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Sorensen Distinguished Lecture on the United Nations: A Conversation with Ban Ki-moon

Speaker: Ban Ki-moon, Secretary-General, United Nations
Presider: Christiane Amanpour, Chief International Correspondent, CNN; Anchor, Amanpour, CNN International; Global Affairs Anchor, ABC News
February 11, 2013
Council on Foreign Relations

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RICHARD HAASS: (In progress) -- Council on Foreign Relations. I'm Richard Haass, the president of this organization, and I want to thank all of you, whether here in person or watching us through one or another technology, for joining for us for tonight's Sorensen Distinguished Lecture on the United Nations.

Now, this is the first Sorensen Lecture since Ted passed away in 2010, so what I'd like to do for a minute is recognize some of his contributions to this institution and to this country. He would often joke -- about many things -- (laughter) -- but one of the things Ted would joke about would -- is -- is on his epitaph, his name would be misspelled -- (laughter) -- and that it would simply say something to the effect that he had been President John F. Kennedy's speechwriter or alter ego or something along those lines. And to be fair, historians could perhaps be forgiven for focusing on those years, because Ted played such an important part of history that was really critical not just for this country but for the world.

But that said, we here at the Council on Foreign Relations and beyond know that there was more to his career and much more to him than that. In his many speaking appearances here at the Council on Foreign Relations over the decade covered not just issues like the Cold War but also topics as varied as trade with Africa, peace in the Middle East, and my personal favorite, conflict resolution and political reform in Tajikistan. (Laughter.) It was a veritable barn burner.

I want to thank his wife, whose here with us tonight, Gillian, for her part in the establishment of this -- of this lecture series, and more broadly, being so generous with Ted's time over the years. We must have seemed like competition, I expect, every now and then.

Ted was good enough to serve on the board of this organization and was really a central part of our intellectual community. He was also someone, and perhaps the only person I know, who had the creativity and the courage to describe Pete Peterson, who at that point was the chairman of the board of directors, as a self-made man who worships his own creator. (Laughter.)

I know that Ted would have been delighted to welcome tonight's speaker. Ban Ki-moon is the eighth secretary-general of the United Nations, and he's led that institution -- just several blocks to the east, in case you were wondering -- since 2007, and he's worked hard, to say the least, to highlight the importance of international action on challenges ranging from climate change to food security to poverty to conflict resolution. And he's done this at a time, I would say, of unusual challenge for this organization and for the world. It's all taken place against the backdrop of global economic difficulty. We've also seen the truly historic upheavals throughout the Middle East, including but not limited to revolutionary change in Egypt and several other countries, a terrible civil war in Syria, and Iran's steady march toward developing the capacity to produce nuclear weapons.

And then beyond the Middle East, a lot else has been going on, from the movement, if you will, of historical tectonic plates in Asia and the Asia-Pacific region, which pose new challenges to regional and potentially global stability. And then there's been the structural issue at the same time of integrating many of the world's new powers, from China to India to Brazil and others into the institutions of global governance, including the U.N., that deal with issues ranging from climate change to trafficking in drugs and persons. In short, he has one of the world's most demanding and most important inboxes.

What we are going to do tonight -- and we are fortunate indeed -- is to hear the secretary-general give -- make some opening remarks. Then he will show considerable bravery of his own by being joined onstage by Christiane Amanpour, one of the country's and the world's premiere journalists associated with both CNN and ABC. And they will have a short conversation, and then he has agreed to open himself up to the questions of our membership who are with us tonight.

So ladies and gentlemen, please join me in welcoming the secretary-general of the United Nations. (Applause.)

SECRETARY-GENERAL BAN KI-MOON: Thank you, Dr. Richard Haass, president of the Council on Foreign Relations, my good friend, Gillian Sorensen, Ms. Christiane Amanpour of CNN, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen.

It's a great pleasure to be here with you today to share some of our thoughts about the current international world, and I am very much moved by your warm welcome. Standing in this Council on Foreign Relations today -- when it comes to timing of my speech today, I think my appearance tonight seems to be sandwiched by two big events. Yesterday there was the Grammy awards -- (laughter) -- tomorrow, most importantly, the President Obama is going to have his union address -- State of the Union address. So I am sandwiched. Of course, you know, I know I should not try to compete with President Obama. I don't have any such intention or ambition.

