decades of effort will come down to this one critical week.

Seldom in history has a choice been so clear.  We can move towards a future of sustainable green growth, or we can continue down the road to ruin.

We can act on climate change now, or we can leave it to our children and grandchildren a debt that can never be paid.  It will threaten the future of our planet and its people.

Today, I appeal to all the world’s leaders who will join us in Copenhagen -- some 115 heads of State and Government -- to do what this moment requires.

I call on the world’s leaders to lead.

Time is running out.  There is no time left for posturing or blaming.  Every country must do its part to seal a deal in Copenhagen.

I appeal, especially, to the negotiators working together at this very moment.

I appeal to them to redouble their efforts, to find the room for compromise, to make a final push in this final stretch.

If everything is left to leaders to resolve at the last minute, we risk having a weak deal -- or no deal at all.  And this would be a failure of potentially catastrophic consequence.

As we leave for Copenhagen, I am confident.

In recent weeks, we have seen new and unprecedented political momentum.

Every week has brought new commitments -- from industrialized countries, emerging economies and developing countries.

In common purpose and shared resolve, Governments are moving towards our common goal: to lay a foundation for a robust, fair and comprehensive agreement that can be turned into a legally binding climate treaty as early as possible in 2010.

Lately, there have been efforts to derail this progress.

Some have tried to claim that the science is unconfirmed.

They are wrong.  The science is clear and settled.  Climate change is real, we are the primary cause, and it is up to us -- here and now -- to deal with it.

Yes, the negotiations are difficult and complex.

Indeed, they are among the most ambitious ever to be undertaken by the world community.

But they are necessary.

Greenhouse gases continue to rise.  Climate impacts are escalating.  Nature does not negotiate.

In Copenhagen, we must summon the moral and political will to act in a spirit of compromise and common sense.

In recent weeks, I have consulted closely with developed and developing countries alike, seeking to build bridges, to strengthen trust, to encourage Governments to forge a global deal for the global good.

In recent days, especially, I have been closely following developments in Copenhagen.

As I say, we always knew these negotiations would be difficult.  We are seeing strong passions and hard bargaining.

But we also see tangible progress on core issues of technology cooperation and financing.  We have reached substantial agreement on “fast track” funding for mitigation and adaptation.

Looking ahead, we need greater clarity on a robust finance package for the middle and longer term.  It is essential that we leave Copenhagen with a clear understanding of how we will meet the financing challenge through 2020.

We must also recognize that Copenhagen is only a beginning.  Ultimately, success will be measured by our progress on the ground.

That is why, in Copenhagen, I will attend to some practical matters of implementing an agreement.

Recently, World Bank President Robert Zoellick and I sent a joint letter to an interested group of Heads of State and Government proposing how the UN system and the World Bank will work together to implement an agreement on deforestation and related issues.  We will follow up in Copenhagen.

I will also launch the report of my advisory group on energy and climate change.  The decisions we make on our energy future will have far-reaching implications for climate change and development.

Finally, I am pleased to announce that I will appoint Nobel Peace Prize winner Wangari Maathai as a Messenger for Peace on climate change issues.  That ceremony will take place tomorrow afternoon in Copenhagen.  Professor Maathai’s long record of achievement in environmental conservation and sustainable development makes her an excellent choice.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

As we depart for Copenhagen, I am confident that a fair deal is within our reach, a deal that can be embraced by all nations, large and small, rich and poor.

Let me close by noting that two UN personnel from the African Union-United Nations mission in Darfur (UNAMID), abducted in August, were freed yesterday after more than 100 days in captivity.

I appreciate the efforts of the Government of Sudan and others on their behalf, and reiterate that the primary responsibility for the safety and security of all humanitarian and peacekeeping personnel lies with the host Government.

Thank you and I will be happy to receive your questions.

Question:  Mr. Secretary-General, on behalf of United Nations Correspondents Association, welcome and good luck to your trip to Copenhagen.  But, as of today, there is still a risk of the collapse of the summit.  How can you characterize success for the UN at the end of the week in Copenhagen?

