18 September 2019
Secretary-General’s Press Conference at the outset of the 74th session of the General Assembly
It is good to see you again as we begin a new session of the General Assembly.
The world is at a critical moment on several fronts – the climate emergency, rising inequality, an increase in hatred and intolerance, as well as an alarming number of peace and security challenges. Tensions are rising everywhere.
As I have often said, there is no doubt that our fraying world needs international cooperation more than ever. But simply saying it will not make it happen.
The biggest challenge that leaders and institutions face is to show people we care – and to mobilize solutions that respond to people’s anxieties with answers.
The upcoming high-level week is designed to do precisely that.
There will be dozens of summits, meetings and side events. But I can distil the significance of all these discussions into two words: ambition and action.
I see the high-level week as an excellent opportunity to showcase the United Nations as a centre for solutions and a driver for meaningful, positive change in people’s lives.
Let’s face it. We have no time to lose.
We are losing the race against climate change.
Our world is off-track in meeting the Sustainable Development Goals.
We see trade wars and real wars, and the spread of hateful words and deadly weapons.
Tensions are boiling over – and everyday people always pay the highest price.
This is the moment to cool tensions, and nowhere is that more important than in the Gulf.
This is also the time to promote dialogue and pave the way to political solutions from Libya to Yemen, from Syria to Israel-Palestine, from Afghanistan to South Sudan.
With the very high number of world leaders coming to the United Nations, we have a chance to advance diplomacy for peace.
I have emphasized that the high-level week should not be about technocratic discussions or fancy speeches.
Our overarching focus for our meetings next week will be sustainable and inclusive development, leaving no one behind.
We will spotlight climate change, which threatens everyone and everything.
It starts with the Youth Climate Summit on Saturday. Young people are leading the debate and they are absolutely right to press us to do better and to “unite behind science”.
On Monday I will convene the Climate Action Summit.
I went to the Bahamas a few days ago. The level of devastation was unlike anything I have ever seen. Hurricane Dorian was indeed Hurricane Hell. And, unfortunately, extreme weather events will only produce more hellscapes for more people.
That is what science has been telling us all along.
Once again, the imperative to act could not be more clear, and this is exactly why I am convening the Climate Action Summit.
I expect there will be an announcement and unveiling of a number of meaningful plans on dramatically reducing emissions during the next decade, and on reaching carbon neutrality by 2050.
We will showcase promising initiatives aiming at moving away from coal, putting a price on carbon, stopping subsidies for fossil fuels, and cutting the pollution that damages our health.
And we will highlight the importance of scaling up nature-based solutions, creating cleaner ways in the way we work and societies function, building resilience, protecting people, mobilizing finance and promoting decent jobs for a just transition.
I told leaders not to come with fancy speeches, but with concrete commitments.
The UN is already doing its part.
Just this morning, the UN Development Programme announced the Climate Promise initiative to boost our commitment to support 100 countries in enhancing their national pledges under the Paris Agreement by 2020.
Also today – along with the International Labour Organization and partners Spain and Peru – we are launching the Climate Action for Jobs, an initiative to put job creation and protecting livelihoods at the centre of national climate action plans.
Some 1.2 billion jobs or 40 per cent of world employment rely directly on a healthy and stable environment. Business cannot succeed on a planet that fails. Jobs cannot be sustained on a dying planet.
And there are many more initiatives to come. They will all be presented at the Summit and are designed to be expanded, so they can have the global impact the climate crisis demands.
We will need government, businesses and people everywhere to join these efforts so we can put climate action into a higher gear.
We also need to step up our drive to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals.
On Tuesday, leaders will gather to focus on the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development – and we will launch a Decade of Action to deliver results.
And we must look ahead not through the prism of the economy of the last decade, but the economy of the next decade, seizing the potential of the Fourth Industrial Revolution but also safeguarding against its dangers.
The high-level week will also feature meetings on universal health coverage, the challenges facing small island states and mobilizing financing to meet the needs of the Sustainable Development Goals.
We will host a wide range of meetings on peace and security challenges, too.
Through it all, my message to world leaders will be simple:
Put people first. Their needs. Their aspirations. Their rights.
People want solutions, commitments and action.
And I suspect that we will hear [this message] loud and clear from young people over the weekend.
We simply must translate all of the events of the coming days into an impulse and momentum to do more, starting immediately, and with people at the centre.
