Hariri Center Director Michele Dunne and Senior Fellow Amy Hawthorne reflect on US policy toward the Middle East and North Africa in the two years since President Barack Obama promised to make it a top priority to support democracy and human rights in the region.
J. Peter Pham, director the Atlantic Council’s Michael S. Ansari Africa Center, was one of four experts invited to address a high-level international conference on the crisis in the Sahel region convened today in The Hague.
Rudolph Atallah, senior fellow in the Atlantic Council’s Michael S. Ansari Africa Center, testified at a House of Representatives Committee on Foreign Affairs hearing on “The Growing Crisis in Africa’s Sahel Region.”
On the heels of Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s visit to the United States, Energy & Environment Program Associate Director Mihaela Carstei joins CTV to discuss the Keystone Pipeline project that would transport tar sands oil from Canada and the northern United States to refineries in the Gulf coast of Texas.
2012 Atlantic Council Awards Dinner - Distinguished International Leadership Award
Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon
Introduction by Dr. Henry A. Kissinger
Monday, May 7, 2012
Transcript by FedNews
HENRY KISSINGER: Mr. Kempe, your Royal Highness, Mr. Secretary-General, ladies and gentlemen, on one occasion after an eloquent introduction like this, a lady came up to me at the – at a – following a reception and said, I understand you are a fascinating man, she said. (Laughter.) Fascinate me. (Laughter.) It was one of the less successful conversations – (laughter) – that I have had.
In 1951, before I was Henry Kissinger – (laughter) – I was an intern at an organization called the Operations Research Office of the Department of the Army, and they sent me to Korea to study the impact of the U.S. Army on Korean life, for which I was spectacularly ill-equipped. (Laughter.) But it gave me an opportunity to travel around the country in the middle of the Korean War. The country was devastated. The largest building in Seoul was the headquarters of the Japanese government that had still be – has since been torn down.
No one would have believed it possible that a day would come that a secretary-general of the United Nations would be a distinguished Korean leader or that Korea would look as it does today. It would have seemed totally improbable that a Korean diplomat would travel around the world acting, in some respect, as a conscience of mankind, a secretary-general of the United Nations who is active in places as far-flung as Syria, Sudan, Burma, seeking to mediate and allay suffering. That this was possible at all is a tribute to the faith and dedication of the Korean people who had a vision to overcome their suffering and their destruction and emerge as one of the leading countries of Asia and of the world.
And it is equally true, due to the qualities of the secretary-general, who has, as a diplomat and now in his current position, taken a position of wise and subtle leadership. His conduct is unassuming. His demeanor is modest. And as he has said on one occasion, modesty is an aspect of demeanor. It is not an attribute of vision and purpose. He has shown vision and purpose, and he has done it from the delicate position of having to earn the confidence of the many conflicting tendencies that exist in the world today. This is really the first period in which international affairs have become truly global in the sense that fortune – that actions in any part of the world affect every other part, and in every part of the world, (it’s countries ?) of what the other parts do.
And in his capacity as secretary-general, Ban Ki-moon has put forward a five-year action plan that deals with climate and environmental challenges, nonproliferation, counterterrorism, combating infectious disease, strengthening the international financial system, ensuring global growth and sustainable development. And so it is no accident that the first Asian leader to receive this award from the Atlantic Council should receive it not primarily for the efforts he conducted on behalf of his nation but for the efforts he has conducted on behalf of humanity, of providing a forum where disputes can be aired, a mechanism where conciliation can be attempted and a possibility in which serious efforts can be made to discuss the many technical problems in a world in which the traditional conflicts are no longer dominant, but new visions are needed for those issues that can only be dealt with on a global basis.
So I’m very grateful to the Atlantic Council for giving me this opportunity to pay tribute to a distinguished leader. And I’m obliged to point out to you that the Atlantic Council organizers, not fully confident that I would acquit myself – (laughter) – adequately of this, have asked me not only to introduce the secretary-general, but to introduce a video – (laughter) – of the secretary-general, after which I will give the award for the distinguished international leadership – (laughter) – to my admired friend, the secretary-general of the United Nations. (Applause.)