Perhaps I am luckier than President Obama, at least in one sense: this -- I am not belonging to either Democrats or Republican. You can feel free to applaud together in this hall -- (laughter) -- whatever I may say, if you agree.

And as for the Grammy awards, I know you are broadcasting this event this evening, but I will not try to be a South Korean YouTube sensation. (Laughter.) I promise you that no "Gangnam Style" for me today. (Laughter.)

In any event, thank you very much, again. I am especially honored to deliver this Sorensen lecture on the United Nations. The Sorensen commitment to the principles and goals of the United Nations is unrivaled. Ted Sorensen wore U.N. blue helmet since the model UNESCO exercise he took part in as a student. His law practice found many ways to advance U.N. causes.

Gillian Sorensen, your voice has reached across this country and around the world. For decades now you have been a great U.N. advocate, explaining what we do and why it matters. I know how much it pains you and Ted when the United Nations was marginalized or misunderstood -- not much appreciated. This annual lecture has helped to serve as a welcome corrective.

You may all be aware that my own career was started in diplomacy when I was a -- as a young high school student when I was lucky enough to have met -- to meet the president, John F. Kennedy, in 1962. One minute at the time, I was just a very poor rural boy visiting from war-torn South Korea.

The next, standing there in the Rose Garden in 1962. I was determined and inspired to do my own role to do for my country and leader, if possible, to work for the world. That is what I'm here.

I have wondered about Ted Sorensen's whereabouts at the time. Was he either watching us or more likely -- most likely he must have been bent in on a typewriter, wrestling another historic, memorable phrase into being. And, anyway, whatever the case may be, I feel fortunate that my life has been touched by the Sorensens' spirit of service.

Ladies and gentlemen, you all know how many issues are on the United Nations' agenda. I cannot possibly cover all of the issues which is now being addressed by the United Nations by myself, and by very, very dedicated U.N. staff in this very limited time. Therefore, I have done what is typically a very dangerous thing for a U.N. secretary-general to do. I have chosen just two items above all others to discuss in depth.

These two items both have huge consequences for humanity. In both cases, the international community is not upholding its responsibility. Both risk harsh judgment of history should current trends continue, and both require collective action that must involve the United Nations. What are those two issues? I speak about the crisis in Syria and the threat of climate change. We can use the question-and-answer session to cover other issues, like situations in Mali, Afghanistan, Democratic Republic of Congo or Democratic People's Republic of Korea -- just a few. But for me at this time, Syria and climate deserve our heightened attention.

Ladies and gentlemen, Syria is self-destructing. After nearly two years, we no longer count -- we no longer count days in hours but in bodies. Another day, another hundred, 200 or 300 are dead. Fighting rages; sectarian hatred is on the rise. The catastrophe -- the catalogue of war crimes is mounting. Sexual violence is widespread. The destruction is systematic. Syria is being torn apart limb by limb. The political crisis has spread a humanitarian emergency. Four million people -- that's 20 percent of total population of Syria -- 1-out-of-5 are in need of immediate humanitarian assistance. Three-quarters of a million have fled the country, straining Syria's neighbors and further risking regional instability.

The pledges from the donor conference two weeks ago, which I convened in Kuwait, will help us to bring comfort to those in need. But it can never be enough, however, to treat the symptoms of conflict. Our responsibility is to get to the roots and make the violence stop before the moment divides rules the day inside Syria, in the region and the United Nations Security Council. The Syrians are not ready to talk to one another. The regime remains as repressive as ever. The situation cries out for action by the Security Council, in particular. As Joint Special Representative Dr. Brahimi has said, the council cannot simply wait for divisions to evaporate.

That guarantees not only more violence, but the very disintegration of the country and the possibility that Syria could become an arena for competing national and regional forces, government and non-state actors alike. The Security Council must no longer stand on the sidelines, deadlocked, silently witnessing the slaughter. It must be willing, at long last, to come together and establish the parameters for the democratic transition that can save Syria.

The offer by national coalition leader, Moaz al-Khatib to open discussions with representatives of the Syrian government is an opportunity they should not miss -- a chance to switch from a devastating military logic to a promising political approach. This was a courageous offer by Mr. al-Khatib. I urge both Syrian government and the Security Council to respond positively.

