Press Conference by Secretary-General António Guterres at United Nations Headquarters
Following is a transcript of UN Secretary-General António Guterres’ press conference, held in New York today:
Today I briefed the General Assembly on what I see as I scan today’s global landscape. I did not pull any punches. It’s not a pretty picture. I see a five-alarm global fire.
You heard the speech. I won’t repeat it.
The essence of my message is simply this: we don’t have the luxury to just catalogue our challenges. We must do something about them — and we can do something about them. So, my message was stark — because that is the state of our world. But it was also hopeful.
The problems we face were created by humanity. That means humanity can solve them. But solving them requires solidarity. Solidarity is a part of human nature. But egoism is also part of human nature. When egoism wins, everyone loses.
I put the spotlight on the most vulnerable because those with the least are the most forgotten. But these tests have a direct impact on the lives of everyone.
And they are not isolated challenges. Each of the alarms is feeding off the others. They are accelerants to an inferno. Inequity and injustice in tackling the pandemic. A global economic system rigged against the poor. Insufficient action on the existential climate threat. A wild west digital frontier that profits from division.
Those social and economic fires are creating unrest and conflict we see around the world. Not just in places plagued with daily bombs and bullets. But everywhere. And all of them are fuelling mistrust in our world. When people start losing trust in institutions, they also lose faith in the values that underlie them.
In every corner of the world, we see this erosion of core values — equality; justice; cooperation; dialogue; mutual respect. Let me be blunt: I fear the emergence of what I would call the twilight of shared values. Injustice, inequality, mistrust, racism and discrimination are casting dark shadows across every society. Wherever you are, just look out the window.
We must restore human dignity and human decency. We must prevent the death of truth and we must make lying wrong again.
For an organization built in the aftermath of World War, in the wake of unprecedented genocide, we have an obligation to speak up and act to put out the fire.
That was my call today.
Thank you very much and I am naturally at your disposal for some questions.
Stéphane Dujarric, Spokesman for the Secretary-General: Great. Before we start, just a couple of housekeeping notes. We have two interpreters. If the Secretary-General answers in Spanish or French, there will be interpretation.
My usual plea: one question per person, please. And if you’re asking a question online, please turn on your camera.
But Valeria, on behalf of UNCA, please go ahead.
Secretary-General: I can also answer in Portuguese.
Spokesman: In Portuguese, as well, yeah. [laughter]
Question: I’ll wait for the day you will answer in Italian too, SG. [laughter]
No. Thank you so much for this press conference on behalf of UNCA, and Happy New Year. My question is on Yemen. So, in the last days, we have seen the Houthi attack on Abu Dhabi, the arrival of mercenaries in the Saudi-led Coalition and the last air strike today. The escalation is very fast, with a heavy price to pay for the civilians in terms of casualties. So, how can the escalation be stopped? And what are the next steps that you are planning to take? Thank you so much.
Secretary-General: First of all, the attack on Abu Dhabi is an escalation that is regrettable and, in my opinion, is a serious mistake, independently of the fact that it is unacceptable.
Now, any bombardment that targets civilians or that is not careful enough to protect civilians is, of course, also unacceptable.
What we need is to stop this vicious circle in which things get escalating one after the other. What we need is to have, as we have been proposing from long ago, a ceasefire, together with the opening of harbour and airports, and then the beginning of a serious dialogue among the parties. This escalation needs to stop.
Spokesman: Thank you. James Bays, Al Jazeera.
Question: Secretary-General, you talk about a five-alarm fire, but things could get much worse. I know you’ve said recently that you don’t think that Russia will invade Ukraine, but other people, including President [Joseph] Biden, think it will.
So, what is your message to President [Vladimir] Putin if he’s thinking of an invasion?
And to be clear, would that be an act of aggression and a breach of international law?
Secretary-General: Well, it is clear that my message is that there should not be any military intervention in this context. I think that diplomacy is the way to solve problems.
Of course, any invasion by one country to another country is against international law, and I hope that this, of course, will not happen in the present circumstances. I am convinced it will not happen, and I strongly hope to be right.
Spokesman: Thank you. Philippe Rater, AFP.
Question: Merci, Stéphane. M. Guterres, je suis là. Ma question est sur le Mali. Vous avez parlé il y a deux jours avec le dirigeant du Mali. Est-ce qu’il vous a promis des élections pour bientôt? Et est-ce que vous avez parlé de la présence de Wagner, qui pourrait compliquer les opérations de la MINUSMA sur le terrain?