Spokesman: Thank you very much, sir. Before we give the floor to UNCA (United Nations Correspondents Association), just as a reminder, if you can avoid long political statements and try to stick to one question, it would be appreciated. [Laughter]
Secretary-General: But you can make short political statements.
Spokesman: Yes. [Laughter] We are at the UN after all. [Laughter] Valeria?
Question: Thank you, Stéphane, and thank you, Secretary‑General. It’s always a pleasure to see you here. My question is on Iran. The official Iranian agency said that the representative President of Iran and Foreign Minister [Javad] Zarif didn’t receive the visa to come to the united… General Assembly next week. Which would be the consequences if this would really happen? And what will you do if this will be the case? Thank you.
Secretary-General: Now, we have been in contact with the host state in order to solve all outstanding visa problems in relation to delegations, and I hope that this will allow [us] to solve the problem.
Spokesman: Thank you. Edie?
Question: Sorry. Thank you very much, Mr. Secretary‑General. Following up on the attack against Saudi Arabia in the Gulf, the Saudi Government said that they would be willing to have UN experts come to investigate. Is this going to happen? Have you actually been contacted and asked?
And… I’m going to be bad and ask one other follow‑up question of something that was supposed to happen before the GA. Your Special Envoy for Syria, Mr. [Geir] Pedersen, was hoping to be able to announce the formation of the Constitutional Committee before the high‑level meetings. Is this going to happen?
Secretary-General: Well, thank you very much. First of all, indeed, in line with resolution 2231 of the Security Council, with the clear mandate for that purpose, the UN experts, indicated by the Department of Political and Peacebuilding Affairs (DPPA), have already left for Saudi Arabia. And, obviously, they will be doing their job according to the mandate that the Security Council has given them. This is not the first time, as you know. It is something that is clearly defined by a Security Council mandate.
In relation to the Constitutional Committee, there is now an agreement among all parties on the composition of the committee, and Geir Pedersen is doing the final work with the parties in relation to the terms of reference. And we hope that this will be very soon concluded, and I hope that this will be a very important step in creating the conditions for a political solution for this tragic conflict.
On the other hand, I would like to say, independently of the results of whatever is going to be produced by these experts and others, that I strongly condemned this attack. I think this attack is a dramatic escalation in the Gulf, and I believe that we absolutely need to stop this kind of escalation and that we absolutely need to create the conditions to avoid the major confrontation in the Gulf that would have, as we have seen by the immediate impact on oil markets, if there would be a major confrontation in the Gulf, it would have devastating consequences for the region and globally.
Question: Thank you, Mr. Secretary‑General. The Spokesman for the Saudi Government defence ministry just said a few minutes ago that it is time for the international community to get involved. As the Secretary‑General…
Secretary-General: To? Sorry?
Question: To get involved in the whole investigation, accountability for the attacks, etc. Do you… as Secretary‑General, do you see that it’s time for the Security Council to take part in this file now and… and… and preserve peace and security, not only in the Gulf but maybe in the world?
And, secondly, what’s the effect of such an attack on confidence‑building measures in Yemen, when the Special Envoy, Martin Griffiths, is working tirelessly to build through the Hudaydah Agreement, through the Stockholm Agreement, confidence building and we see such an attack takes place?
Secretary-General: I think the mission of the Security Council is to deal with all the threats to peace and security, and I don’t think there is a more serious threat to peace and security in the world by than what’s happening in the Gulf, so this is clearly an area where I am absolutely sure the Security Council has a key role to play.
In relation to Yemen and the Yemen talks and the situation in the progress of the Stockholm Agreement, Martin Griffiths will not give up. And we need to persist in the difficult moments, because, when we give up in the difficult moments, we make things worse. So, I think the suffering of the Yemeni people is so dramatic that we need to do everything possible to make sure that whatever gains can be achieved, we need to move ahead with the perspective of implementation of the Stockholm Agreement and of creating the conditions for a political solution to be possible in Yemen. But, obviously, the present situation is not easy. But we don’t give up. [Cross talk]
Spokesman: Maggie, then Ali.
Question: Secretary‑General, Margaret Besheer, Voice of America. Follow‑up on my colleagues, so the experts have gone to Saudi, but the 2231 report isn’t due until December. If they come back, will you… come back with new information or findings, will you release those before December, or will you wait?
And then a real question, second question, if I might, since that was just a follow‑up, human rights groups are calling on you to call for the closing of detention centres of the Uyghurs in China. Will you do anything next week during high‑level week when you meet with the Chinese delegation? Will you speak to them firmly about this issue?