We need to find a way towards negotiations between empowered government and opposition delegations that can made key decisions about the country's future -- on elections, on constitutional reform, on accountability for victims of international crimes, on other steps needed to meet the people's legitimate aspirations. It is time for a clean break from Syria's past and for a decisive turn toward a future where Syrians are able to express their political views freely, without fear of arbitrary arrest or killing -- a Syria where human rights of all are protected.

Let us also draw a broader lesson. In the Arab world and elsewhere, people want real change, not grudging, cosmetic adjustment. Let us remember that whether countries are emerging from conflict or authoritarian rule, transition will not be linear marches toward Jeffersonian democracy or Swiss-style tranquility. The road will be rocky. The cases of Myanmar, Timor-Leste and Sierra Leon give some hope that patient, long-term engagement, consistent diplomacy can yield results. The case of Mali shows how little we sometimes understand about the fragility of democracies considered well- established.

We must also resist the temptation to see the current troubles in Egypt or Libya as proof that the old order was a better one. We can take some confidence from history that period of -- periods of post- revolutionary disorder are passing phenomena. But close and patient engagement will be crucial. The international community has a duty to accompany these transitions with meaningful contributions.

Ladies and gentlemen, let me now turn to the gathering threat of climate change. Scientists have long sounded the alarm. Top-ranking military commanders and security experts have now joined the chorus. Yet, the political class seems far behind. You all know the potential consequences: the downward global spiral of extreme weather and disaster, reversals in development gains, increases in displacement, aggravated tensions over water and land, fragile states tipping into chaos.

Yet, greenhouse emissions are rising faster than ever. Business as usual retains its hold. We must limit global temperature rise to two degrees centigrade. We are far from there, and even that is enough to cause dire consequences. If we continue along the current path, we are close to a six degree increase.

That will be a catastrophe. Too many leaders seem content to keep climate change at arms' length and (in a ?) policy silo. To few grasp the need to bring the threat to the center of global security, economic and financial management. It's time to move beyond spending enormous sums addressing the damage and to make investments that will repay themselves many times over. Some countries are embracing the transition to low-carbon, low-emissions future. They are adding electrical capacity through renewable energy and avoiding the need to build new coal power plants.

The renewable energy industry created 1.5 million new jobs last year. The cost of wind power continued to fall. With the right enabling public policies, close to 80 percent of the world's energy supply could be met by renewables by mid-century. This is not utopian or science fiction. It is current fact. My sustainable energy for all initiative aims to support and expand such a point. The green economy is an essential insurance policy (and ?) investment in a safer future for all.

A global climate change agreement would give us the engine we need to advance us decisively on this path. I welcome President Obama's (due ?) resolve to address climate change and give it high political priority. I'm reaching out to government and business leaders to mobilize the capital and the political will for a global, legally binding climate change treaty by 2015. World leaders have pledged to reach an agreement and we must hold them to that promise.

Ladies and gentlemen, before making my way to Christiane Amanpour and your questions, let me violate my own rule, which I said only two items -- mention two other issues of special urgency. First, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. There's a change in the air across the Middle East. It's long past time to resolve this conflict. We all know that a just and a permanent solution looks like. In the years ahead, we must stop finding excuses as to why the issues are too hard.

Second, situations on the Korean peninsula. I have urged the new leadership of Pyongyang to refrain from any further provocative actions, particularly another nuclear test. It is time for the DPRK authorities, who see the unified call of the international community, to return to dialogue for the denuclearization of the Korean peninsula. They should also address international concerns, including about the dire humanitarian and human rights situations. Should they reverse course, both are open for the DPRK to build a better future. As the secretary-general of the United Nations, I stand ready to work with all concerned parties for peace and stability in the region.

On the more general question of disarmament -- (inaudible) -- I welcome President Obama's heightened attention, including a push to reduce nuclear arsenals. On my part, I continue to press for steps to realize the goals of the five-point plan I set out early in my first term.

Later this week, Wednesday and Thursday, I will visit Washington, D.C. for talks on these and many other issues. I look forward to my discussions on Capitol Hill and with the secretary of state John Kerry.

My task as the secretary-general is to address crises today while building solid foundations for tomorrow. I seek good international formulas. I try to make possible the sacrifices and compromises that may be painful in the moment but which bring great dividends for coming generations.

