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Updated On: Sunday, 17 February 2019

Transcript of the Secretary-General’s press conference

SG: Thank you very much, good evening everybody. I’m very grateful for your presence.

Many see Africa as a continent with problems. We see Africa as a continent of hope and opportunity.

Of course, there are many problems on the African continent; there are many unsolved situations, there are many conflicts. We have, as it was said this morning, a very serious problem of refugees and displaced persons. But it is also true that it is in Africa that there are now signals that conflicts can be resolved and that conflicts can be avoided.

In the last few months, we’ve witnessed a meaningful change in South Sudan. After years and years when there was no progress, finally, it was possible to bring all the neighbours together and, thanks to IGAD (Intergovernmental Authority on Development), it was possible to have Salva Kiir and Riek Machar sign an agreement. And even with all the difficulties that we know, things are moving forward.

Many would consider Central African Republic like a problem without a solution. We are not yet with a full solution but we have historic peace agreement that was mediated by the African Union with the support of the UN that brought together the Government and 14 armed groups.

We see Libya with hope; the ceasefire around Tripoli has been maintained and we are convinced that will be possible in the future to have a national conference in which Libyans themselves will be able to come together.

We have seen that elections that many considered would lead inevitably to conflict, even to civil war, sometimes with complaints but always in the context of the legal and constitutional mechanisms of the countries involved - be it in Mali, be it in DRC (Democratic Republic of the Congo), be it in Madagascar. And so, conflict prevention and conflict resolution are working in Africa. And I believe that the combination of efforts of the African Union and the UN has been a very important instrument for it. Which means that multilateralism has proven to be useful in today’s world.

On the other hand, Africa is also a continent with opportunity from a development point of view. But for that, it’s absolutely essential that the Africans themselves [have the] international community supporting them, are able to respond positively to the challenge of the two agendas of the African Union and the UN: Agenda 2063 of the African Union, aiming at the development of the continent, and Agenda 2030, the sustainable Agenda 2030 of the UN, with the so-called Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) that correspond to a comprehensive programme of development that we believe countries would need to launch in order to be able to guarantee that everybody is able to take profit of the improvements that technological progress can provide to humankind.

Now, Africa has enormous opportunities for investment. Africa has enormous opportunities for economic growth. But it is necessary that Africa benefits from the solidarity and from the partnership of the international community as a whole. And that is the reason why I have strongly appealed for an increasing development cooperation with the African continent. And at the same time, taking into account that one of the key components of the challenges that we face today in development is climate change. That is why I once again said that climate change is running faster than we are, that climate change is the defining issue of our time, is the biggest threat for humankind and for the planet, and that it’s absolutely essential to increase ambition in mitigation of emissions, in adaptation of countries to the consequences [that are] already inevitable, but also in financing, especially in financing of the developing world and in innovation, in order to contain this monster that is growing and threatening us all.

So I think that what I could witness in this summit of the African Union, first of all, was how deep is the cooperation between the UN and the African Union today, but second, how committed the African Union is to make sure that the hope and the opportunity that Africa represents today are fully transformed into reality.

Q: Referring to the speech made in the opening, you spoke about international solidarity that is missing in African countries. What is needed for more generosity in the international community? Can I have the answer in French, please?

SG: (in French) Les causes fondamentales de la migration sont économiques et elles sont dues aux différences de développement qui existent. Ces différences de développement ont des explications qui sont très complexes : il faut analyser les conséquences du colonialisme, toute une série de choses qui sont interliées et qui, naturellement, font que beaucoup de pays africains sont dans un niveau de développent beaucoup moins fort que d’autres régions du monde. Mais, c’est vrai, qu’il y aussi des problèmes de gouvernance et qu’il y a aussi des problèmes de droits de l’Homme et ces problèmes sont exactement au centre de la coopération entre l’Union africaine et les Nations Unies. Nous avons eu d’ailleurs, très récemment, la première rencontre formelle entre nos deux organisations sur les droits de l’Homme, et les questions de gouvernances sont aussi des questions centrales. Nous savons qu’il faut augmenter les investissements en Afrique, mais nous savons aussi qu’une partie des ces investissements, notamment l’investissement privé, exige aussi des conditions de respect des lois, des conditions de gouvernance, de la lutte contre la corruption pour que les choses aillent en avant.

