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Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon Discusses World Events

Aired October 20, 2009 - 15:00:00   ET


CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN ANCHOR: Tonight, the official result is finally in, and Afghan President Hamid Karzai now agrees to a run-off after an election that's put the U.N. in the hot seat. Secretary General Ban Ki- Moon joins us for an exclusive interview.

Good evening, everyone. I'm Christiane Amanpour, and welcome to the program.

Two months after Afghanistan's elections, amid bitter recrimination, resignations, and much fraud, President Hamid Karzai today agreed to a run- off with his main challenger, Dr. Abdullah Abdullah, on November 7th. That is just over two weeks from now.

President Karzai made the announcement at a news conference in Kabul, where he was flanked by U.S. Senator John Kerry, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and the U.N. Special Envoy to Afghanistan Kai Eide. Later, U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon pledged to do his utmost to ensure the run-off happens as smoothly as possible.

Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon will join me in a moment. But first, CNN's Richard Roth has this look at his stewardship so far.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: One, two, three...


RICHARD ROTH, CNN CHIEF UNITED NATIONS CORRESPONDENT (voice over): Just like the U.N.'s building renovation, Ban Ki-Moon is a work in progress. Ban could use a hardhat for all the criticisms he has received, much of it about his quiet diplomacy in crisis.

JAMES TRAUB, U.N. ANALYST: This is a case where style is substance. And I think there's real deep sense of disappointment that he has not used the powers available to him.

ROTH: Ban succeeded Kofi Annan as secretary general, whom the United States backed, but who spoke his mind, even if it offended a big power. Ban's approach is to take it behind closed doors. Supporters say that in private he has yelled at people, like the leader of Sudan, accused of committing genocide in Darfur. The British ambassador says Ban is an able secretary general, his values and instincts progressive.

Publicly, the United States is supportive. Ban was favored by the previous U.S. president and by China, both eager for more of a secretary than general.

Ban draws praise for urging leaders to make global warming a priority. He made two trips to the Arctic and Antarctica. Ban drove a solar-powered taxi into the U.N., but his ability to steer the U.N. remains questioned.

MELISSA LABONTE, FORDHAM UNIVERSITY: He has the world's biggest soapbox to stand on, and he's not chosen to stand on it.

ROTH: Ban says his low-key demeanor doesn't mask a lack of leadership.

BAN KI-MOON, SECRETARY GENERAL, UNITED NATIONS: Have you ever seen that somebody who has been as passionately as I have been doing?

ROTH: Ban's hope for a second term rests with the U.N. Security Council. One ambassador with a veto approves of Ban, adding, "Everybody thinks the secretary general is supposed to solve all the problems of the world. We don't."

Ban once called himself the invisible man, but he may have to seek out the limelight to rally support for re-election.

Richard Roth, CNN, United Nations.


AMANPOUR: And joining me now is the U.N. secretary general, Ban Ki- Moon.

Welcome to our program.

BAN: It's a great pleasure. Thank you.

AMANPOUR: We will talk about some of the leadership style, some of what Richard Roth reported in that -- in that report there. But, first of all, I want to ask you about the leading news of the day, which is the United Nations...

BAN: Yes.

AMANPOUR: ... and being in the hot seat over Afghanistan.

BAN: Yes.

AMANPOUR: What are you going to do to ensure that in just over two weeks an election can go off fairly, when one that was planned for months was riddled with fraud, phantom stations, ballot boxes stuffed with ghost ballots?

BAN: I'm very glad that President Karzai has decided to stand on second ballot, to make his legitimacy, whoever may be elected as president next time, who can have legitimacy and credibility. That is very necessary and important so the international community can work with a reliable and credible partner.

Now, the United Nations will issue all the efforts for coming 18 days to make this second election a most transparent, fair, credible, and secure election.

AMANPOUR: How will you do that, since is it was impossible to secure and really observe those ballot boxes in those areas that were so bedeviled by fraud?

BAN: As we have been for the first election, we will ensure to work very closely with the Afghan government, constitutional bodies, and major international players, like the United States and other European countries. We will work very closely with the Independent Election Commission, which is Afghan-led, and also Election Complaints Commission.

AMANPOUR: Do you have any faith that a second round will be any fairer, any more legitimate, than the first round, and why?

BAN: Of course, it will be a great challenge. First of all, we have only 18 days left. There's huge logistical and security challenges. We will making sure that, first of all, the Independent Election Commission will have to visit all the polling stations throughout Afghanistan.

And we will make sure that those polling stations where from which we have received complaints will have to be reviewed. And we will try to replace, out of 380 electoral districts in Afghanistan, more than 200 district officials who have been implicated in...


AMANPOUR: So you're going to be able to...

BAN: We are going to...

AMANPOUR: Replace them?

BAN: ... replace them.

AMANPOUR: In two weeks?

BAN: In two weeks. That's what we -- we have to work very hard now.

AMANPOUR: Why don't you cancel or eliminate those areas that had the questionable officials and the inability of people to vote fairly and securely?

BAN: In such case, we may be able to prevent some possible fraud, but that will be amounting to depriving the rights of vote of many Afghan people. Therefore, we cannot accept that methodology.

We have to provide an opportunity where all the Afghan people can express of their own free will, without any intimidation, without any threat. That's the commitment of the United Nations and the international community.

AMANPOUR: Well, you know that Dr. Abdullah Abdullah, the main challenger, has spoken out against the United Nations, saying that its legitimacy is being questioned over the debacle the last time around. You know also that you fired the second-in-command at the U.N. in Afghanistan, Peter Galbraith, over his disagreement with the way the elections were conducted. Let's play -- let's play what he said to us on a program just a couple of days ago.