We live in an age of monumental transitions -- economic, demographic, political. Global interdependencies are deepening; transitional threats are growing. This means we must make better use of the United Nations machinery. From peacekeeping and peace- building, from prevention to international criminal justice, our tools have proven more dynamic than most people give us credit for.

But we also recognize the need for our vehicle, first created in the 1940s, to be equipped for the highways of the 21st century. International machinery does not operate on its own. Hardware requires programmers. We need national leaders to think globally. We need a stronger sense of collective responsibility. And we need the United States, "our last best hope," I quote. That is how President Kennedy, with help from Ted Sorensen, famously described the United Nations in his inaugural address. He was speaking about a world in the grip of an arms race.

Now today we face a race against time. I look forward to the contributions that you in this room will make towards helping us reach our shared destinations: a safer, more just and more sustainable world for all.

I thank you for your attention. Thank you. (Applause.)

CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR (chief international correspondent, CNN): So without further ado, because I know we're all on a schedule, I'm going to speak to the secretary-general further for about 10 minutes, and then we're going to open it up to the members for questions.

So, Mr. Secretary-General, when you've got your papers sorted out, you've said that, you know, often you worry that the U.N. has been marginalized and that people complain about that. You've spoken about how you don't measure days and hours anymore when it comes to Syria, but you measure them in bodies. And you're talking about Syria being torn limb from limb.

So has the United Nations failed? Is this a failure of the international security system?

BAN: I don't think the United Nations has failed. What I'm stressing is that the international community must be united. As I said, division rules the day. Particularly, the Security Council members should feel a collective responsibility for the humanity and for the history. How can they answer after many years after this crisis is over? And whether they have done all what they should have done, I as the secretary-general don't want to apologize to the international community after many years for what I and we could have done for humanity. This is my message.

For that -- first of all, Syrians, both parties, they must stop killing each other, and they must sit together. Now there is a small window of opportunity for both opposition forces and even government.

AMANPOUR: Does your special representative, the joint envoy Lakhdar Brahimi, believe that there's a real opportunity for talks right now? You mentioned Mouaz al-Khatib, the opposition leader, has offered to meet the members of the Assad regime, and in fact the Assad regime has also said that it would like to hold talks as well, but there are lot of conditions attached by both sides. Do you honestly believe that there is a chance for talks?

BAN: If there is a political will, commitment, for humanity, there is a chance.

Today I had a long talk with -- again, over telephone -- with Lakhdar Brahimi. We discuss with him everything -- either myself, my deputy secretary-general or Jeffrey Feltman, the head of the political department. We always discuss.

And he met Moaz al-Khatib yesterday in Cairo, and they discussed all this political transition. I think they are ready. And even if opposition forces are now ready to talk with all the parties concerned, including even regime, for whom they rejected to meet, and they asked us in the past that their condition was that President Assad should step down before --

AMANPOUR: Their condition now --

BAN: Yes.

AMANPOUR: Their condition now is to release all the political prisoners.

BAN: Yes, I have been urging Syrian authorities, and I have conveyed my message to President Assad that he should do whatever he can to create an atmosphere conducive for dialogue for political transition in releasing all these prisoners -- and particularly women detained for political reasons.

AMANPOUR: This has been going on for nearly two years, and you've expressed frustration quite regularly. When I interviewed you last, I asked you what is Plan B, and you said there is no Plan B. Now you've just talked about a collective responsibility. Well, the United Nations adopted a responsibility to protect. Has it failed in Syria?

BAN: We have seen some good examples when it comes to responsibility to protect. Now, this is a principle agreed upon and committed by all the world's leaders in 2005, and the member states of the General Assembly have been discussing this matter, how to operationalize this very important principle. We have seen good successes in case of (Cote d'Ivoire ?) and Libya --

AMANPOUR: Yeah, but in Syria.

BAN: -- but Syria, it has not been applied. It has not --

AMANPOUR: Well, right -

BAN: It's (been able ?) to work.

AMANPOUR: So has it failed?

BAN: We are not working for failure. We are working for success.

(Laughter.)

AMANPOUR: I know you're working for success. Would you say it's a success, then?

BAN: No. We have yet to work very hard -- (audio break) -- we have to work very hard. That's why I'm asking world leaders, whether they are in Syria or -- (audio break) -- region, Security Council -- they have to be united. They have to have a sense of responsibility for humanity, for the future, for -- (audio break).