SECRETARY-GENERAL BAN KI-MOON: I have had during the last 10 days 192 events, including 120 bilateral meetings with the heads of state, heads of government and foreign ministers. I chaired the high-level meeting with Pakistan, high-level meeting with Sudan and Somalia.
ANNOUNCER: (Inaudible) – huge amount of work gets done, but also the opportunity for everyone to have a voice, you know, talking about the issues that they care about.
SEC.-GEN. BAN: Climate change and poverty issues, global health issues. We were able to mobilize $40 billion to reduce the mortality of women and children who have been dying from preventable diseases. (Applause.)
ANNOUNCER: It’s amazing to watch. One day he may give like 10 speeches and meeting with maybe 25, 30 different leaders, all different topics, different priorities.
SEC.-GEN. BAN: I wake up at 4 a.m. That gives me the best time to prepare without any disruptions. Once I’m in the office, I do not have very much – no private time. It’s like I’m sitting on a conveyer belt, and I have very limited time with my family members, unfortunately. I’m here with my youngest granddaughter. I am immensely grateful to my wife, my children who have been very patient, understanding my situation.
ANNOUNCER: He has 192 constituencies that he needs to look after, 192 nations with interests that he must fairly reflect.
SEC.-GEN. BAN: When I was a young child like you, there was no classrooms for me. I used to study outside in dark. My background as a person who was born in a very poor country, whose country has risen as one of the 10 world economic power, (then ?) I can play a bridging role between developing and developed countries.
I start every day, every morning as if this is the first day in my office as secretary-general. Each time I have met those young people who seemingly wouldn’t have any hope, but who really wanted to have hope from me, then you cannot possibly – (inaudible) – how United Nations can do more for them.
Today we are being tested. In all we do, let us send a clear message. There can be no peace without justice. (Applause.)
SEC.-GEN. BAN: Dr. Kissinger, thank you for that very kind introduction. The world has looked to your wisdom and experience for many decades now, and your contribution has been great. I thank you, Dr. Kissinger, for your very strong support for the United Nations and for myself as the secretary-general. (Applause.)
Ladies and gentlemen, and – let me join in congratulating the other honorees of this evening: Anne-Sophie Mutter, Paul Polman, enlisted men and women of the United States armed forces, and His Royal Highness Prince Harry. This is really distinguished company, indeed. (Applause.)
General Colin Powell, Dr. Rajiv Shah, Maestro André Previn, honorable members of the Congress, Excellencies, members of the diplomatic corps, distinguished participants, ladies and gentlemen, thank you as well for your warm welcome.
And thank you to the board of the Atlantic Council, also your chairman, Senator Hagel, and president, Frederick Kempe, for this extraordinary honor. I take it as an eloquent symbol of our partnership, the United States and the United Nations, and on behalf of all the staff and peacekeeping operations staff. And I humbly accept this honor.
Seldom, if ever, have our principles and shared purpose been more relevant. Seldom, if ever, has this partnership been more vital than at this moment. Ladies and gentlemen, our world is rough place. When we just celebrated and commended the enlisted men and women of U.S. armed forces, as the secretary-general of the United Nations, my thoughts are with more than 120,000 U.N. peacekeeping operations staff from more than 120 countries, troop-contributing countries, who are working day and night under very difficult and dangerous circumstances. My deepest admirations to all of them and to all the people who are working tirelessly for peace and stability around the world. (Applause.)
Ladies and gentlemen, let us test our eyes across the geopolitical landscape. In Syria the violence still continues. We are in a race against time to prevent full-scale civil war, death on a potentially massive scale. Tensions between Israel and Iran remain dangerous. The DPRK recently launched another missile and appears to be contemplating another nuclear test in defiance of the international community. We see famine coming in the Sahel, military coups in Mali and Guinea-Bissau, Sudan and South Sudan on the brink of conflict that not long ago claimed 2 million lives.