Secretary-General: Well, first of all, in relation to the first question, the experts report to the Security Council. So, it will be for the Security Council to define the timing and the process that will be followed.
In relation to the second question, I don’t think anyone has been more persistent and more clear in talking to the Chinese authorities in relation to this issue than myself. It is absolutely not true that I’ve only done discreet diplomacy. On the contrary, if you remember, in my last visit to Beijing, I not only did raise the issue, but I made it public, and I said more publicly. I said that all human rights need to be fully respected in that situation, and I said that it is very important to act in a way that each community feels that their identity is respected and that they belong, at the same time, to the society as a whole. There couldn’t be a more clear message. So if there is an area where I believe I’ve been doing publicly much more than many other leaders around the world is this, and I will, of course, go on with the clear perspective that we need to act in order to guarantee that, indeed, human rights, all human rights in all circumstances, are fully respected in that situation.
Question: But does that mean closing the detention centres?
Secretary-General: It will mean to do everything that is necessary for human rights to be respected.
Question: Thank you, Secretary‑General. My name is Ali Barada with Asharq al-Awsat Newspaper and France 24. Just from your moral authority and integral part of the United Nations, do you consider those attacks on Saudi Arabia as act of wars against Saudi Arabia?
And my question is on Tunisia and Sudan, also, whether there is a glitter of hope in the Arab world? What would you say about the situation in Sudan? And we saw that transition is going on, and in Tunisia, there is elections, and there is, obviously, a new political era. Thank you.
Secretary-General: I have already said it. I think this attack represents a very dramatic escalation, and it should be condemned. It’s also a violation of international humanitarian law. And, as I said, it is very important that this is not repeated and that this escalation stops.
On the other hand, I must say that we should all admire the fact that Tunisia has had the first round of its elections in a perfectly normal situation of a mature democracy, and I strongly congratulate the Tunisian people for that.
And Sudan is a matter of great hope for us. I believe that what was possible in the dialogue in Sudan demonstrates that all political conflicts can be solved by dialogue when there is political will for that, and this should be a lesson for everywhere else in the world. It is time now for the international community to support Sudan. Sudan is in a very dire economic situation, in a very dramatic economic situation. I hope that all the restrictions that exist about Sudan, namely, the classification as a country that support terrorism and sanctions, will be quickly removed. And I hope that there will be a massive mobilisation of resources to support Sudan overcome the extremely difficult economic situation that the country has, because, if that doesn’t happen, obviously, we risk that the gains in democracy, human rights, and political solutions that were observed could be put into question.
Spokesman: Sherwin Bryce‑Pease.
Correspondent: Thank you. At the back here. SG, I’m waving at you. Hi. [Cross talk]
Spokesman: All the way in the back.
Secretary-General: Ah, sorry.
Question: I’m not going to stand up, Michelle. [Laughter] The federal environmental agency and President [Donald] Trump of the United States have announced that it will be rescinding California’s waiver to set its own vehicle emission rules, which are more stringent than the rules at the federal level. You might also be aware, SG, that tailpipe pollution is the largest source of greenhouse gas emissions in the United States. Since the US withdrawal from the Paris climate change agreement, you have focussed on the role of states, the role of cities, the role of businesses as a countermeasure to what is happening at the federal level. Clearly, this is an action that undermines the cause which you seek to address at your Climate Change Summit on Monday. What say you to this latest move from the Trump Administration?
Secretary-General: I am strongly in favour of a decentralised approach to these measures. And I am strongly against any reduction of that decentralisation. I think it’s important that ‑‑ and this is true for many countries in the world ‑‑ that cities and states and regions have the capacity to develop all positive measures in relation to climate action.
Spokesman: Thank you. Abdelhamid.
Question: Thank you, Mr. Secretary‑General. My name is Abdelhamid Siyam from the Arabic daily al‑Quds al‑Araby. And my question, Mr. Secretary‑General, about the measures that the UN take to punish countries who do not preserve international law and Security Council resolution. There been… many countries had been subject to embargo and sanctions, as you know. There is one exception to this rule, which is Israel. It has been in violation of international law and Security Council resolutions since its inception in 1947, resolution 181. What could be done to convince Israel to abide by international law and Security Council resolution? And, second, do you still believe that the two‑state solution is viable, feasible and achievable? Thank you very much.