Secretary-General: Premièrement, je n’ai pas eu aucune promesse, et mon objectif n’était pas d’obtenir la solution du problème. C’était de créer des conditions pour permettre un dialogue qui puisse mener à une situation où un calendrier acceptable soit proposé par le gouvernement malien.
Le Colonel [Assimi] Goïta m’a dit qu’il attendait une délégation technique de l’ECOWAS (CEDEAO). J’ai transmis ce message au Président de l’ECOWAS (CEDEAO), Président Akufo-Addo. Il y a eu une décision, comme vous avez vu, du Conseil de Paix et de Sécurité de l’Union africaine, qui a approuvé les sanctions qui ont été mises en place. Je crois que maintenant, il faut absolument créer les conditions qui puissent permettre un dialogue qui mène à un calendrier acceptable, parce que, naturellement, le Mali nécessite la légitimité d’un gouvernement démocratique le plus tôt possible.
Question: Et sur Wagner?
Secretary-General: Sur Wagner? Naturellement, nous n’avons pas eu jusqu’à présent aucune rencontre avec Wagner. C’est une décision souveraine du gouvernement du Mali d’avoir une coopération avec une organisation comme celle-là. La seule chose que nous voulons, c’est que ça ne crée aucune difficulté à ce que nous voulons, et ce que nous voulons, c’est une coopération effective entre la MINUSMA et l’armée malienne. Et ce que nous voulons, c’est, naturellement aussi, le respect des droits de l’homme et du droit humanitaire international.
Question: Thank you very much, Mr. Secretary-General. Here at the back. Betul Yuruk, Turkish News Agency. My question… my question will be on Afghanistan. Recently, you said that babies were being sold to feed their siblings, and we’re also seeing that young girls, as young as 12, are being sold for marriage.
And recently, Human Rights Chief Michelle Bachelet talked about women rights in Afghanistan. She said they were being threatened, fleeing the country and being forced to hide, not to be killed.
Do you think the Taliban have kept their promises to protect women’s rights and girls’ rights?
And do you plan to pick up the phone and talk to the Taliban yourself?
And if I may… if I may, I want to ask a different question. In your second term, do you plan to do things differently in your second term? Because you have been criticized earlier in your first term that you were doing diplomacy behind the curtains, behind the closed doors, and also sometimes not being outspoken. And do you plan to do things differently in your second term? Thank you very much.
Secretary-General: Well, first of all, it is clear that we have in Afghanistan a serious situation of violations of human rights, and it is clear that our objective in relation, namely to the rights of women and children, the possibility… women and girls, the possibility of all women to work, the possibility of all girls to have access to secondary school and higher grades, this is not yet met.
There has been some progress. For instance, the UN female staff members are authorized to work, and we know some situations where young girls have access to school. But clearly, these are localized examples. There are a few entities of the Government where women also are authorized to work, but again, there are very few.
And we have been in constant advocacy with the Taliban to say that it is absolutely essential for them in the context of their objective of recognition but also in the context of their objective of getting international support for their own people, it is absolutely essential to have full respect for the rights of women and girls and to have a positive approach to human rights in general. So, this is something we have been telling clearly, publicly and in our discussions with them.
But I would like to make a note on this. Humanitarian aid and the need to avoid a collapse in Afghanistan is something… the economic collapse in Afghanistan is something that we have been fighting for, because the people of Afghanistan [are] in an absolute desperate situation, and it would be a mistake to submit the people of Afghanistan to a collective punishment just because the de facto authorities are not behaving properly.
So, I would like to separate the two things. We will go on with our humanitarian action. We will go on insisting on the needs to have liquidity, allowing for the economy not to collapse, for the people not to be in an absolute desperate situation, and you just gave a few examples of how desperate people are. At the same time, we’ll go on insisting with the Taliban on human rights but also on the question of terrorism and on the question of inclusive governance.
Now, I never said that I only do private diplomacy, and I sometimes say some very tough things. If you read my speech today, there are some very tough things about the situation in the world in different aspects. Now, that doesn’t mean that I always say the things you would like me to say, but that’s life.
