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TRANSCRIPT OF THE SECRETARY GENERAL’S MEDIA STAKE OUT

AT THE MEXICAN MINISTRY OF FOREIGN AFFAIRS,

WITH FOREIGN MINISTER, LUIS ERNESTO DERBEZ, 8 SEPTEMBER 2004

 

SG – Thank you very much, Mr. Minister, I am also extremely pleased to be able to join you here with all the Latin American leaders to discuss the UNDP Report on Dmocracy in Latin America. I am also very pleased that Mark Malloch-Brown, the tall gentleman standing there was able to join us.

The UN has been devoting a lot of attention to good governance, institution building and social and economic issues, and Latin America has had a very good example of democratic transformation which has had impact on other regions and we decided to take a look at what was happening in the region, particularly in certain situations where some elements of society were questioning whether democracy was fulfilling their basic needs and their expectations and we hope that the report that the UNDP has presented to you will be a useful input for the debate about strengthening good governance that has taken place in this continent and in this region. And I am extremely happy that the Government of Mexico decided to host this important seminar. And I came down to lend my own support because of the importance that the UNDP and we the United Nations attach to this topic and the next few days should be very enlightening and constructive period of discussion. Thank you very much. I will take your questions.

Question.- (in Spanish) Thank you very much. My question is for the Secretary General, Mr. Kofi Annan. We would like to know what is your opinion regarding the opposition of the United States against the increase in the membership of the United Nations Security Council, as well as if you could give us more details about the Mexican Government proposals regarding the UN reform in the framework of the Group of Friends of the UN reform.

SG - Yes. As most of you know we have a high-level panel which is studying the UN reforms and will submit proposals to me in December, on how we can adapt the Organization and make it more responsive to the pressing challenges of the twenty first century. They will deal with policy issues such as when is intervention legitimate and will also touch on the issue of preventive war. They will look at the effective functioning of the General Assembly and the Economic and Social Council and they will also look at the reform of the Security Council and its expansion. They will make specific proposals to me in December, which I will then have to get the Member States to act on and it is in that context that I am getting lots of support from this region, and particularly from Mexico that has taken the lead in putting together a group of fifteen states who will work with me to try and steer the process to a successful conclusion. At this date, I cannot say that the US is opposed to an expansion of the Council. We are all waiting for the recommendations from the panel and I will take it from there. My assumption and expectation is that all governments must recognize that we need to bring the structure of the Security Council in line with today’s realities. The current structure reflects the geopolitical realities of 1945 and so when the recommendations are made, I expect them to be solid and I expect the full support of the members, for us not only to transform the membership of the Council but also to make it more representative and more democratic so that it can gain greater legitimacy.

Question.- The question is for Mr. Annan. Given the fact that conflicts in the Middle East take generation upon generation in resolving, perhaps even longer. Do you think the United States, Great Britain and the Allies will be able to maintain their efforts in Iraq? Secondly, do you think that weapons of mass destruction will ever be found in that country? Third, do you think that democracies, specially in the United States, are developing quick enough in the sense of defending themselves against the biggest threat at the moment really for them, terrorism?

SG.- You have three questions in one. On the last question, I am not sure what I can say about, whether democracy in America is developing fast enough for them to be able to deal with terrorism. The other question, I think that is an issue that the American Government I working on, and they will come up with homeland security and also some measures that deal with terrorism, but I would also remind you that on the terrorist issue the Security Council of the United Nations is very active, because we believe and I believe that one the most effective ways to fight terrorism is to get international cooperation, and governments to work together, get governments to ensure that no one offers safe haven to terrorists, no one allows them logistical support, no one allows them to open bank accounts for their operations and share information. I think that political, diplomatic and security cooperation will have a great impact on terrorists.

On your question as to whether the multinational force of the US and its allies will be able to stay the course and stay as long as it takes to pacify Iraq, arguing that it has taken more than twenty years to do anything about the Middle East. I think this is an issue of great concern to the United Nations and we have been actively engaged on the ground trying to help the Iraqis move well through the political transition, and form a Government of the people by the people, to ensure that the Iraqis will be in charge of their own destiny and their economic resources. And I am very grateful to Mexico for having received a group of Iraqi officials to train them for their elections. When will Iraq be pacified? It’s a question for the future to answer. As you see, the situation on the ground we have a very serious security challenge, and until the multinational force working with the Iraqi Government is able to secure the environment, it’s going to be very difficult to move ahead and do some of the constructive things that are necessary to stabilize Iraq. So, we are working on the ground assisting the Government, but obviously how quickly this agency will be brought to a closure, I cannot say. My sense is that they are in for the long run. How long governments are going to stay the course, I really cannot say. But it’s going to be a long process. But let me conclude by saying that the stabilization of Iraq is in everyone’s interest. We cannot afford to see a destabilized Iraq in the middle of that region. So we all have to do whatever we can to pacify and stabilize Iraq. Thank you

