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U.N. Chief Forging New Solutions on Climate, Conflicts

October 11, 2007 at 6:30 PM EST
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RAY SUAREZ: Now to the world view of the new secretary-general of the United Nations.

When he took over as secretary-general of the United Nations 10 months ago, Ban Ki-moon acknowledged the challenges ahead.

BAN KI-MOON, United Nations Secretary-General: I start my duties at a daunting time in international affairs, starting from Darfur to the Middle East, Lebanon, Iran, Iraq, North Korea…

RAY SUAREZ: Ban’s a career diplomat. He was South Korea’s foreign minister before taking the U.N.’s reins from Kofi Annan. He’s the first Asian to hold the post in 35 years.

The Harvard-educated Ban has laid out an ambitious agenda. He’s pledged to restore trust in the 192-nation world body hit by scandal in recent years.

BAN KI-MOON: I will seek to act as a harmonizer and bridge-builder.

RAY SUAREZ: The secretary-general says the U.N. has important skills to offer in Iraq, but security can’t yet be guaranteed for his staff. Other top priorities include: stepping up U.N. efforts to stem the violence in Sudan’s Darfur region; addressing global climate change issues; and more recently, the secretary-general has been a vocal critic of the military crackdown in Myanmar, also known as Burma.

Leverage in Myanmar, Darfur

Ban Ki-moon
UN Secretary-General
What we are now working hard is to have all the rebel group leaders participate in these political preparations, political negotiations. We hope that they should demonstrate their commitment as leaders of all these rebel movements.

RAY SUAREZ: I spoke with Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon before he started a round of meetings today in Washington.

Secretary-General Ban, welcome to the program.

BAN KI-MOON: It's a great pleasure to meet you.

RAY SUAREZ: Does the United Nations have any leverage in Myanmar? Can it really stay the hand of a government that means to suppress the democracy movement?

BAN KI-MOON: The United Nations itself has the highest moral voice, as far as principled methods of democracy and human rights are concerned, and we have been mobilizing all possible political influences of leaders in the region and in the world.

I have spoken with many leaders in ASEAN, and ASEAN recently has taken a very strong position vis-a-vis Myanmar's human rights situation. We have put forward some proposals demanding the release of political detainees, and make socioeconomic and political democratizations. These efforts will be continuously done at the level of myself and through my special envoy.

RAY SUAREZ: You've just recently returned from Darfur. You spoke to people in the camps, spoke to people in the government of Sudan. Where do things stand now?

BAN KI-MOON: Now we are looking forward to the political negotiations, which will be held on October 27th. Necessary preparations are going on at the final phase.

What we are now working hard is to have all the rebel group leaders participate in these political preparations, political negotiations. We hope that they should demonstrate their commitment as leaders of all these rebel movements, if they think about the future of their country that they must participate, rather than staying out of these political negotiations.

Now, the deployment of a joint hybrid operation in Darfur is also going on smoothly.

Inclusion of rebel groups

Ban Ki-moon
UN Secretary-General
The Darfur crisis, in fact, was a man-made crisis, but you cannot rule out all these aspects of environmental degradation, the absolute poverty, as well as the scarcity of natural resources, particularly water.

RAY SUAREZ: The government in Khartoum has said all along that not enough attention has been paid to the rebel groups that are fighting against the central government that Sudan says is the real cause for the humanitarian crisis. Does the rebel movement, these various armies, have to be part of the peace process in order for the dying and the killing to stop there?

BAN KI-MOON: It is necessary for those factional groups to participate in these political negotiations because they are the important stakeholders. We will have political negotiations where their concerns could be heard.

And the continuing violence will gain nothing. They must cease these violent means, and there should be a cessation of hostilities immediately. Sudan's government has assured that, as soon as these political negotiations begin, they will declare a unilateral cessation of the hostilities. I do hope that all of the rebel groups will participate in this cessation of hostilities.

RAY SUAREZ: Now, another big world problem facing the U.N. that you've spoken out about is global warming, but in your view, global warming is part of the Darfur crisis, as well. Tell us about that.

BAN KI-MOON: The Darfur crisis, in fact, was a man-made crisis, but you cannot rule out all these aspects of environmental degradation, the absolute poverty, as well as the scarcity of natural resources, particularly water. That has exacerbated all these situations.

Therefore, we must take some comprehensive resolution of this Darfur situation. This is what I have been doing. I have three action plans.