I will intend to go on doing discreet diplomacy, doing active public diplomacy, and speaking out when I believe this is the best way to solve the problems we face, be it in human rights, be it in economic and financial situations, be it in climate, be it in vaccines or in whatever other area.
Spokesman: Thank you. We’ll go to the screen. Michelle Nichols, Reuters.
Question: Thank you, Secretary-General. My question is also on Afghanistan. Last week, you made that strong appeal on Afghanistan that included asking for the conditional release of frozen funds and for international funding to be used to pay public sector workers.
The United States plays a key role in whether these things can happen, and Martin Griffiths, last week, met with the Secretary of State. What has the US committed to do to help? And is it enough?
Secretary-General: Well, both Martin Griffiths and Peter Maurer were in Washington. I think the dialogue was important and constructive, and I hope it will produce results in the short term.
Spokesman: Thank you. Ibtisam Azem?
Question: Hi. My name is Ibtisam Azem from al-Araby al-Jadeed newspaper. I have a short follow-up first on Yemen. And you asked or you called for a ceasefire and a stop of hostilities. Do you believe that countries, especially countries… Western countries like France, the US, the UK, who deliver weapons to parties to the conflict should also stop delivering such weapons, especially to countries who are involved in war, and put more pressure on the different parties?
And my question is on Tunisia and the situation there and the fact we have… that we have an elected President who grabbed more power, and there is more restrictions of freedom; there’s more restrictions for the civil society. What’s your message there? And do you think that the UN or the African Union should be maybe mediate or involved? Thank you.
Secretary-General: Well, I think, first of all, I would say it’s good not to specify just one group of countries when there are others that are doing the same, and I would strongly encourage everybody to adopt a policy [of] putting pressure for a peaceful solution and not enlarging the military capacity of the parties to the conflict.
The second situation we follow with concern. We believe that Tunisia’s democratic revolution was something that inspired hope all over the world, and we surely want that democratic revolution to be preserved in all democratic values, and we hope that this will happen. And we see your concern, and we see the concerns, and I hope that those concerns will be removed by the full restoration of an institutional democratic framework that works for all Tunisians.
Spokesman: Talal Alhaj, Talal?
Question: Thank you. Thank you, Stéphane. Thank you, Secretary-General. I have a small follow-up on Yemen concerning the Houthis, who the Security Council today described their attacks as terroristic and heinous.
Are you going to… what are you going to do to convince the Houthis to sit on the table or at least to speak to the Special Envoy, who they’re refusing to receive in Sana’a and talk to him? Because without being engaged to both parties — it’s not enough to be engaged with the Coalition and the Yemeni Government — without that, Mr. Hans Grundberg’s hands are tied. Are you doing something to make sure that the Houthis will sit on the table, will talk to Hans Grundberg?
And on Libya, do you believe that the elections will be held before June? And I mean the elections of parliamentary and the presidential. And do you prefer to separate these two or keep them together in the same election? Thank you.
Secretary-General: Well, first of all, in relation to Yemen, it is a big mistake for the Houthis not to receive our Special Envoy. And, indeed, we have been in close contact with the different countries that keep a relationship with the Houthis to try to explain to them that it is in their interests and in the interest of peace that our Special Envoy is able to go to Sana’a, and I hope that this will take place soon.
Sorry, the second question was?
Secretary-General: In relation to Libya, our… my Special Adviser, Stephanie Williams, is making all contacts and all forms of mediation, hoping to create the conditions for, indeed, elections to take place and to take place in the first semester of this year. And I think that is very important for the Libyan people.
Now, the choice of how the elections will be, what is first, what is second, is a choice for the Libyan people.
What was foreseen, as you remember, in our past positions and the resolutions was that the elections, both for Parliament and for the presidency, will be together before the end of last year. And so, that was the position that was assumed in the resolutions of the Security Council.
Spokesman: Thank you. Alan Bulkaty, Interfax.
Correspondent: Thanks so much. RIA Novosti, Stéphane, may I correct you.
Question: Yeah. Mr. Secretary-General, thank you for the briefing. We are all witnessing the huge tensions between Russia and the US, Russia and NATO at current situation. Some experts and some politicians even mention that we are at the age of the… another… the age of nuclear war.
May I ask you if you find reasonable the demands of Russian Federation… I mean the demands of security… guarantees with Russia demands from US and the NATO? Do you think that these guarantees might somehow help avoid the full-scale confrontation?