Secretary-General: Well, in relation to the first question, the answer is very simple. Sanctions are decided by the Security Council, and we have seen, in relation to that case but also in relation to other cases, that vetoes do not allow Security Council majorities to express themselves into consequences. These are the rules we have, and, obviously, the Secretariat cannot decree sanctions when the Security Council doesn’t do it.
The second point is very clear for me. I don’t think there is a Plan B to the two‑state solution. I do believe that the two‑state solution is still possible. I recognise that many unilateral actions were being taken to undermine it, but I strongly support the need to preserve it as something that is essential, also not only for Israelis and Palestinians but for the region and for the world.
Spokesman: Liling Tan, China Global Television.
Question: Secretary‑General, Liling with Feature Story News and China Global TV Network. Now, you’ve spoken extensively about how you want concrete action from the Climate Action Summit, not just fancy speeches. Can you elaborate on what exactly, in terms of scope and scale, would be satisfactory to you? What would make you happy? And how do you anticipate the youth movement, the momentum from that, to help get these concrete actions and drive the narrative next week?
Secretary-General: Well, first of all, in relation to the youth, I think it’s absolutely remarkable the leadership and the initiative that the youth is showing everywhere in the world, and it’s understandable. Climate change is not only a threat for the end of the century. Climate change is already a tragic problem of our societies. But it is true that, if things go on as they are, the young generations, when they come to adult age or to the last periods of their lives, will be even more dramatically impacted. I have three grandchildren, and I don’t want to be responsible for them to live in a semi‑destroyed planet when they will come to my age. So, the youth has been showing an enormous leadership, and I hope that that leadership will have a very strong impact on the societies as a whole, on their families and, based on that, on the governments of their countries.
What do we expect from the commitment in the summit? We expect countries to commit to carbon neutrality in 2050, and there is already a meaningful number of countries that have done so, and I hope that, in the summit, there will be even more. And we commit countries to present a strong… and we have asked countries to present strong commitments in relation to the improvement of their Nationally Determined Contributions, as defined in the context of the Paris Agreement, and that are supposed to be reviewed in 2020, according to the Paris Agreement. And I’m very hopeful that this will translate itself into the kind of objective we would like to see for the world, and that would mean a reduction of emissions in the next decade of 45 percent. It depends, of course, on many actions by many countries, but we are very hopeful that countries will come with proposals that they will be able to engage with.
At the same time, very important to support the Green Climate Fund. Very important to make strong commitments to support the developing world in adaptation and mitigation, to $100 billion that, from private and public sources, the developed world is supposed to contribute every year from 2020, and other aspects related to climate action in all its dimensions.
I’m convinced that we will come out of the summit with an enhanced momentum, not with all problems solved but with an enhanced momentum, and the same in relation to this reducing or eliminating subsidies to fossil fuels, to move progressively away from coal, to be able to support renewable energy and for cities and states to demonstrate also their initiatives and for the business community to present their own projects.
Spokesman: Pam Falk.
Question: Thank you very much. Mr. Secretary‑General, it’s Pamela Falk from CBS News. One more piece of climate, you have made a focus of climate at this UNGA, and the US and President Trump have declared their intention to withdraw from the 2016 agreement, but that does not go into effect until after the next election, as you have also pointed out. Is there a way… particularly since almost 70 per cent of the American public want some action, according to a new poll, is there a way that you have a message to President Trump to encourage both the commitment to the agreement that the US is still in? And do you have a message to President Trump to try to get back in the 2016? I know you said it before, but now is a time of reckoning. Thank you.
Secretary-General: Well, my message is very simple, to everybody, is that the contribution of the United States is essential, that the United States had a very important role in creating the conditions for the Paris Agreements to be established, that it is very important for the United States to come back to the Paris Agreement. But that is not only a question for the government, it’s a question for the whole of the American society, and I have to say I feel inspired by so many positive developments that I see in cities, including this city, in states ‑‑ and some of them will be announced in the summit ‑‑ and by the business community.
It is amazing to see more and more, in the West and everywhere, banks considering that climate must be part of their concerns in relation to lending; rating agencies, including climate risks; central banks drawing attention to the risks of climate in the definition of their policies; asset owners representing trillions of dollars deciding to divest from fossil fuels, starting by coal. So, we are seeing a lot of very strong signals from the markets, from the private sector, that I believe will have an important influence also on the decision‑making of political leaders, even near us.
Spokesman: Celia, and then James.
Question: Thank you. Celia Mendoza from VOA Latin America. If I may, may I speak in Spanish?