QUESTION (in Spanish)

For the UN is the priority Iraq, or the Middle East, or is it terrorism in Russia? Also, what are the risks of the US having become the world’s policemen? And finally, you are a human rights defender, what do you think of the Mexican Government having authorized the use of pepper-gas bullets in the Northern border against Mexican indocumented migrants who are trying to cross the border into the US?

SG – Let me say that obviously the fight against terrorism is an important issue on our agenda. But I will not say that it’s the most important issue, or the only important issue, on the UN agenda. We have other equally important issues that we should not lose sight of. Yes, Iraq has dominated the media and the press. But the fight against poverty is an important agenda for the UN. The fight against the HIV epidemic is an important issue for us. Environmental degradation is an important issue for us. Fair and equal trade is an important issue for us. The non-proliferation of nuclear weapons is and so is terrorism. And we need to be careful not to create the impression that the only crisis in the world today is terrorism, when for millions there are other present needs which need to be taken care of. So, terrorism is one of our present priorities, but let me also say on the question of human rights. First of all, I want to thank the Mexican Government for the very constructive and positive attitude it has towards human rights, and the cooperation it has extended to the Human Rights Commission, and I know that the Rapporteurs have visited Mexico several times with all access made available, and that is extremely important. On your question of migrants and immigration, I myself consider migration as one of the key issues of our time and in fact not too long ago I gave a speech at the European Parliament arguing that immigration cannot be stopped. Immigration is essential. What we need to do is to manage it and ensure that the rights of the migrants are protected and respected as they often leave their countries to go and make a contribution elsewhere. They are courageous men and women who are trying to make a living and they should not be treated as criminals or troublemakers. And they often do make a genuine contribution in the new societies they join. They often bring new dynamism and energy to those societies and it is often the societies that have been able to introduce or welcome migrants in an open democratic manner that have done well down the line.


QUESTION (in Spanish).-What progress has there been in establishing in Mexico a training program for the organization of elections in other countries?

SG- I think as far as the preparation and training of electoral officers is concerned, we did a major one here in Mexico. I have electoral experts in Iraq who are also advising and supporting the process and other countries have offered to assist and it is quite possible that down the line we might seek further assistance from Mexico. We are very, very grateful for the support that we have received here and I think that it is the kind of international solidarity I like to see as we attempt to stabilize Iraq.


QUESTION (in Spanish).- Mr. Annan, you mentioned in your message that the great paradox of Latin America is that democracy has not necessarily translated into achievements for the most vulnerable countries and the poorest regions, there are not enough job opportunities, there is no food security. What is the concrete evaluation for Mexico? You also mention that due to this disappointment, there is the temptation to chose different and anti-democratic systems. Is that the case of Mexico?

SG. I think that in the case of Mexico we see a democracy that is in process and in transformation. And I think the last elections indicated that the Mexican democracy is alive and well; the electoral system has been running for over seventy years. What I said this morning is that democracy is more than elections. We need to be able to also look into other needs of the citizens, particularly the least privileged, their civil, social and political rights. I talked about the need to ensure education, health and others rights, but I think the Mexican government is putting forward programs to deal with that. The problem may be more acute in other countries in the region than in Mexico, but each country, each democracy has its own problems that it has to deal with. What is important is to recognize what the problems are and take concrete measures to deal with them.

QUESTION.- Mr. Secretary General, you mention that United Nations was playing a leading role in fighting terrorism. Yet, today Russia, after the killings last week said that it would fight terrorism wherever they found it in the world. So firstly, the United States acting unilaterally against what it thinks is terrorism and now the Russians are going to do the same. Is it not the job of the United Nations Security Council rather than individual countries?

SG.- I made it quite clear that I believe in the fight against terrorism. Countries have to work together, pool their efforts, share information and the Security Council resolution immediately after the 9/11 required governments to do exactly that, to cooperate and share information. I think we need to be careful that as we attempt to tackle terrorism, and fight the terrorists, we do not adopt approaches and methods, which create other problems. And I have indicated that yes, we need to come up with ways and means of fighting terrorism effectively but also have to make sure that these approaches do not undermine the rule of law and basic civil rights of all people. Thank you very much.

 
 
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