And how can you assess today’s negotiations between Foreign Minister [Sergey] Lavrov and Antony Blinken, Foreign Secretary… Secretary of State, foreign Blinken… Secretary of State Blinken in Geneva? Thank you.
Secretary-General: It is not for me to comment on the details of the positions of the parties in this dialogue that is taking place. What for me is essential is that this dialogue leads to a good solution and that that good solution is that there is de-escalation, and that this crisis ends. That is our objective. I’ve been saying that I strongly hope that diplomacy will prevail.
Spokesman: Thank you. Margaret Besheer, Voice of America.
Question: Thank you. Happy New Year, Secretary-General. Following up on Russia-Ukraine, I know you said you’re hopeful that this will not escalate into a Russian invasion. However, you have a lot of UN staff in Ukraine, particularly eastern Ukraine. What contingency planning is the United Nations doing to protect their staff?
And do you have any plans, if there’s an invasion, to pull them out, to scale down your presence in Ukraine? Thank you.
Secretary-General: Well, first of all, our objective and our main objective is that no contingency plan would have to be ever applied, and that is our main objective.
Of course, in all circumstances in the world, where there are risks, we adopt a certain number of measures of protection. This is being done in many parts of the world. At the present moment, I insist what we must all contribute to is to avoid a confrontation that would be extremely negative for everybody and to create the conditions for a diplomatic solution of the problem.
Spokesman: Thank you. Mr. Xu from China Central Television.
Question: Hi. Can you hear me?
Spokesman: Yes. Go ahead, please.
Question: Secretary-General, the question is, today, during your speech, you mentioned… you mentioned that… to put humanity at the centre of technology. Meanwhile, it’s been several years that the United States actually waging a technology war against China; according to some of the media, they describe it as it is, and the limits… the export of semiconductor to China, which China has to… made products to export to the world.
Do you think this kind of measures or ask other countries to exclude Chinese companies to build, to construct its cellular network would be hampering the… your efforts to ensure affordable, safe and security Internet service for all and to close the digital divide to promote a global digital cooperation or even to hamper the efforts to revive from the pandemic of the world economy? Thank you.
Secretary-General: Well, I’ve been, many times, saying that we need to avoid at all costs the division of the world into two with… each with its own economic system and set of rules, each with its own currency, each with dominant currency, each with its own Internet, and each with its own technological strategy and artificial intelligence and in other aspects.
So, we need to have a unified… I always advocated for the need for a unified global market, a unified global economy.
Now, it is clear that, at the present moment, there are a number of differences, and I’ve been advocating, both with US and with China, on the importance of a serious dialogue and a serious negotiation on the aspects of trade and technology in which the two countries have, at the present moment, different positions, to have a serious negotiation to be able to overcome those difficulties and to be able to establish that global market in which all can cooperate, and all can benefit.
Spokesman: Thank you. Pam Falk, CBS News. Pam?
Question: Thank you, Steph, and thank you, Mr. Secretary-General, for the briefing. I’d like to follow up on…
Question: Can you hear me?
Spokesman: Yes. Go ahead.
Question: All right. Thank you for the briefing, Secretary-General. I’d like to…
Spokesman: Put on the camera, Pam, please.
Question: Yeah, I can’t do that. I’m sorry.
I’d like to follow up on the Ukraine question. On… can the United Nations do anything to mediate the dispute and have you or any of the UN… any UN officials been part of a negotiation or discussion about your interests in a dialogue?
And on that front, do you see any difference between an incursion and an invasion? Thank you.
Secretary-General: Well, first of all, there is a format in which mediation takes place in the context that we are talking about. That format is based on the Minsk agreement and the so-called Normandy Four, and it was always very clear from the members of the Normandy Four — Germany, France, Russia and Ukraine — that this was not a negotiation within a UN framework. So, the UN is not… there is no resolution supporting that, and there is… there has never been an acceptance by the parties to have the UN as a formal mediator in this situation.
One thing I can guarantee is that my good offices are permanently available and are permanently available to ease the reduction of tensions.
And on the other hand, I can guarantee that I’m not going to enter into any question of semantics. I simply believe that we need to avoid the worst whatever the name that you call it, and I simply believe that we have to find a diplomatic solution to make sure that whatever the name you give to it doesn’t happen.