Secretary-General: [In Spanish] Yo respondo en portuñol. [Laughter]
Question: [In Spanish] Bueno, sin problema. Lo entendemos. Secretario, sabemos que existe una gran atención sobre el tema de Venezuela y en esta Asamblea General, Venezuela va a ser fundamental porque se cree que representantes del gobierno interino que se ha creado con Juan Guaidó
¿Existiría la posibilidad de una reunión marco de esta Asamblea con usted o con su equipo de trabajo? Aparte de esto, el reporte de Bachelet ha sido muy fuerte en términos de la protección de derechos fundamentales de los venezolanos. ¿Como esto juega un papel dentro en esta Asamblea? Y finalmente, Colombia va a jugar un papel fundamental. Las FARC (Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia) se han anunciado un regreso a las armas, por lo menos una disidencia, ellos han acusado a Venezuela de estar ayudando al gobierno de Nicolás Maduro. En este contexto, como siente usted que llega a esta Asamblea y como podría a ver una reunión o no con Juan Guaidó que ha sido reelegido para ser el presidente de la Asamblea.
Secretary-General: [In Spanish] En relación con las negociaciones entre el gobierno y la oposición, no creo que por el momento ese sea el senario [la realidad] más probable. Creo que el senario [la realidad] más probable es, de acuerdo con lo que se pasó, un senario [un acuerdo] organizado por Noruega que esta interrumpido pero que espero que pueda relanzarse. Pero, naturalmente, voy a aprovechar esta cumbre para hablar sobre todo con Venezuela y Colombia porque me parece también muy importante evitar que haya una escalada del conflicto en la región.
Secretary-General: [In Spanish] Claramente que, en materia de derechos humanos, apoyamos totalmente el informe y la acción de la Alta Comisionada.
Question: [In Spanish] ¿Se reunirá con Guaidó? Would you meet with Guaidó?
Secretary-General: [In Spanish] Eso no está, no está en el plan.
Question: Secretary‑General, James Bays from Al Jazeera.
Secretary-General: [In Spanish] Pero tenemos contacto regulares con la oposición, están establecido con canales que se establecen para eso.
Question: Secretary‑General, James Bays from Al Jazeera. You’ve spoken about the gravity of the situation after the attacks in Saudi Arabia, but, of course, you have all of these leaders coming to high‑level week in just a few days’ time. What are the opportunities for your own personal diplomacy with the leader of the US, the leader of Iran, key representatives from Gulf States, including Saudi Arabia? What are the opportunities for your personal diplomacy to use your good offices in the next few days to try and resolve this? And there’s been quite a lot of talk from many, including the Russian ambassador, about setting up a wider security framework for the Gulf region. Are those viable ideas?
Secretary-General: Well, first of all, I’ve been in close contact with leaders of the region and with relation to the Gulf; namely, I was with President Trump in the G20 and the G7. I met the Iranian minister here. I met Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed in Abu Dhabi. I had been in contact, close contact with the Saudis, and we have been doing whatever we can in order to facilitate the creation of conditions to avoid any escalation of the conflict, first of all. Many time ago, I launched the idea that, as we had during the Cold War, the Helsinki Process, which did not solve the problems of the Cold War but created a platform of a dialogue – it will be interesting to have, on whatever area considered positive, a platform of dialogue that also could exist in the region. Until now, I don’t think conditions are met for this platform to be established, but I hope that one day this will be possible, and I hope that conditions will one day be created for all the countries of the region to be able to live in cooperation, in peace and without interference in each other’s affairs.
Question: Who objects to that idea of a platform?
Secretary-General: I mean, there has been not lots of enthusiasm for the platform at the present moment, because of the very dramatic situation that we are witnessing in the Gulf, so I don’t think, in this high level of tension, an idea like this has chances to be accepted.
Spokesman: Iftikhar Ali.
Question: Thank you, Stéphane. Mr. Secretary‑General, Iftikhar Ali from Associated Press of Pakistan. On 8 August, sir, you made an important statement that deals comprehensively with the crisis in Indian-occupied Kashmir. It called for end of restrictions, which have not been withdrawn, and that the status of the state should not be altered and… which India has done. And the lockdown is continuing, and the humanitarian situation is worsening in the occupied territory. Have you… how will you go beyond this statement and act to bring about a solution to this crisis?