Secretary-General:  I do not agree with the characterization of this process [as a] “collapse”.  We’re still in the process of negotiation.  As I said, negotiation is very tough and difficult and complex.  We knew that this would be very difficult.  However, I am reasonably optimistic that we will come out of Copenhagen with a deal that is fair, comprehensive, equitable, and will be politically binding; which will immediately turn into negotiations for a legally binding treaty.  This agreement, which will be reached in Copenhagen, will have immediate operational effect, including the short-term funding facilities to be provided to developing countries from 2010, next year.

Question:  Mr. Secretary-General, I don’t know whether this is going to be your last press conference of the year, but I think it might be here for us.  I wonder, three years into your tenure as Secretary-General, what you would see as your major accomplishments, going outside of climate change, which we’re all hoping -- of course, I know, you’re hoping -- to be a major success before the end of the year?  What do you see as the biggest challenges ahead and are you planning to make any changes in your leadership team going into the last two years of this term?

Secretary-General:  Many important agendas are still ongoing.  It’s quite difficult at this time to clearly [say] where we stand, and how we have achieved in all major issues.  As you know very well, this climate change negotiation is still going on.  We are reaching to all [on the] very crucial, important timing of negotiations at this time.  We still have many regional conflict issues which have not yet been resolved.  Next year in that regard will be crucially important.  Therefore, in addition to climate change, for a legally binding treaty process, I’ll do more on development issues, together by holding a Millennium Development [Goals] summit meeting in September next year, which will involve many issues under it, which we need to take stock during the last 10 years and look ahead to the 5 years remaining until 2015.  I’m going to pay more focus on this.  And also, I will do more on African challenges.  How we can bring peace and stability in Sudan, particularly in Darfur.  And there will be many important elections to be held in Côte d’Ivoire; we’re going to have very important elections in Iraq and in Myanmar.

And there will be an issue -- next year, I will pay again more priority on how the United Nations can lead the world community’s aspirations to see gender equality and empowerment, with the establishment of a coherent gender entity.  I’m working very hard and I’m going to propose my proposal to the General Assembly for their consideration next year.  All these include some of my priorities.

Looking back three years, of course, with the strong support of the Member States and international community and many humanitarian workers, the United Nations has been able to lead many important issues, in addressing food security issues, and in addressing many difficult challenges in humanitarian issues.  But still we need to do more.  There are still 1 billion people who are suffering from abject poverty and hunger.  Those all require me to feel always humble in addressing all these issues.  Therefore, let me continue to work as hard and as much as I can with your strong support.  It’s a bit early for me to characterize where, how, what achievements I have made.

Question:  Mr. Secretary-General, the Executive Director of the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), Antonio Maria Costa, said that during this financial crisis, drug money often became the only available capital, and inter-bank loans were funded by money that originated from the drug trade and other illicit activities.  How do you see this in the context of the UN’s work?  What can the UN do to stop this, because the financial markets are accepting dirty money?  Thanks.

Secretary-General:  I have read that report, and UNODC, under the leadership of Mr. Costa, has been leading the campaign to stop the illegal trafficking of drugs and illegal money.  That will continue.  However, for that specific question you raised, I will have to get more detailed information from UNODC.  We can get back to you later on this.

Question:  Mr. Secretary-General, it’s been almost a year since you stood in the burning rubble of Gaza and expressed your shock at the situation there and called for accountability.  According to John Ging at the time, and many people, you really gave hope to the people of Gaza.  But that hope seems to be dying.  We all know that the Security Council is not going to take up the Goldstone Report; the members have said as much.  But what about the Board of Inquiry that you requested?  What about the $11 million in reparations from Israel?  What happened to accountability?

Secretary-General:  The situation in Gaza, particularly the humanitarian situation suffered by the Palestinian people, is a source of great concern still.  I have been working very hard with the Israeli leadership, starting from Prime Minister [Benjamin] Netanyahu and his predecessor, former Prime Minister [Ehud] Olmert.  It’s regrettable that we have not been able to make much progress.  I will continue to do that.  And the peace process in the Middle East has been almost stalled.  As you know, last month, I had a teleconference with the Quartet principals.  We shared all this assessment about how the international community, particularly the Quartet, should do more in making this peace process [stay] on track.  This will be one of my top priority issues which I will carry on.