Correspondent: Thank you.
Spokesman: Thank you. Iftikhar, Iftikhar Ali, Associated Press of Pakistan.
Question: Thank you, Steph. Mr. Secretary-General, wishing you… sorry. Thank you, Steph. Mr. Secretary-General, wishing you a successful second term.
In your speech today, you outlined your priorities to begin your new term, referring to some new and old conflicts, divisions and misinformation among your key priorities.
Sir, on 8 August 2019, you made a comprehensive statement on the Kashmir dispute between India and Pakistan, saying that UN position on this decades-old dispute was based on the UN Charter, Security Council resolution, and bilateral agreements between the two countries.
Do you think, sir, that the Jammu and Kashmir dispute poses a threat to international peace and security? I thank you, sir.
Secretary-General: Sorry. I couldn’t hear the last part.
Spokesman: The question is about the dispute in Kashmir.
Secretary-General: No, I know, but can you repeat your last phrase? I couldn’t hear your last phrase because the sound is not good.
Question: Sir, the [audio gap, inaudible] the… do you think, sir, that the Jammu and Kashmir dispute continues to pose threat to international peace and security?
Secretary-General: Well, the position of the UN and the resolutions that were taken are the same, remain the same. We have, as you know, a peacekeeping operation there. We are, of course, committed. I’d offered my good offices several times, and we hope that this is something that can be solved peacefully and that the situation in Kashmir is a situation in which human rights are respected and in which people can live in peace and security.
Spokesman: Thank you. Ray?
Question: Thank you, Secretary-General. Ray Bouchefra from Sky News Arabia.
Today’s Security Council statement condemns the Houthi militias, as well as their financiers and their sponsors. It’s not secret that Iran is one of the biggest sponsor and financier of the Houthi militia. What do you think about this fact on the Security Council statement?
Also, same topic, just like ISIS or Al-Qaida, Houthis, they are targeting civilians, whether inside Yemen or outside Yemen. Do you agree with those voices who are asking to put the Houthis on the terrorist list? And even the US new Administration is considering that, according to President Biden. Thank you.
Secretary-General: Well, the designation of a terrorist organization in the UN is done by the Security Council. So, it’s not by me.
What I want to reaffirm is that I consider that the attack that was made to the United Arab Emirates is totally unacceptable. It’s a form of escalation that is absolutely regrettable and that on top of that was a big mistake, because what we need is to move towards solution of the problem and not towards escalation of the problem.
Spokesman: Thank you. Carrie, Carrie Nooten.
Question: Merci, Steph. Bonjour M. le Secrétaire général. Je vous souhaite un second terme plein de résultats. En parlant des pays africains, au début de votre premier mandat, vous aviez demandé plus de solutions africaines aux problèmes africains. Et Dieu sait qu’il y a des problèmes africains traités à l’ONU. Comment évaluez-vous les progrès effectués dans ce domaine? Et du coup, que penser dans le dossier malien, de la division du Conseil (de sécurité) il y a dix jours? Est-ce que c’est décevant, le fait que la communauté internationale n’ait pas… que le Conseil de sécurité des Nations Unies, il y a dix jours, ne se soit pas uni sur le fait qu’il faille suivre les sanctions de la CEDEAO?
Secretary-General: Nous continuons à considérer que le leadership de la solution des problèmes africains doit être africain. Et je suis fier du fait que les Nations Unies appuient l’Union africaine et appuient les différentes organisations régionales, notamment la CEDEAO, dans la solution de conflits africains.
La CEDEAO a décidé un certain nombre de sanctions. Le Conseil de sécurité s’est divisé. Alors, il n’y a pas une position du Conseil de sécurité à ce sujet. Mais ça ne nous empêche pas de coopérer avec la CEDEAO pour la solution du problème. J’ai moi-même été en contact deux fois dans les trois derniers jours, deux fois avec le Président du Ghana et aussi avec le Président du Nigéria, le Président du Sénégal, deux fois avec le Président de la Commission de l’Union africaine. J’ai moi-même fait un coup de téléphone au Colonel Goïta. Alors, je crois que c’est notre devoir, en tant que Secrétariat des Nations Unies, de tout faire pour coopérer avec les institutions africaines pour la solution du problème.
