Ban Ki-moon on preventing terrorism by protecting human rights

In an interview with Judy Woodruff, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon says that military action cannot be not the sole response to extremism, and stresses the importance of protecting the rights of marginalized people. They also discuss Syria's President Bashar al-Assad, the crisis in Ukraine and worries about the relevancy and transparency of the United Nations.

Read the Full Transcript

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    Private meetings among the ministers were held throughout the day, as they search for a full-spectrum response to a complex, bedeviling challenge.

    Earlier this afternoon, I sat down with the United Nations secretary-general, Ban Ki-Moon, while he was here in Washington.

    Mr. Secretary-General, thank you for joining us.

  • BAN KI-MOON, Secretary-General, United Nations:

    It's a great pleasure to see you. Thank you.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    So you are in Washington for this summit on countering violent extremism. Compared to all the other threats in the world right now, where does this rank?

  • BAN KI-MOON:

    Often, we have been discussing about the consequences of terrorist acts.

    Now the purpose of this meeting is very important, in a sense that we have to address terrorism and the issue of violent extremism in a multidimensional way, starting from the root causes of political, social, economic, and cultural aspects.

    And this is a global challenge. Therefore, everybody should get involved in this. I am very much encouraged that President Obama has initiated this White House summit meeting. And this is the time for us to show our solidarity, at the same time build upon what we have been doing until now, focusing more on preventive way.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    And a lot of focus, a lot of conversation today — you brought up education, preventing terrorism, preventing young people from turning to terrorist activities.

    But what about where it's already taken hold? What about in places in the Middle East where groups like Islamic State, ISIS, are already killing people, taking over territory? What's to be done there?

  • BAN KI-MOON:

    Of course, for those brutal, barbaric acts, we have to address as such.

    In that regard, I'm very much grateful to many countries who have shown such a strong solidarity, even using military means. But military means may be effective in some sense, but that's not all the answers to resolve this one.

    We have to get at the root causes of this issue. So, good governance is an answer and how to educate and how to send a message to many people and how to protect the human rights and human dignity of many marginalized groups of people, how to make sure that the people are feeling some sense of belonging to their own society.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    And would you say right now that violent extremism is the greatest threat to world stability?

  • BAN KI-MOON:

    I believe so.

    We have seen so many crises, regional and national conflicts, but the transnational terrorism and extremism do not have borders. Therefore, it is a global challenge. Unless we do not address it, this issue, this will just destroy the fabrics of our community.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    Well, let me ask you about that, because, yes, ISIS is getting, Islamic State, a lot of attention right now in the Middle East, in Syria.

    But, in fact, while that is happening, the regime of President Assad is responsible for hundreds of thousands of deaths; 350 people died just in the last few days in Damascus, over 100 of them women and children. Is the world giving President Assad a free pass, turning the other way, while it focuses on ISIS and not on him?

  • BAN KI-MOON:

    No, we cannot and we will never give any free pass to any leader, including President Assad, to kill their own people. That's totally unacceptable.

    At the same time, we have to be very practical then how to resolve this issue. There is no alternative to political and inclusive dialogue, a political solution. That's what my special envoy, Mr. de Mistura, has been really trying to resolve this issue, try to have some political space, as much as possible.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    But your point is that President Assad still needs to go for there to be a solution in Syria?

  • BAN KI-MOON:

    That will have to be discussed in the final phase of political negotiations — negotiation. And that should be decided by the Syrian people.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    And let me ask you about Ukraine. We have seen great advances by the pro-Russian rebels just in the last few days. They have taken over a key town.

    There's now evidence — the British are providing photographic evidence that the rebels are using advanced anti-aircraft weapons systems, the SA-22. Is there any doubt that President Putin and Russia are very much behind what is going on in Ukraine? And by letting this happen, by the West not getting more involved, isn't this giving President Putin a victory?

  • BAN KI-MOON:

    It's not a matter of giving somebody a victory or not.

    The agreement among four leaders, Germany, France, Ukraine, and Russia, was a very encouraging one. I'm urging the parties concerned that these agreement, the Minsk protocol and framed memorandum, must be implemented in sincerity, in its totality.

    I'm particularly concerned, even now, there is fighting still going on in Donetsk and Mariupol. I'm urging them to abide by this agreement. There's no such way or alternative to the solution of this than a peaceful dialogue and peaceful negotiation.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    Well, meanwhile, the British are saying just today that Russian fighter jets were very close to British airspace, that the British — British officials are saying President Putin is a real and present danger to Europe. There is an E.U. official who is saying that Mr. Putin is trying to redraw the boundaries of Europe by force.

    Do you agree with that?

  • BAN KI-MOON:

    President Poroshenko of Ukraine has announced that he will pull all the military armament (INAUDIBLE) and his forces, and, therefore, the pro-Russians and the Russian — the side shall pull out immediately, in accordance with the agreement, which was agreed to just a few days ago.

    It is a matter of integrity.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    But it doesn't look like — excuse me — but that doesn't look like it's happening.

  • BAN KI-MOON:

    I'm urging, as the secretary-general of the United Nations, to abide strictly by this agreement. And United Nations has made, again, clear that the United Nations will do all to provide the humanitarian assistance who have been affected, and also continue the human rights monitoring mission there.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    But, again, so many challenges facing the United Nations.

    Two of your former predecessors as secretary-general have issued a letter saying that they feel strongly the United Nations needs to be reconfigured, it needs to be reformed in a way that the Security Council doesn't have the veto system that it does now, that it's more transparent, more democratic, that it's not an organization — that the U.N. isn't respected anymore by the people fighting on the ground or even by member countries.

    Do they have a point that the U.N. isn't respected and doesn't have the authority that it needs to have to make a difference?

  • BAN KI-MOON:

    I think just to generalize what the United Nations is doing isn't helpful at this time.

    Of course, I don't claim that United Nations is a perfect organization. There are many challenges. There are some limitations. There are some inefficiencies. But, since I became secretary-general, I have been doing my best to make this United Nations relevant, more efficient, and more effective, and more transparent. That's what I'm doing.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    Secretary-General of the United Nations, we know there are a lot of challenges out there. And we appreciate your coming in to talk to us. Thank you very much.

  • BAN KI-MOON:

    Thank you very much. It's a great pleasure.