Secretary-General: Well, our capacity is related to good offices, and good offices can only be implemented when the parties accept it. And, on the other hand, it relates to advocacy, and the advocacy was expressed and will be maintained. I go on with a clear opinion that human rights must be fully respected in the territory, and I go on with the clear opinion that dialogue between India and Pakistan is an absolutely essential element for the solution of the problem.
Spokesman: Apostolos, Cyprus News.
Question: Apostolos Zoupaniotis, Cyprus News Agency. Mr… [Cross talk]
Question: Cyprus News Agency. Mr. Secretary‑General, your consultant Jane Holl Lute was in Cyprus for a week in the beginning of the month, but still there was no agreement on the terms of reference, no announcement about the resumption of the talks. Since you are meeting all the leaders and all the involved parties next week or the side‑lines for the General Assembly, what you are planning to do, and what is going to be your message?
Secretary-General: My message is that it’s very important to quickly come to an agreement on the terms of reference to be able to start substantial talks that this time, I would hope, would be different from all past ones. So, that is the message I’ll be conveying to all the leaders that I meet. It’s time to at least agree on terms of reference based on the work that was done, namely, in Crans‑Montana, because I’m a strong believer that the political process needs to be restarted, and I think that it is also very important for the parties. I mean, I see a lot of impatience, namely, the Security Council, with the fact that there has been no progress. So, I believe there are very good reasons for the parties to understand that, at least in relation to terms of reference, they need to come to an agreement.
Spokesman: Richard Roth.
Question: Thank you, Mr. Secretary. Two quickies. Please describe the dynamic when you meet this… the President of the United States here. You have had talks with him. Do you see two sides? Do you get one view, and then he goes on stage in the UNGA and surprises you? And the second question, since we’re headed to a strenuous UNGA again for you, how would you like to be remembered? [Laughter]
Spokesman: How would you like to be remembered is the second question. [Laughter]
Secretary-General: Well, in relation to the first, I have to say that meetings are always very frank, very open and very constructive. In relation to the second, I don’t care at all about how I will be remembered. The only thing I care is to do what I believe is the right thing.
Question: [Off mic] Are you leaving soon? [Laughter]
Spokesman: Betul. Good. Okay. Maria from TASS, all the way in the back.
Question: Thank you so much, Stéphane, to see me so far from here. Secretary‑General, thank you for the press conference. So, as…
Spokesman: Maria, can you just wave so we can see you? Just wave. There we go. She’s in the back.
Secretary-General: Okay. Very difficult to… [Laughter]
Question: Yeah. Now I forgot my question. [Laughter] Yeah. As Russian ambassador, Vasily Nebenzya, said that Russia is ready to give all the necessary data for the investigation in Idlib, and he also, like…
Secretary-General: You mean the Board of Inquiry?
Question: Yeah, the Board of Inquiry. Sorry. And, also, he doubted the UN information about when the attacks happened and whether they really damaged the facilities mentioned by United Nations. So, I wonder how the cooperation with Russia and Syrian Government will go in this area? And, also, you know, actually, I wanted to mention that I… it’s not statements here, but I hear a lot about accusations of Russia in Idlib, but I also saw information about air strikes by United States, and I didn’t hear any words about accusations of United States. So, I wonder if it’s fair enough. Thank you.
Secretary-General: Well, first of all, this Board of Inquiry has very clear instructions in its terms of reference to act in an extreme perspective of impartiality and to see what is the truth and not to abide by any agenda but what is the truth. And, by the way, it will be investigating situations or be looking into situations, both in the area that is under the control of the opposition and in the area that is under the control of the Government of Syria. And we strongly hope, and the Russian Government has already said so, that there will be a very positive cooperation also with the Government of Russia and the Government of Syria.
Now, obviously, the number of incidents that this Board of Inquiry will be looking at is related to my competence as chief administrative officer, and my competence as chief administrative officer, because that is the competence I can have, because, otherwise, this would have to be decided by the Security Council or the General Assembly; in that, investigation or the inquiry takes place in relation of premises that were under UN support, which means that there were funds of the UN involved in those premises, or in situations in which the conflicting agreements involving the UN were taking place. And, so, these are the only situations in which I have the authority to ask the Board of Inquiry to do the investigation, so it’s not related to whoever is there, whoever bombed or not bombed. It’s related to the very specific fact that the UN had an involvement in those specific situations.
Question: Thank you. Mr. Secretary‑General, Majeed Gly, Rudaw Media Network. I have two questions. The first one is a follow‑up on the Saudi attacks. Secretary [Michael] Pompeo just announced that it’s an act of war, that these attacks on oil facility is an act of war. Do you agree with that characterisation? Do you think it’s an act of war?