C’est dommage que nous n’ayons pas une décision formelle du Conseil de sécurité. Ça, naturellement, pourrait élargir la nature de notre mandat.
Spokesman: Merci. Benny Avni, please. Benny?
Question: Hello. So, my question is…
Spokesman: Benny, can you turn on your camera, Benny?
Correspondent: Oh. Sorry. Can you see me now?
Spokesman: Thank you.
Question: My question is…
Spokesman: Yes, we can. Thank you.
Question: My question is a little… you know, from a… 500 miles up. Are we on the verge of cold war II?
Secretary-General: Sorry? Are we on the verge of?
Spokesman: Cold war II… [cross talk]
Question: Cold war II?
Secretary-General: Not on the verge, but we are witnessing a new form. I wouldn’t call cold war. I wouldn’t call hot war. I would call probably a new form of tepid confrontation, which is not similar to the World War II, because the World War II… the cold war. The cold war had a certain number of rules. It was between two blocs. Those two blocs were structured. They had… each one had its military alliance. There were clear rules and clear mechanisms of prevention of conflict.
And the cold war, to a certain extent, the truces never became hot because there was a certain level of predictability in the way that cold war existed.
What we have now is much more chaotic, much less predictable. We have no instruments to deal with crisis, and so this, indeed, we live in a dangerous situation. And I hope when we look into the crisis of which everybody talks, I hope that they [audio gap, inaudible] leads to forms of confrontation that would be a disaster for us all.
Spokesman: Thank you. Lenka White, Mainichi Japanese newspaper. Lenka?
Question: Thank you, Mr. Secretary-General. Tomorrow is one-year anniversary of TPNW (Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons). In your opinion, what impact has had TPNW since entering into force?
And second, how NPT (Non-Proliferation Treaty) and TPNW can complement each other when we have confrontations among the nuclear States ahead of the first meeting of TPNW in March? Thank you.
Secretary-General: Well, this is a matter in which it is absolutely necessary to move in two directions in simultaneity. One action is non-proliferation; the other action is disarmament.
By the way, that is how things were perceived, that they are two faces of the same coin. Non-proliferation is something in which we guarantee that no new States acquire nuclear weapons. The compensation for that is the States that have nuclear weapons to be ready to reduce their arsenals. And my hope is that this principle can be re-established again.
We are, unfortunately, seeing an increase of nuclear warheads. We have now 13,000 nuclear warheads in the world, and I don’t think this is something that we can accept.
Spokesman: Thank you. Abdelhamid? Abdelhamid, go ahead.
Okay. We’ll… in the meantime, we’ll go to Mario Villar, EFE. Mario?
Question: Secretario-General una pregunta en español si me permite. Sobre el Sahara Occidental, con la visita del señor [Staffan] De Mistura a la región ¿ve posibilidades de desbloquear el conflicto y cuál sería su mensaje para los países que tienen influencia?
Secretary-General: La pregunta es… yo no comprendí porque el sonido no es muy claro. ¿La pregunta específica es…?
Question: Le pregunta sobre el Sahara Occidental, con la visita del señor De Mistura a la región ¿si ve posibilidades de desbloquear el conflicto y cuál sería su mensaje para los países que tienen influencia?
Secretary-General: En primer lugar, Staffan de Mistura ha hecho su primera visita a la región. Tengo la esperanza que el proceso político se desarrolle de nuevo y mi mensaje a las partes es que un problema que ha durado tantas décadas en un área del mundo donde vemos problemas de seguridad extremamente graves, donde vemos el terrorismo multiplicarse en el Sahel y cada vez más junto de la costa, es en el interés de todos solucionar de una vez por todas este problema del Sahara Occidental. Entonces mi mensaje es: es tiempo de que las partes comprendan la necesidad de un diálogo, procurando una solución y no solamente mantener un proceso interminable sin una esperanza de resolución. Creo que la situación de la región requiere hoy un interés más fuerte de las dos partes para solucionar el problema.
Question: Thank you very much, Stéphane. Hello, Secretary-General. Another question on Yemen. After the attacks in Abu Dhabi, US President Biden said he was considering redesignating the Houthis as a foreign terrorist organization. This issue came up before, about a year ago. Back then, the UN campaigned hard against the US taking such a step, saying it would prevent aid agencies from operating in northern Yemen. But what do you say about this issue now?