AMANPOUR: As they were leaving the administration, Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta, CIA Director -- former -- David Petraeus, outgoing Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said that they all supported the idea of arming and training the rebels. Do you think that diplomacy can work -- the best efforts of Lakhdar Brahimi -- if it is not backed up by the use of force or the threat of the use of force? In Syria I'm talking about.

BAN: Basically at this point -- and I have been urging both parties -- (audio break).

AMANPOUR: Was it being recorded or it's just not on the -- on the loudspeaker?

(Audio break.)

(Off-side conversation.)

AMANPOUR: Live television.

BAN: This is live? (Laughter.)

AMANPOUR: It is. It's being streamed. It's being streamed, but don't worry. (Laughter.) OK, I will -- just to sort of -- (inaudible).

So, in other words, as you -- as you seek -- as you seek to try to have your envoys accomplish some diplomacy, would it be much easier if it was backed up by the use of force?

BAN: Basically, there is no military options. There is no military solution. Unfortunately, both sides seem to believe determinedly that they can win over the other by military means. But that's wrong approach. All the pending issues should have been -- should be resolved through a political dialogue. In the end, it's a political transition. I have been urging all the countries who may be providing arms to both sides -- they should stop.

Now, they -- both sides must stop the fighting each other.

AMANPOUR: You know, look, that would be great, but it's just not going to happen until there's some kind of tipping point. And I was speaking to Senator McCain today, who said that all the reasons for not intervening have now come true because of not intervening. In other words, the idea that one would create a space for jihadis if one intervened, they're already there by not intervening. The idea that it would spill over into the region by intervening has already happened by not intervening.

So I know that you don't appreciate or want the use of force, but how do you think this is going to stop? I mean, really?

BAN: That's what Lakhdar Brahimi -- and we are working very hard to talk with the parties concerned, Russia, United States and members of the permanent -- permanent members of the Security Council. They should have a primary responsibility. And Lakhdar Brahimi has been meeting all the parties in the region, and including Security Council members. Let diplomacy, let dialogue prevail over military means. That's the best way and most practical way to save for human lives.

AMANPOUR: As you mentioned, there are some 4 million Syrians in need of help inside Syria. There's about three-quarters of a million who have crossed the borders. One of your senior U.N. officials told me the other day that it's very possible that some of the neighbors may slam the doors on these refugees. They're drowning in refugees. It's affecting their own stability. They can't cope. Is that a worry, or do you think all this money that you've gotten pledged in Kuwait is going to help?

BAN: I'm extremely concerned about the current situation when it comes to humanitarian situation. In the absence of a political solution, the United Nations has been mobilizing all possible agencies and resources. That's why I decided to convene an international high-level donors conference, where the member states have generously contributed more than $1.5 billion. But this is for up to only June, end of June. The number of refugees are increasing day-by-day. Sometimes more than 3,000 people cross the border overnight, through Jordan, Iraq, Lebanon and Turkey. It's almost impossible to handle all these refugees. The total number is almost reaching 800,000 as of today, and there are 4 million people affected. And this is 2.5 million people internally displaced.

AMANPOUR: Do you worry that countries like Jordan will just say enough, we can't have anymore?

BAN: I visited the Zaatari camp in Jordan and also camp -- a refugee camp in Turkey. My message has been consistent: Please keep your border open. There were some cases that they were returning these refugees, but I am urging them to keep this refugee flow. Whenever, wherever they want to find a place, they should be accommodated. The United Nations will do our best efforts to provide humanitarian assistance.

AMANPOUR: Let's move on to North Korea. You said that you had urged the leaders of North Korea not to conduct another nuclear test. Who have you spoken to and what has the response been?

BAN: Most of all I've been using my public statement as the secretary-general of the United Nations, and the messages have been conveyed to Pyongyang through the major countries in the -- in the region.

AMANPOUR: So you haven't picked up the phone and talked --

BAN: I have not been able to talk directly to leadership in Pyongyang. They don't work in that way. (Laughter.) I don't think whether anybody has ever spoken over the telephone to North Korean leadership. That's what they do.

So sometimes it's very, very difficult.

AMANPOUR: So what will the new president of South Korea -- what will the new president of South Korea be able to do? She's already spoken about wanting to change, to an extent, the policy of her predecessor.