One is ensuring peace and security in Darfur. Then, resolve this issue through political negotiations. Without a political negotiation, you cannot ensure a smooth peace and security there. Then, there should be some hope, sign of hope to the Darfurian people through developmental packages.

Therefore, my plan is to have all this comprehensive addressing in three tracks. They are now moving, and we have made some credible progresses. But the important thing will have to come from now until we see the final resolution of this issue.

Worldwide global warming approach

Ban Ki-moon
UN Secretary-General
If we do not take actions, you cannot guarantee that we will not see any second Darfurian situations there. I will continuously be engaged, but we need strong support. This is a global challenge which requires a global response.

RAY SUAREZ: But if there's no worldwide approach toward greenhouse gases and global climate change, will there be more Darfurs in the world?

BAN KI-MOON: I am very much encouraged by the level of strong support from the world in recognizing the urgency of this global warming situation. The science has made it quite clear, and we have been feeling the impact coming from global warming.

If we do not take actions, you cannot guarantee that we will not see any second Darfurian situations there. I will continuously be engaged, but we need strong support. This is a global challenge which requires a global response, common and concerted efforts.

RAY SUAREZ: But let's take a look at the permanent five in the Security Council. Sitting on the permanent five are two of the world's biggest polluters -- China and the United States -- a major oil exporter -- Russia -- and two very carbon-intense societies in Britain and France. Are these the five countries that are really going to help get the world to agree to emit fewer greenhouse gases?

BAN KI-MOON: It's true that each and every country, not necessarily the P-5, but all the countries, they have their own domestic challenges. But what is encouraging is that all the countries now recognize the significance and urgency and importance of taking common action to address these global warming issues.

I am encouraged that the United States has also confirmed that the United Nations should take the leading role, and the United States is also very much committed to this process.

RAY SUAREZ: The United Nations hasn't had a large-scale presence in Iraq since the attack on the U.N. compound there. It's been some time since then. And now the American political leadership and the candidates to take over the presidency are talking about having fewer American troops there over time. Will this create an opening for the reengagement of the world community in Iraq, the reengagement of the U.N.?

BAN KI-MOON: As the secretary-general, I am in the process of very seriously considering how the United Nations can increase our presence there, how we can make a different contribution to peace and security there.

However, the United Nations does not have all the necessary resources or tools. Our security and safety has been largely dependent upon the MNF forces. However, we've been taking necessary, again, preparations to have integrated security accommodations for our staff and our activities there.

We are going to help promote national reconciliation, a national dialogue, and help promote regional cooperation. The United Nations has a competitive edge in political facilitation and humanitarian assistance. This is what we are now considering.

UN involvement in Iraq

Ban Ki-moon
UN Secretary-General
North Korea has committed to disenable their nuclear facilities, with the ultimate proposal for dismantling all nuclear weapons and nuclear programs. This is, again, a very good, encouraging sign toward the denuclearization of the Korean peninsula.

RAY SUAREZ: But you also have to have a welcome from the United States and from the government of Iraq to be involved there. Do you have that now?

BAN KI-MOON: As the situation develops in the future, I know that the United Nations will have to be engaged more, and the United Nations needs full cooperation and support from all of the international community, including the United States and other big powers, and particularly the Iraqi government.

RAY SUAREZ: Recently, there was a meeting between the heads of state of the two Koreas. Was this an encouraging sign? Do you think it actually helps build down the tension on the peninsula?

BAN KI-MOON: I am very much encouraged as secretary-general of the United Nations, as one of the Korean citizens, to have seen this very moving development of situation. It will certainly pave the way to solidify the common ground.

RAY SUAREZ: And stop the North Korean nuclear program?

BAN KI-MOON: North Korea has committed to disenable their nuclear facilities, with the ultimate proposal for dismantling all nuclear weapons and nuclear programs. This is, again, a very good, encouraging sign toward the denuclearization of the Korean peninsula.

This will, again, bring the peace and security not only on the Korean peninsula, but beyond this Korean peninsula in Northeast Asia.

RAY SUAREZ: Ban Ki-moon, Mr. Secretary-General, thanks a lot.

BAN KI-MOON: It gives me great pleasure. Thank you.

RAY SUAREZ: We have an Insider Forum on the Darfur crisis on our Web site. You can send your questions to Sarjoh Bah, an African expert with the Center on International Cooperation at New York University. To participate, go to PBS.org.