As for the compensation in the amount of around $11 million, I have been again pushing very hard.  I understand that the Israeli Government has been considering this matter with special emphasis on this issue.  I hope they will make a decision as soon as possible.  And I will continue to press the Israeli Government to agree on my proposal to have humanitarian projects, to build hospitals and sanitation facilities and schools, which are badly needed by the Palestinian people and particularly children there.  But this all has been linked with a certain release of kidnapped Corporal [Gilad] Shalit, and other prisoners.  I hope that this process will also make progress.  And in that regard, I continue to support the Egyptian Government in their ongoing efforts to promote the unity of the Palestinian people.  Through the unity of the Palestinian people, and through the international community’s continuing support, we hope to see this resumption of the peace process going on.  Thank you very much.

Question:  Mr. Secretary-General, the Chairman of the Benazir Bhutto Commission said recently that he will ask you to extend the mandate of the mission, which expires at the end of this year.  Have you done that?  And also, in Pakistan, where you had lowered the profile of the United Nations after the attacks on the World Food Programme (WFP), what do you intend to do?  Do you want to -- I mean, I’m sure you want to continue to interact with the Pakistanis at this point in time?

Secretary-General:  Yes, I have received an official request from Ambassador [Heraldo] Muñoz, who is the Chairman of this inquiry Commission, extending [it] for another three months, because of limited time.  They need more time to continue their investigation.  I think this is reasonable.  And I am positively considering extending it for another three months.  As for United Nations activities in Pakistan, because of these very serious security concerns after the killing of five WFP staff, we have been considering what would be the best way for the United Nations to continue our humanitarian support to the Pakistani people without much impact on the part of the United Nations.  And I have discussed with President [Asif Ali] Zardari, and we discussed among ourselves, and we are now taking some temporary measures of relocating some of our staff.  But our basic commitment, our basic activities will continue, without much being affected.

Question:  Mr. Secretary-General, on climate change, as you know, there has been some progress on cooperation in technology and financing.  But the two sides are still fairly far apart in Copenhagen.  What specific proposals are you taking to try and bridge the differences on issues like the insufficiency of money that the Group of 77 is talking about?  The small island States are saying that the temperature is too high, they want to bring it down to 1.5° Celsius.  Can you tell us some of the specific ideas that you’re bringing there to try and make the deal work?

Secretary-General:  First of all, I would like to help you to understand the nature of this negotiation.  It is the Member States who negotiate, who propose certain ideas in all the aspects of four elements.  The United Nations provides a forum.  And I as Secretary-General try to facilitate ongoing negotiations, try to bridge the gap among groups of countries or among the proposals.  That is why I’ve been meeting, individually and collectively, a wide range of Member States to help bridge the gap between the developing and the developed countries.

There is clearly a gap between the two groups -- a gap in the trust.  There is almost a convergence of strong support among Member States for fast track, short-term funding facilities, in the order of $10 billion.  I think that is first of all a good start to bridge the gap between the two groups.  But of course, there is concern expressed from the developing countries that that may not be sufficient enough.  That is why, as I have just said in my opening remarks, that Member States should leave Copenhagen with a clear idea and more clarity.  What would be the way for a mid and longer term, and bigger, larger financial support package up to 2020 and beyond -- that would be more important in bridging the gap.  Therefore, I’m going to urge them to agree on an initial formulation of this longer-term financial support and also the magnitude of financial support up to 2020.  Now, this $10 billion, annually up to 2020, is short-term funding to fill the gap before we have this legally binding treaty as soon as possible next year.

I understand, through my consultations with many Member States, that they are in agreement and understanding this approach.  That was confirmed in the joint consensus declaration which was adopted in the Commonwealth Summit meeting a couple of weeks ago in Trinidad and Tobago.  But as this is a very complicated and difficult negotiation process, we will have to meet again with many leaders.  I’m going to meet with together [Danish] Prime Minister [Lars Løkke] Rasmussen, first of all, African Group leaders, the leaders of the Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS) and also leaders from the least developed countries.  Through these meetings, we can first of all bridge the gap of understandings and positions among the countries, and we’ll be able to have a deal sealed -- to seal a deal in Copenhagen.