And my second question is, we’re coming up with this Climate Summit. There is… one of the most under‑reported issue regarding the conflict zones in Iraq and in Syria is the impact on climate on those two countries, lack of water, natural disasters, that’s preventing hundreds of thousands of refugees to go back to their homes. Why there hasn’t been any focus… much focus on this? And do you… do you support an idea of having a special fund or programme to deal with the impact of climate as a preventative measure for conflict? Thank you.
Secretary-General: Well, first of all, it doesn’t look like an act of peace, and those that have, in the beginning, assumed the responsibility to have done it, the Houthis, were describing it as an act related to their own war in Yemen, so I don’t see how this can be classified as an act of peace.
Now, second question, this is central in our concerns about adaptation. When we look at the Sahel today, it is clear that climate change is accelerating the desertification of the drought. The drought is making herders and especially herders of certain tribes move and move south to areas where farming communities are, sometimes of different ethnic groups, sometimes even of different religions. And this is becoming a very dramatic factor that increases the potential of conflict and facilitates the work of terrorism.
On the other hand, it is also true that many people can have interpretations about situations of unrest, leading to conflict in different parts of the world, linked to drought or linked to bad agricultural productions and the tensions that these generate in societies. There is even an interpretation of the French Revolution, goes as back as that, related to very bad farming years because of excessive rains at the time. And what is clear for me is that, in more recent times, the progression of drought and the reduction of resources available, especially for farming communities or herding communities, is clearly responsible for the aggravation of conflicts. Darfur is a clear example. Many people also consider that there was an influence of climate change in the Arab Spring. So, there are many situations that show how important it is from the point of view of prevention of conflict to prepare… first of all, to avoid… to stop climate change but, second, to invest in adaptation. And our campaign has been, in order to make sure that of the funds that are being available, both Green Climate Fund and the $100 billion that we hope will be mobilised from next year onwards, that those funds address simultaneously mitigation and adaptation. And adaptation is exactly what can prevent the kind of situations that you mentioned.
Spokesman: Tatira from Newsday Zimbabwe in the back.
Question: Thank you, Mr. Secretary‑General. My name is…
Secretary-General: Wait. Where is he?
Spokesman: All the way in the back.
Correspondent: Here, yeah.
Spokesman: All the way in the back.
Question: Here. Yes. My name is Tatira Zwinoira, and I’m a reporter from Zimbabwe for a paper called Newsday, and I’m one of the four Dag Hammarskjöld Fund journalists. I had two questions. One, the UN Special Rapporteur Clement Voule – I hope I pronounced that correctly ‑‑ is currently visiting Zimbabwe amid an increase in gross human rights violations that includes abductions. So, I wanted to find out from you, what does this do to the image of Zimbabwe, which has been trying to re‑engage the international community?
And my other question is, you said we are losing the battle on SDGs. Could you explain more on that and economies dependent on commodities contributing to this and to what extent?
Secretary-General: Well, first of all, in relation to Zimbabwe, I think it’s very important that true political and economic reform is implemented by Zimbabwe in order, first of all, to solve the problems of the country and its people and, second, to be able also to gain, in the international community, the kind of support that Zimbabwe will need to overcome the very difficult economic situation it is in. And, of course, the human rights that I mentioned is fully part of that.
Now, very recently, I received a group of statisticians from Oxford University. And, according to the analysis that was made by them, in relation to the Sustainable Development Goals, if we maintain the present track, we will go on having globally improvements, but those improvements will lead in 2030 to somewhere at halfway between the starting point and the goals as defined, which means that we are off‑track and which means that we need to accelerate the implementation of the measures to guarantee that we reach the Sustainable Development Goals. This has to do with policies, policies of governments. This has to do with funding that needs to be increased. This has to do with mobilisation of the private sector, because many of the investments that are necessary will inevitably have to come from the private sector of the international financial institutions. This will need the development of a number of new financial instruments, green bonds, social impact bonds and others. So, there is a wide range of things that need to be done if we want to have the 2030 Agenda fully implemented. And that is the reason why, on Tuesday, we will have a summit on the Sustainable Development Goals, that is a General Assembly summit, which is linked to the high‑level political forum, where Member States have been discussing their own programmes and it is clear that all… everybody is in agreement that we need to accelerate our efforts, and, at the same time, we need to accelerate the mobilisation of resources for the agenda 2030 to be a success.