Alors, il faut travailler sur tous les dossiers. Il faut travailler sur le dossier de la coopération, sur le développement, il faut augmenter l’appui financier à l’Afrique mais il faut que l’Afrique fasse son travail, fasse ses réformes, combatte elle-même la corruption, et que les droits de l’Homme puissent être au centre des préoccupations des Africains.

I think I mentioned very clearly when we discussed migration, refugees and the internally displaced, Africa has shown remarkable solidarity in relation to refugees. All African borders have been open. And I have seen very poor communities receive refugees and give them what was even scarce for the communities themselves. And I believe this generosity, this solidarity, needs to be matched. We see that other borders are closed and we don’t see enough support for the African countries hosting refugees - to be able to give them the means and the capacity to effectively protect and assist those that have fled because of reasons of conflict in their own countries. On the other hand, it is also true that from the migration point of view, there are more African migrants in other African countries than African migrants in Europe. And I believe that is essential to have more effective international cooperation between countries of origin, countries of transit and countries of destination and that was exactly the goal of the compact that was approved in Marrakech.

Q: (in French, on Libya)

SG: (in French) Il y a un dialogue entre les Nations Unies, l’Union africaine, la Ligue arabe et l’Union européenne. Mais je crois que maintenant la question centrale c’est de faire que les Libyens eux-même puissent assumer la direction de la solution des problèmes Libyens. C’est pour ça que nous disons en ce moment que notre objectif fondamental en ce moment c’est de créer les conditions pour une véritable conférence nationale et que cette conférence puisse créer les conditions pour une véritable réconciliation nationale et, après, lancer un processus politique pour des élections, etc…pour faire que la Libye se normalise progressivement.

Q: (in French, on the reform of the Security Council)

SG: (in French) C’est évident que le Conseil de sécurité a été formé quand le monde était diffèrent et notamment l’Afrique a été une double victime du colonialisme. Premièrement, à cause du colonialisme lui-même et, deuxièment, parce que l’indépendance a été tellement tardive que beaucoup des institutions internationales étaient déjà largement en fonction quand la plupart des pays africains ont accédé à l’indépendance. Cela veut dire que le poids institutionnel de l’Afrique en général dans les institutions internationales ne correspond pas à la réalité africaine d’aujourd’hui. Et ça, c’est particulièrement vrai dans le contexte du Conseil de sécurité. Moi j’ai toujours dis qu’il n’y aura pas de réforme complète des Nations Unies sans une réforme du Conseil de sécurité mais nous connaissons les difficultés de cette réforme du Conseil de sécurité. C’est évident que l’Afrique est sous-représentée face à ce que le continent africain représente lui-même.

Q: (in French, on the situation in the English-speaking areas of Cameroon)

SG: (in French) Nous accompagnons la situation à laquelle vous avez référé. Nous avons eu hier un dialogue avec le Premier Ministre [du Cameroun] et il nous a promis que tout se fait pour créer des conditions de respect des droits de l’Homme et de dialogue pour que la situation puisse se normaliser. C’était le résultat de notre démarche avec le Premier Ministre qui était avec nous hier soir.

Q: (in Portuguese) Eu acho que já falou sobre esta questão em francês, que tem a ver com a questão dos refugiados. Fala da solidariedade africana, mas continuamos a testemunhar um grande movimento de África para outros continentes de refugiados. Como é que as Nações Unidas estão a ver esta questão? Esta é uma das questões que gostaria de lhe colocar. E a outra questão tem a ver com a República Democrática do Congo. A União Africana fez um retrocesso relativamente à República Democrática do Congo. Qual é a visão das Nações Unidas? (English translation: I think you have spoken about this issue in French, which has to do with the issue of refugees. You speak of African solidarity, but we continue to witness a great movement of refugees from Africa to other continents. How does the United Nations look at this? This is one of the questions I would like to put to you. The other issue has to do with the Democratic Republic of Congo. The African Union has walked back on the Democratic Republic of the Congo. What is the UN vision?)