Add to this the crisis in euro area, climate change, the pressure of a growing population – 7 billion – on our increasingly fragile planet. We have planetary limitations. Almost everywhere we look, it seems we see growing insecurity, growing injustice, growing social inequality. If I were to speak like an economist, I might say we have an oversupply of problems – (laughter) – and a deficit of solutions, a deficit of leadership. That partly reflects the great changes transforming our modern world. Power is shifting. The old order is breaking down, and we do not yet know the shape of the new. Twenty years ago, at the end of the Cold War, the United States and its traditional allies could be counted on to lead the world through uncertainty and change. Today, that is much more difficult.
And yet tonight I want to say clearly, we need leadership, and your leadership. In these times of deep uncertainty, during this era of change and transformation, we need the sort of leadership that has long distinguished this venerable Atlantic Council: a leadership dedicated to the common good – a global common good, a leadership of nations acting in concert, as we have seen, in truly global stewardship. This is the leadership that created the United Nations and its founding charter. And this is the leadership that will keep its principles alive and strong.
Ladies and gentlemen, as you may know, I lived through the Korean War, as was eloquently introduced by Dr. Kissinger. The United Nations, led by the United States, helped us through that dark hour. They came to us to rescue on the brinks of collapse. Forever after, the United Nations for me has been a beacon of hope, and it still is for billions of others around the world. Whenever I see all of them who are looking to the United Nations, I am humbled, just thinking that – what kind of support I can bring to them.
Today, as then, I believe the United Nations can and must be the solution to the world’s great challenges. Engagement through the United Nations is way forward to share the costs and responsibilities of leadership, to uphold universal values and to steer the world through this great transition.
That is why, in January as I began my second term, I set out a road map for my five-year second term as the secretary-general. They are, in effect, five imperatives for collective global action, for five generational opportunities to create the future we want: how to fight climate change and chart a new path of sustainable growth and development; how to prevent conflict and better respond to natural disasters and other humanitarian emergencies – there are many man-made challenges, man-made crisis; how to create a more just, secure and equitable world grounded in universal human rights; and how to support nations in transition for democracy, where many people still in Arab and North Africa are struggling for their rights and for their legitimate aspirations, legitimate rights for human dignity; and how to give the world’s women and young people greater voice and opportunity.
I will not go into these here. But let me say a few words about the common thread that weaves through all of them. That is the importance of putting people first. This is what politicians often say, but not many politicians are putting people first. The role of justice and fundamental freedoms and essential quality of human dignity – this is what United Nations and I as the secretary general is trying to achieve: putting people first.
Ladies and gentlemen – (applause) – during the past year, our collective values were severely tested, (particularly ?) greater than we might realize. The international community responded with courage, decisiveness and unity.
When an incumbent president refused to stand down after having lost an election in Cote d’Ivoire, when he threatened his people with civil war in order to preserve his own power – illegal power – we stood firm for democracy and human rights. Today, Laurent Gbagbo is awaiting trial in the International Criminal Court in The Hague, and a legitimate president, Alassane Ouattara, is in office. When Moammar Gadhafi of Libya threatened to kill his own people, we acted. In doing so, we gave force to a fundamental new principle, that is the responsibility to protect.
And in each case, it is important to recognize that we acted collectively, under an umbrella of legitimacy provided by the United Nations and regional organizations – the African Union, league of Arab states and others. General Brent Scowcroft, who has been such a strong leader of this Atlantic Council, said himself that this is the way of future. And I could not agree more.
For events in modern memory have been more inspiring – few events in modern memory have been more inspiring or more challenging than the Arab Spring. From the outset of these transition – transformations, I called – the United Nations have called on leaders to listen to their people – hopefully, sincerely – what their challenges, what their concerns are, what their aspirations are, and to enter into an inclusive dialogue with them, to act before it was too late`.