BAN: She has a very good practical vision in this Korean Peninsula confidence and trust process. She met former leader Kim Jong Il in 2002. And I think that she's in a better position to really break this deadlocked situation on the Korean Peninsula.

Now, my mission has been that if DPRK conducts nuclear tests at this time, unfortunately it may effectively tie the hands of the new president of Korea, that it may take a long time before anybody can really be able to think about the -- normalizing the relationship.

Therefore, I would urge again the DPRK authorities to focus their priority on making their people economically sustainable and developing of people is more important at this time. If they run the nuclear test, this not only runs counter and violates the relevant Security Council resolutions, but it's going toward the wrong direction -- wrong direction.

AMANPOUR: You mentioned Mali. The U.N. and the Security Council are in talks, I think, about a potential peacekeeping force for Mali. Is that something that you can see happening? Are the talks far along? Will there be a U.N. peacekeeping force there?

BAN: I know that members of the Security Council are discussing this matter. And in fact, you know, I had some initial discussions with the members of the Security Council on this matter. But the situation at this time is still very precarious, very dangerous at this time. But we need to assess the situation on the ground before we will be able to discuss establishing the U.N. peacekeeping operation.

AMANPOUR: Do you think it should happen?

BAN: I think it's a matter of time when the -- these coalition forces will be able to address the security concerns on the ground, then we will be able to discuss this matter.

AMANPOUR: On a different issue in a different country, you had a lot of U.N. and NGO humanitarian medical workers trying to vaccinate populations in Pakistan. And they are being killed. I mean, they are just being killed. And some of these vaccination programs are having to be suspended.

I mean, do you see any way out of that? What is going on? And have you had any conversations that lead you to believe that that's something that's going to stop or be reversed?

BAN: It is totally unacceptable that health workers are being killed while vaccinating polio in Pakistan, in Nigeria. Unfortunately, again yesterday three more Korean health workers, doctors, were killed by these people. And I have condemned them strong -- in the strongest possible terms. They are working selflessly for benefit of people, for health of those young people to eradicate the polio.

There are only three countries in the world at this time where polio still exists -- that's Afghanistan, Pakistan and Nigeria. We are working very hard with the leaders of those countries to eradicate once and for all this polio.

AMANPOUR: If the violence doesn't stop, will these programs be ended?

BAN: I think we will have to continue vaccinating these people to save their children's lives. Otherwise, they will be dying needlessly.

AMANPOUR: Secretary General, thank you very much.

BAN: Thank you very much.

AMANPOUR: And now we're going to open it to questions. (Applause.) So I have a couple of instructions here regarding how to do the questions. I think -- are there microphones? Yes. OK. So I saw a hand over there first. Right there, this gentleman. Yeah, you got the mic there?

QUESTIONER: Thank you. Dan Altman from NYU and North Yard Economics. Mr. Secretary General, I'd like to ask you about an area where you do have some real leverage and not just moral suasion, which is the running of the U.N. itself.

The U.N., despite its effectiveness in some areas, which you mentioned, still has a reputation for opaque administration, for hiring and coddling perhaps incompetent workers and also for perhaps wasting some money here and there, though many governments and companies do that as well. And I would like to ask you: What can you to do improve the transparency and accountability of your organization, since those themes are two things that you emphasize so much?

I can tell you, from my own experience, I've been unable to figure how much, for example, the --

AMANPOUR: Not too long, OK? Not a speech.

QUESTIONER: There's a last sentence --

AMANPOUR: Not a speech. And please, everybody, members, not a speech. Otherwise, we don't get anywhere.

QUESTIONER: How much, for example, did the Rio Plus 20 conference cost the U.N. as a whole?

AMANPOUR: OK. Thank you.

QUESTIONER: Maybe that's a good place to start.

AMANPOUR: Thank you.

BAN: First of all, improving efficiency by enhancing transparency and accountability has been one of my top priorities as a change in management policy.

I think we have achieved a lot. The United Nations is different from the past. Of course in the past the United Nations must have been working very hard to improve their way of working. But since I took over this responsibility, from day one, the accountability, ethics, high level of ethics, and transparency and openness and accessibility have been some keywords for my organization, and I'm going to continue to do that.