Secretary-General: Well, first of all, in the UN, it’s the Security Council that designates a terrorist organization. The problem that exists in situations like Yemen if one party designates it is a terrorist organization is that that is accompanied by a number of sanctions.
Now, the truth is that our experience reveals that those sanctions can create difficulties in relation to not only humanitarian aid but also to the solution of some of the most dramatic problems — hunger, health — that exists in the country.
So, I think our position is the same in the sense that we need to make sure that no decisions are made without being carefully measured, the possibilities of those decisions not to impact negatively on humanitarian aid.
Spokesman: Thank you. Joe Klein, Canada Free Press. Joe?
Question: Yes. Thank you. Sir, I want to return to your speech today, in particular the technology portion of your speech, where you talked about digital chaos, and you criticized the business models of social media companies profiting from algorithms that prioritize, in your words, addiction, outrage and… addiction and outrage.
My question is, are you equally concerned with the use of these platforms for State surveillance of what appears on social media and also the power of a few huge social media platforms to censor free speech on a grand scale worldwide? Thank you.
Secretary-General: Well, if you read my speech, in my speech, I spoke of manipulation and control. Manipulation is related to private social platforms. Control is related to States using the same methodology to… if you read the rest of the sentence, to control our own or to influence our own behaviour. So, what I said applies to both situations.
And indeed, I do believe that there is a serious question with the business model. I mean, the business model is made in a way in which profits increase with advertising, and advertising, of course, produces more resources. The more contacts are made, the more times the operation… the more people are engaged.
And the experience reveals that this system is a system that tends to work in a much stronger way with kind of a provocative, xenophobic, controversial things than with, I would say, reasonable statements about positive things that can happen in the world.
So, it’s this business model that needs to be reviewed in order not to have an automatic effect, which is the fact that the negative dimensions are spreading much more quickly than the positive dimensions, because this is clearly linked to the way in which profits increase more clearly.
So, a serious discussion about business models is, in my opinion, absolutely essential. And of course, this means that States should not be using artificial intelligence to have a mechanism of full control of their own citizens.
Spokesman: Thank you. Evelyn Leopold. Evelyn? Evelyn?
Question: Okay. Secretary-General, Happy New Year, and thank you for the briefing.
On human rights, I realize it’s difficult in… different countries define it differently, but do you intend to call out Governments that commit major abuses, including perhaps those large countries like permanent members of the Security Council?
Secretary-General: I’m sorry. I couldn’t understand…
Spokesman: I think the… [cross talk] Will you call out certain Governments for violations, including some of the most powerful…
Secretary-General: Well, as a matter of fact, I’ve done it several times, and I will do it when I consider this is the best way to deal with the problem.
Spokesman: Okay. Thank you. Jimmy Quinn. Jimmy?
Question: Hi there. Thanks for doing this, Secretary-General.
So, my question is about the Olympics. You’re headed there in a couple of weeks, and a number of human rights groups and independent experts have found that the Chinese Government is currently carrying out crimes against humanity and genocide against ethnic minorities in the Xinjiang region. So, I know you’re headed to the games in a non-political capacity, but one, do you intend to raise the issue with the Chinese Government while you’re there? And two, is it your assessment that the Government is carrying out crimes against humanity currently? Thank you.
Secretary-General: Let’s be clear. This visit to the Olympics is not a political visit. It has not any link to any… sorry? [cross talk]
Spokesman: No, please… if everybody else could keep their microphones off. Go ahead, sir.
Secretary-General: So, this visit is a visit that comes out of an invitation by the International Olympic Committee and corresponds to what has been a very solid partnership between the UN and International Olympic Committee.
We consider that the Olympic Games are an extremely important manifestation in today’s world of the possibility of unity, of the possibility of mutual respect, of the possibility of cooperation, of peoples of different cultures, of different religions, of different ethnicities. And this is more important than ever when we see xenophobia, when we see racism, when we see white supremacy, when we see antisemitism, when we see anti-Muslim hatred proliferating all over the world. I think the Olympic ideal is something that we have to cherish, and that is the reason why I am going to the Olympic Games. And it has nothing to do with my opinions about the different policies that take place in the People’s Republic of China.
Spokesman: Okay. One last question. Oscar, please go ahead, and that will be it. Oscar?
Okay, sir, I think you’re then off the hook. Thank you very much.
Spokesman: All the best.