Question:  Thank you, Secretary-General.  I am coming back to the Middle East.  My questions is do you have any update on Ghajar?  And the second thing is there was a vote in Lebanon last week.  They approved the national unity Government that would allow Hizbullah to keep its weapons, which would seem to defy UN resolutions 1701 (2006) and 1559 (2004).  How do you think the United Nations will deal with the new Government, and with this specific issue?

Secretary-General:  On the first part of your question, on the withdrawal of Israeli troops from Ghajar, recently there have been discussions actively between UNIFIL [United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon] and my Special Representative on the one side, and on the other hand, the Israeli authorities.  I sincerely hope that we will be able to have an early agreement.  I am not in a position to tell you exactly where we stand, but negotiations and discussions have been actively going on, on this matter.

On the decision -- I was gratified to learn that the national unity Government cabinet has adopted this ministerial statement, and they confirmed their adherence to Security Council resolution 1701 (2006).  That is very important as their national Government policy.  I am going to have a bilateral meeting with Prime Minister [Saad] Hariri in Copenhagen, and we will discuss all the matters pertaining to peace and stability in Lebanon and beyond.  Thank you very much.

Question: Mr. Secretary-General, Human Rights Watch has come out with a report alleging that 1,400 civilians have been killed by Congolese or Rwandan troops and by rebels in the eastern Congo, as a result of Kimia II, and it said that you should immediately stop and suspend MONUC’s cooperation with Kimia II, because you risk, the UN risks, becoming complicit in crimes against humanity in eastern Congo.  My question to you is will you suspend MONUC’s cooperation with Kimia II until you can receive assurances that they are not supporting potential crimes against humanity?

Secretary-General:  Our Mission in DRC, MONUC, continues to give the highest priority to the protection of civilians, which is something I strongly value.  We have always acted in accordance with the mandate provided by the Security Council.  Consequently, MONUC and DPKO [the Department for Peacekeeping Operations] requested advice from the Office of Legal Affairs and, according to that, we have suspended with certain units of the FARDC -- the Congolese national Armed Forces -- when we have sufficient grounds that their military operations would be against international humanitarian law and international human rights law.  This is what I can tell you.  We will continue to work keeping in mind the highest priority is protecting the civilian population in military operations.  Unfortunately, the Kimia II operation has been proved to be where many civilian casualties have happened, and that is why we have immediately suspended our military operations and cooperation with some parts of the Congolese national forces.  As you know, the mandate of MONUC is to help the Congolese Armed Forces, but I made it, and we made it, quite clear that whenever there [are] grounds for violation of the human rights situation, then we will suspend these military operations.

Question:  So you don’t think the situation is serious enough for a blanket suspension, only where you detected the likelihood of crimes against humanity being committed?

Secretary-General:  There is an overall important mission that MONUC has to carry out in accordance with the Security Council mandate to preserve peace and security and to protect the civilian population.  I am not sure whether it is desirable to suspend the whole peacekeeping operation there.  That is what the Security Council has to decide, in closely following the situation, as well as assessing the situation there.

Question:  Can you comment on the detention by Thailand on Friday of a five-man cargo crew with weapons from North Korea, which they said was oil-drilling equipment, I think -- this coming a month after a UN sanctions report saying North Korea was violating sanctions by selling weapons all over the world.

And I know you are in the building 22 hours a day working, but you are also, I think, an avid golfer.  What is your reaction, are you disappointed that the world’s most famous athlete has withdrawn from playing golf at this time professionally?

Secretary-General:  I saw the reports.  I sincerely hope that as the Thai authorities are now investigating they will soon report to the Security Council on the detailed information on that.  Until such time, I am not in a position to make any comment on this, but you should know that I am very closely monitoring the situation.  These are very serious issues, which all Member States of the United Nations should fully cooperate with Security Council resolution 1874 (2009).

Question: Your views on Tiger Woods?  [laughter]

Secretary-General: I do not have any comment on that.  I do not know whether the Secretary-General has anything to do with that kind of personal, private matter.

Question:  On Aminatou Haider, did you propose to Morocco any specific steps to find a solution?  And also, would you join the High Commissioner for Human Rights’ call to respect her right for her to return to her country?