You talk about the Rio Plus 20 summit meeting. Again, we have achieved a lot. For just one example, we had for the first time to use this smart conference, the paperless conference. We used -- (off mic) -- some tens of thousands -- like 30,000 pages are printed and distributed to the member states. Otherwise, it might have been millions of pages.

In the recent Doha climate change conference in December last year, we also reduced a lot -- millions of pages of paper by using smart paperless conference. And this is what -- the United Nations is trying to improve the way we work.

AMANPOUR: Over there. Ken. Ken Roth of Human Rights Watch. And I know you know how to ask a question. (Laughter.)

QUESTIONER: Mr. Secretary-General, I would like to ask you about a particularly courageous step you took in your first term in commissioning the so-called Petrie report, which looked very critically at the U.N.'s operations in Sri Lanka in the waning months of the war with Tamil Tigers and essentially criticized the U.N. for prioritizing humanitarian presence over speaking out over the indiscriminate shelling and murder of 40,000.

There are two recommendations it makes that I want to ask you for a progress report on. One was the recommendation that a senior political person be put in charge of any crisis like that, so that the U.N.'s priorities were properly reflected, and second, that there be a rapid deployment of human rights monitors, to make it contemporary, in a situation like Mali or Syria. Where does that stand?

BAN: Now I have decided, when it comes to Mali, we didn't have any mission there. With -- soon as this crisis began, within one week I had dispatched and deployed on the ground this high political mission. And I deployed, in close consultation with the high commissioner for human rights, more humanitarian monitors on the ground. We will try to increase more.

The -- protecting human rights and also humanitarian assistance -- this is a top priority in all the conflict zones, as we have been doing in Sri Lanka and elsewhere.

And in that regard, I appreciate Mr. Ken Roth, with whom I have been working very closely. Your advice has been quite appreciated. Thank you very much. Thank --

AMANPOUR: Right here. Can we get a microphone?

QUESTIONER: Felice Gaer. Mr. Secretary-General, when you spoke here in 2006, before you were elected, you said that the responsibility to protect was one of the issues that the -- I -- a top issue for you, needed to be substantiated.

There is no one currently in the position of special representative on responsibility to protect. Do you intend to fill that position?

BAN: I was here in May 2006. In fact, at that time I was one of the candidates for this job. I'm lucky, you know, fortunate to be chosen as the secretary-general to serve the United Nations.

Today, this afternoon, I read -- I just particularly went through what I said the last time, in 2006. (Laughter.) So you pointed out exactly what I said.

One of my campaign pledges at that time was that if and when I would be elected the secretary-general, I would do my best to operationalize the concept of responsibility to protect. I will continue to do that. As you know, I appointed the special adviser on responsibility to protect.

It has been quite difficult, how to give it this level of comfort of member states on this principle. It has been quite a sensitive and patient process. But we have had the several rounds of General Assembly discussions, and there was a consensus resolutions. We are moving, even though it's not moving fast enough as we have been expecting, as you may be expecting -- I think we are going toward the right direction.

And at this time Mr. Deng, who worked as the registrar of ICTR, International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda, is now working as a special adviser on prevention of genocide and special adviser for responsibility to protect. But when the time comes, you know, I would try to point -- separate the special adviser on that. Thank you.

QUESTIONER: Evelyn Leopold (sp). You say you're going to Washington. We happen to have a Congress that wants to cut the budget. The Republicans are not that happy with the U.N. They will reflect some of the same criticism that the first questioner had. Whether it's true or not, they don't very much like foreigners. Aside from your -- aside from your trip, what are you doing to promote the United Nations in the United States?

BAN: I have been visiting Washington, D.C., and visiting and meeting the members of Congress, both House of Representatives and Senate. I'm going to have meetings with both the Foreign Relations Committee in the Senate and in the House of Representatives. I believe that United Nations and United States share same goals and objectives.

When U.N. was created, U.S. played a crucially important role, in fact. Therefore, we need the support of the United States. Twenty- two percent to 27 percent of U.N. budget is being borne by the United States, the largest contributor. And on top of this assessed contribution, U.S. pays a lot of extrabudgetary contributions on development and human rights and security and peace issues. We are very much grateful.

That's why it's crucially important for any secretary-general of the United Nations or any staff of the United Nations to have strong support of the United Nations -- United States. That is why I always try to meet, starting from president and secretary of state and members of the Congress.