Question: Hello Elena Lentza from the Agência Lusa. I’ll just speak in Portuguese. [In Portuguese] Senhor secretário-geral, muito obrigado por esta conferência. Eu queria perguntar-lhe sobre os países de língua portuguesa. No ano em que Moçambique sofreu desastres naturais e uma pior crise humanitária, a Guiné- Bissau continua em atenção por causa da crise política, o Brasil também tem situações polémicas por causada classe política e do presidente. Timor-Leste celebrou 20 anos de referendo de independência. O que acha da situação dos países de língua portuguesa, neste ano que trouxe muitas mudanças e o que espera das reuniões nesta Assembleia Geral?
Secretary-General: [In Portuguese] Em primeiro lugar, penso que a Comunidade de Países de Língua Portuguesa, como a Commonwealth, como a Francofonia, tem um papel muito importante no palco das relações internacionais e são parceiros das Nações Unidas. Nós estamos otimistas em relação à Guiné-Bissau, pensamos que as eleições presidenciais terão lugar e que o país se encaminhará progressivamente para a estabilidade política. Nós acompanhamos com todo interesse a situação em Timor-Leste e pensamos que Timor-Leste é um exemplo notável de triunfo da democracia, em circunstâncias particularmente difíceis, sabemos que há alguma complexidade na vida política timorense e tudo faremos para apoiar os timorenses para resolverem a suas dificuldades. E quero exprimir aqui, uma vez mais, a profunda solidariedade com Moçambique, que foi vítima de duas tempestades terríveis com efeitos devastadores, e que exige o grande apoio da comunidade internacional. Por outro lado, estamos também particularmente interessados em que os fogos florestais em todo o mundo, não apenas no Brasil, mas em todo o Mundo possam ser eficazmente combatidos e que uma política de reflorestação possa ter êxito porque a floresta é um elemento absolutamente indispensável na luta contra a alteração climática.
Question: Ma Jianguo, Xinhua News Agency. My question comes to the Youth Summit… Youth Climate Act… Summit. And how many people, how many countries are attending this summit? And are you happy with the turnout? Another question, what role do the young generation play in climate action? Thank you.
Question: Climate action.
Secretary-General: Well, first of all, I have not the last figures, but I believe it’s around 600 participants, if someone can correct me…
Spokesman: We’ll check.
Secretary-General: … and from a very large number of countries, so I am quite happy with the mobilisation that was made and lots of events that happened all over the world in preparation for this summit. And the truth is, we have seen in the youth much bigger determination and the much bigger courage than sometimes in the whole of societies. And I hope that the youth will have more and more influence in those societies and more and more impact in the political decisions that are taken. We have seen recently in several elections… and I don’t want to enter into political discussions that are not mine, but we have seen in several elections how climate is becoming a very important issue. And, so, obviously, the youths have demonstrated their very clear influence in their societies, and I can only hope that that influence increases.
Spokesman: Mr. Abbadi, and that will be the last question.
Question: Thank you, Mr. Secretary‑General. Abbadi, Les Dossiers du le maroc. Your illustrious predecessor Dag Hammarskjöld said, reflecting on your job, job of Secretary‑General, that it is the most difficult job in the world.
Secretary-General: I think he said worse than… [Cross talk]
Question: The most impossible…
Secretary-General: He said more worse than difficult, yes.
Question: The most impossible job in the world. Do you agree? And why? Can you be specific? [Laughter]
Secretary-General: Well, I’m not sure if it is the most impossible job in the world. I think that, for someone that works in one of the least developed countries and works 50 hours per week and has a salary of $2 or $3 per day, that job is worse than mine. No? So, there are worse jobs than this, because I recognise that, in this job, as in all the other jobs I’ve done, both in the Portuguese political life and then as High Commissioner for Refugees, I’ve been enormously privileged. And, as you know, I’m Catholic, which, of course, doesn’t matter for this purpose, but the most important thing in my life as a guiding line is the Parable of the Talents, which means that those who have received more talents ‑‑ talents were the currency of the Roman Empire, but we can have our interpretations ‑‑ have the responsibility to multiply them and to put them at the service of the people that have not received them. I think I’m enormously privileged, and the most difficult part of my job is to be able to correspond that privilege and to do everything I can for the billions of people that live in very difficult circumstances in the world. Many of them I met in the most tragic of those circumstances when I was High Commissioner for Refugees.
Spokesman: Great. Thank you very much.
Secretary-General: Thank you.