SG: (in Portuguese) Em primeiro lugar, aquilo que temos dito sempre em relação aos refugiados é que o direito internacional dos refugiados tem de ser respeitado. Verificamos, de uma forma positiva, que, essencialmente, ele é respeitado em África, mas, infelizmente, não o é em todo o mundo. Verificamos que a solidariedade com os refugiados tem diminuído, sobretudo no mundo desenvolvido. O nosso apelo é que se restabeleçam as condições para que o regime internacional de proteção de refugiados, definido na Convenção de 51, seja integralmente restabelecido em toda a parte. E que a solidariedade para com os países africanos que acolhem um grande número de refugiados seja, simultaneamente, aumentada e que se faça tudo para resolver os problemas de fundo, ou seja, terminando os conflitos terminarão os refugiados. Em relação à República Democrática do Congo, eu não penso que tenha havido exatamente aquilo que disse. Acho que, fundamentalmente, em relação à República Democrática do Congo, agora é preciso olhar em frente. Olhar em frente é apoiar as instituições congolesas no sentido de garantir, simultaneamente, condições de estabilidade e de progresso na República Democrática do Congo, mas, ao mesmo tempo, com um diálogo interno e com uma forma inclusiva de conceber a vida política congolesa que permita que o Congo possa ter êxito na solução dos seus problemas e possa melhorar também as condições de vida da sua população.

(English translation) First, what we have always said about refugees is that international refugee law must be respected. We find, in a positive way, that it is essentially being respected in Africa, but, unfortunately, it is not worldwide. We have seen solidarity with refugees decline, especially in the developed world. Our call is to restore the conditions for the international refugee protection regime, as defined in the 1951 Convention, so that it is be fully restored everywhere. And that, simultaneously, the solidarity with African countries hosting a large number of refugees increases and that everything is done to solve the fundamental problem. That is, ending conflicts will end refugees. As for the Democratic Republic of the Congo, I do not think what you have said happened exactly. About the Democratic Republic of Congo, I think, fundamentally, that we now must look ahead. To look ahead is to support the Congolese institutions in ensuring, at the same time, conditions of stability and progress in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and, at the same time, an internal dialogue and an inclusive way of devising Congolese political life, [so] that Congo can succeed in solving its problems and can also improve the living conditions of its population.

Q: One of the issues dominating the international community’s discourse is that of Venezuela. What is the UN’s position on Venezuela’s leadership struggle?

SG: We have been saying since the beginning that we consider that the UN and myself, we offer our good offices to both parties at their request for negotiations – serious negotiation able to take the country out of the present standoff.

Q: My question is about the institutional issues. The UN as well as the AU has had problems with sexual harassment issues within the administration… (inaudible) what do you think is the solution?

SG: Well, sexual harassment is a global problem and it has to do with distribution of power in societies. We live in in a male-dominated world with a male-dominated culture. And one of the consequences of this imbalance of power relations is sexual harassment. And so, we need to address the root causes of sexual harassment and that is why we are so committed to reach gender parity within the UN and we believe gender parity will contribute dramatically to reduce this problem. But at the same time, we took very seriously the need to give credibility to our capacity to detect and to punish the incidences of sexual harassment. Because what we have detected in our surveys is that many people are not reporting their cases because they felt that would have no consequences. So, we have now created in our investigation structure a special team of six women investigators, experts in sexual harassment. And those investigators have terms of reference in their action that will reduce the time framework for their investigations in order to make them more credible and effective. And on the other hand, any case of sexual harassment that in the past in the UN would be reported first to the manager and then through possible different layers, now any case of sexual harassment goes straight to our investigation team and we believe that with this, we are creating a very important deterrence in relation to sexual harassment. And at the same time, we are creating the structures that hopefully will allow for the cases that still exist to be effectively detected, for people not be afraid of reporting them and believing it is worth reporting them and then for those found guilty to be punished. All the best. Shukran. Obrigado. Gracias.

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