And I also want to get support from the citizens of the United States. That's why I've been traveling a lot around the United States. United Nations Association of U.N. and also United States -- United Nations Association of United States and also U.N. Foundation -- they have been playing a great role to help United Nations.

AMANPOUR: So before I take another one from the floor, I need to ask you a question from a national member. It came over via email. And this is from Nancy Aossey, International Medical Corps. She's in Santa Monica, California. She wants to know, how do you envision the U.N. better leveraging the impact of NGOs to support the 4 million Syrians who we've been talking about in need of help? How are you planning to make that happen?

And what critical needs, she asked, are the U.N. prioritizing?

BAN: Working together with the NGOs is crucially important. In case of Syria, we have very limited access. We normally work together with Red Crescent of Syria and International Red Cross Society, ICRC, and International Red Cross Federation -- Federation of Red Cross. And many of the humanitarian-related agencies and, you know, organizations, they provide the generous -- (inaudible) -- generous resources. They provide a lot of access. They play very important role.

AMANPOUR: There are a lot of people in Syria who are complaining now that they're not getting the stuff that they need; they're cold, they're hungry, they don't have enough medicine, despite your best efforts. What are you prioritizing?

BAN: There is a limit for the United Nations at this time. First of all, access program and the resources, the -- OCHA has been organizing this one -- it's a humanitarian coordinator -- together with World Food Program. United Nations High Commission for Refugees and WHO and all other -- UNICEF, all other humanitarian- related agencies are working very, very hard in close consultation. I myself chaired -- chairing -- (inaudible) -- quite often to have coordinated and structured way of delivering assistance.

QUESTIONER: (Inaudible.) You have the tools to go to the Security Council when it is a difficult situation, as it is right now on Syria, (and it stopped ?). You as secretary-general can actually convene the council on a matter so grave, or the membership of the General Assembly can go -- (inaudible) -- for peace to the G-8 or General Assembly and do something about it. Is it time? When will it be time for Syria to do that?

And why do you keep saying that there is no need for Jeffersonian or Swiss-like democracy in the Arab region. In that way, aren't you just endorsing a mitigated democracy? Why not? Why not demand that when they promised that by election?

BAN: Primary responsibility is with -- rests with the Security Council. At the same time, General Assembly also held several sessions to discuss the Syrian situation. However, I believe that the Security Council is fully aware of the importance and urgency and seriousness of this issue, therefore I'm urging always the Security Council should take a collective and urgent responsibility on this matter.

AMANPOUR: We have time for one last question.

You didn't -- you didn't finish your question about why you don't believe they have the right to Jeffersonian democracy.

BAN: Jeffersonian democracy is an ideal democracy, most ideal. But the Syrian people at this time, first and foremost, they have to stop this fighting, military fighting (again ?).

AMANPOUR: One last question. Yes, sir, your hand is up.

QUESTIONER: Michael Doyle, the chairman of your U.N. Democracy Fund advisory board, from Columbia University. (Laughter.) I have a question for you, Secretary-General. Many people have come to the view that the R2P route through the Security Council has failed because of the stalemate in the council, and therefore their suggestion, since it's already been raised here, of a Plan B, which is arming the rebels -- could you tell us your concern about Plan B, arming the rebels as a way to resolve the civil war in Syria?

BAN: I think from the beginning, this -- the crisis began because of -- (inaudible) -- that either side seem to have thought that they would (win ?) and solve this problem through military means. The first began -- it began with the Syrians' government. When people were demonstrating, expressing their genuine aspirations through free expression, free will, then government repressed and responded by killing people.

That both is counter -- (inaudible) -- response by the opposition forces through violent means.

Therefore, I believe that continuing this way, you cannot find any solution of this Syrian crisis. Therefore, without any condition, they must stop this fighting and engage in dialogue. That's the only viable solution at this time. Just arming either side, opposition forces and Syrian, by the country's concern, this will only deteriorate the situation. (Exhales.) (Laughter.)

AMANPOUR: Thank you very much. I mean, it's hard to know how it can get any worse, but it can because it can go on and on and on. But let's hope that some sanity prevails at some point.

Secretary-General, thank you very much indeed for joining us and members of the Council on Foreign Relations. (Applause.)

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