Secretary-General:  As you know, I had talked with the Foreign Minister of Spain, as well as the Foreign Minister of Morocco the other day on this issue.  I believe that this really requires that the United Nations needs to do more on political negotiations.  I am going to discuss with my Personal Envoy, Christopher Ross, to expedite this political process.  I raised this humanitarian situation of Ms. Aminatou Haider, and I have asked them to take special consideration on that issue.  I hope the Foreign Minister of Morocco will discuss this matter within their countries to play a positive and favourable consideration on this issue.  At the same time, I will also continue to promote these political negotiations on the Western Sahara issue.

Question:  Should Aminatou Haidar go back to Western Sahara?  Is this what you asked the Moroccan Foreign Minister for?

Secretary-General:  My concern is for her health.  She has been staging this hunger strike for, by this time, 25 or 26 days, and I am told that her health situation is deteriorating.  I expressed my very serious concern about her health.  On humanitarian grounds, they should take all possible measures.  In that regard, I have offered my willingness to take all necessary measures agreeable to the Moroccan side.

Question:  Mr. Secretary-General, on Afghanistan, with the dispatch of 30,000 American troops to Afghanistan, the conflict there is set to escalate into a full scale war.  Since the United Nations has already cut back its operations in Afghanistan because of the security situation, what role, if any, will the UN Mission play when the country is engulfed in an all out war?  And secondly, Sir, any replacement for Mr. [Kai] Eide?

Secretary-General:  As you are aware, I have welcomed President [Barack] Obama’s decision to send more troops to Afghanistan, and I also welcomed his policy to balance between military and civilian cooperation there.  I know that the US Government is increasing their efforts in economic and social cooperation.  The United Nations will also continue to play an important role in helping them in their social and economic development and also in the democratization process.  We have been increasing our offices in Kabul -- the provincial and subprovincial offices.  This year we increased by two more offices.  Now the total number of UN offices throughout Afghanistan is 20.  Next year we will try to increase our offices to all the provinces of Afghanistan.

I am going to participate in the international conference on Afghanistan, which will be held in London on 28 January.  I am sure that that will be a very important occasion where the Government of Afghanistan, led by President [Hamid] Karzai, will reaffirm its commitment to enhance good governance, and to strengthen their compact with their people and to establish a good relationship with the international community by gaining the confidence and trust of the international community.

On the successor for Mr. Kai Eide, he has asked me to identify his successor, so I am now in the process of looking for a good candidate.  It may take some time before I can finally nominate a candidate.

Question:   Mr. Secretary-General, it is a question about Madame Haider again.  You said you hoped the Moroccan Government takes full consideration.  What does it mean?  Can you specify more about that?  Do you want for Madame Haider to come back to Morocco, to Western Sahara?

Secretary-General:  I am not going to discuss all that I discussed with [Foreign] Minister [Taïb Fassi] Fihri of Morocco.  First of all we need to find a way where Ms. Aminatou Haider could stop her hunger strike, and how to accommodate the situation.  This has many complex considerations.  That is why, while I tried to address this issue, on this particular hunger strike issue, at the same time we need to see the broader political issues.  Because of these stalled negotiations on the Western Sahara issue, we need to promote further expedited progress in the negotiations.  The fifth round of negotiations should start as soon as possible.  But we need to create some political confidence among the parties concerned.  Mr. Christopher Ross has been travelling and working very hard.  The recent consultation which was held in Vienna last August was quite an encouraging one.  So we will try to build on that.

Question:  On Western Sahara, Mr. Secretary-General, you know there are many people in the camps in Tindouf, and no one knows how many are there and who are there.  According to Mr. [António] Guterres when he was in the region lately, Algeria and the Polisario refused that their people be [in a] census.  Is there anything, Mr. Secretary-General, you can do to see a census taken in this area?  Thank you.

Secretary-General:  Again, while I am deeply concerned about the situation of refugees in that area, this issue should be addressed in a broader context through negotiations.  That is the best way at this time.  But I am also working hard to address this particular hunger strike issue, so that we can address all these issues -- health conditions, and humanitarian conditions, all these issues.

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For information media • not an official record
For information media. Not an official record.