Now we must help these nations in transition. That is one of my priorities. In Tunisia, Egypt, Libya and elsewhere, we are working for solutions that focus on people: building democratic institutions, helping to promote human rights, creating jobs and economies – economic opportunities, especially for women and young people.
The challenge in Syria is especially difficult. The government continues to assault its people. Every day unfortunately we see the most appalling images: troops firing in city centers. Innocent civilians are dying, even children. Security forces are arresting and torturing people with great brutality. Meanwhile, attacks by the opposition and other armed groups have escalated.
As of today, United Nations has deployed 59 supervision monitoring missions. And we will expedite this number. By Thursday this week we’ll have more 130; and by 15 of this May we’ll have more than 230 people. And we are accelerating to implement – to implement Security Council resolutions to complement our 300 military supervisors and approximately 100 civilians before the end of this month.
Our most immediate goal is to save human lives, to see the end of this violence. And the presence of U.N. monitors has in some cases reduced the intensity of violence in Syria. But the situation is still very precarious and fragile. But we must also create an opening for political engagement between the government and those seeking change.
Let me say clearly, this is a difficult mission at a difficult moment. This is even very dangerous mission. We know the security risk to our brave U.N. observers. We know that Syrian citizens could face punishment for even speaking with them. And we know the nature of the regime, which could – which could well use the presence of the mission to prepare for further violence.
The efforts of our joint special envoy, Kofi Annan, embody a hard-headed strategy to deal with these challenges. Once again, I call on the Syrian government to uphold its responsibilities under the six-point plan fully and without further delay. As ever, strenuous partnership is indispensable – the United Nations and regional organizations such as the League of Arab states, the U.N. and nations represented here tonight.
We cannot predict how this will end. But we do know that there can be no compromise on fundamental principles of justice and human rights, in Syria or elsewhere. No amount of force – (applause) – no amount of force can squash people’s aspirations to live in dignity and decency.
Ten days ago, Charles Taylor, former president of Liberia, was found guilty by our Special Tribunal for Sierra Leone. Today I say: No leader anywhere, anytime, should imagine that he or she enjoys impunity for crimes of atrocity. (Applause.) Those responsible for such acts in Syria or elsewhere must be held accountable by the international community.
Ladies and gentlemen, I began these remarks with a call to action, a call for global collective leadership that puts people first. We need to create a more humane world, a world of real solutions for ordinary people; a world of greater justice, with more robust and proactive protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms, with greater security and equity for all. As I see it, justice and dignity are not abstractions. They are not mere aspirations. They are rights of people. They are the responsibilities of governments to deliver.
None of these ideas are alien to anyone here this evening. They are core American values. They are core trans-Atlantic values increasingly – widely shared around the world. Our challenge is to continue to spread these principles all around the world, and this universal code. And that takes leadership, your leadership.
If I could leave you with just one thought, it would be this: The Atlantic Council has always stood firm for justice and equal rights in larger freedom. Now is not the moment to lose heart or change course. And I thank you very much for this honor and thank you for your leadership and commitment. Let us work together – (applause) – to make this world better for all. Thank you very much. Thank you.
On May 23, the Atlantic Council’s Middle East Peace and Security Initiative at the Brent Scowcroft Center on International Security is hosting a panel discussion on new developments in security cooperation among the United States, its European allies, and the Gulf states, and how they are likely to evolve in the coming years.
On May 30, the Atlantic Council’s South Asia Center will release a new issue brief, The Kaleidoscope Turns Again in a Crisis-Challenged Iran, a discussion of Iran’s upcoming presidential elections.
From June 13-14, the 2013 Wrocław Global Forum will bring together over 350 top policy-makers and business leaders to explore the region’s impact as an actor in Europe, as well as its crucial role in the transatlantic partnership and on the global stage.