PETER GALBRAITH, FORMER U.S. DIPLOMAT: The root of the problem that's happened is that the U.N. was responsible for helping to ensure the integrity of these elections. That was a Security Council resolution. These were U.N.-supported elections. The world paid for the elections to the tune of $300 million, and -- and -- and the U.N. failed in that task.


AMANPOUR: So he's basically saying that the U.N.'s credibility is at great risk and that, in fact, the U.N. favored -- certainly he's suggesting that Kai Eide, your representative, favored Hamid Karzai in this race.

BAN: No, that's not true. On the contrary, United Nations has been and will continue to be in the center of this process. United Nations' creditability has been much appreciated by whole international community, together with Afghan people and the leadership.

Now, the question -- what Mr. Peter Galbraith is saying that -- that's -- it has been proved wrong, first of all. We have been...

AMANPOUR: But he -- he was saying that there's been a lot of fraud and he was saying that there was an attempt to -- to cover it up. And it's taken a huge, huge time to get to this point. I mean, for two months after the election, and they've only just come out with the result.

BAN: It was not the question of scope of fraud. We knew that there was a fraud. Immediately after the election was held, I reported to the Security Council in my report that there was a fraud. And my special representative, Mr. Kai Eide, also in person reported the Security Council there was a widespread fraud.

Now, the most important thing is that the measures which we have put in place to detect such fraud has worked, and we detected a fraud, and we took actions to prevent, as well as to make necessary actions on this issue.

Now, the question why I decided to dismiss him from his job as number two at U.N. mission in Afghanistan was not because of the difference in scope of fraud. It was because of my strong commitment to preserve the best interest and integrity of the United Nations to keep the chain of command.

AMANPOUR: Let me ask you. I'll move on to the Goldstone report, which also brings into question the integrity of the United Nations and what's going to happen, the report that criticizes both Israel and the Palestinians' Hamas for alleged war crimes during the -- during the Gaza War. This is now being voted by the Human Rights Council, the U.N. Human Rights Council, to come to the Security Council. Are you going to bring it to the Security Council?

BAN: Since the beginning of this Goldstone mission, I have supported the Goldstone mission. I met him, and I supported his functions.

Now that the Human Rights Council has adapted resolution, and this resolution, together with the recommendation, have been referred to General Assembly of the United Nations. Therefore, I'm waiting for the decisions and any recommendations the General Assembly may take in coming few days.

AMANPOUR: Right, but under the United Nations charter -- and certainly quoted by Judge Goldstone in the report, Article 99 -- you are empowered to bring it to the Security Council. Will you do that?

BAN: Now, first, the procedure will have to be that, considering this Human Rights Council is a subsidiary body of the General Assembly, and thus they have reported to the General Assembly, then General Assembly will have to discuss this matter.

I have discussed this matter with the president of General Assembly, Mr. Treki, and we agreed that the General Assembly will take this first action. Then, I will see what the course of action I should take.

AMANPOUR: Do you think it's appropriate to bring this to the ICC?

BAN: Then this will have to be, again, decided by either General Assembly, referring to the Security Council, then upon recommendation of the Security Council.

AMANPOUR: And do you think as many -- the United States, some European diplomats, Israel, as well, obviously says that this whole process is biased against -- biased against Israel.

BAN: As a secretary general, I have made it quite clear. Whenever or wherever there is an allegation of violation of human rights, international humanitarian laws, there should be proper investigation. There should be accountability.

AMANPOUR: So do you think that -- you're talking about accountability. So do you think it should go to the ICC, if each party does not take the measures for accountability themselves?

BAN: This will have to go through proper procedures within the U.N. system. And as we have seen in Darfur, I have supported the decisions of Security Council to refer to ICC and ICC's decision to indict President Bashir.

Now, that on this particular case in the situation in Gaza, since the first action has been taken, this will have to go through proper -- proper -- proper procedures within U.N. systems.

AMANPOUR: You've been very reluctant to answer direct questions on this. We'll try again when we return after a break. Stay with us. We'll be back just in a moment.



BAN: I have seen only a fraction of damage. This is shocking and alarming. This is heartbreaking, the scenes which I have seen. And I'm deeply grieved by what I have seen today.


AMANPOUR: A rare public display of emotion there by the U.N. secretary general when he visited Gaza in January. And Ban Ki-moon joins me again here in the studio.

Final question on this report. Do you think anybody will be held accountable, according and along the guidelines of the Goldstone report, on both sides?

BAN: If there's any judgment to somebody to have been violated international human rights law and international humanitarian law, somebody must be accountable, according to proper judicial process.

AMANPOUR: Let's move on to some of the criticisms about your leadership style and about how the U.N. has been effective or not under the two-and-a-half years, nearly three years that you've been in power. You once said, in fact, at a speech to your own people that, "I tried to lead by example, and nobody followed." What does that mean?

BAN: This is a huge intergovernmental organization composed of 192 member states. And, likewise, the staff also comes from all 192 different countries, with different backgrounds in customs and culture and way of thinking. So it is very difficult to manage with all one single culture or systems. Therefore, I found that at the beginning it seemed to be quite difficult to lead this organization. I really wanted to show by example, leading by example. That's what I have been doing, I will continue to do.

Now, I have seen significant changes in working culture in the United Nations. I have been working very closely with the member states. I have been communicating and reaching out to all the staff of the United Nations. Now they fully understand the United Nations must change into a more mobile, efficient, and effective, and transparent, and accountable organization. This is what we are going to do.

AMANPOUR: So what you've learned so far, what you've just said, plus you've talked about cultural differences, do you think -- do you not think that you, yourself, for instance, could take a much more visible, charismatic role? Some people have criticized you for not having enough charisma, for not having enough, quote, unquote, "spine" to get some of the very vital issues done.

Let's talk about climate change, which is your -- your baby, so to speak. And yet I can't recall -- and we'll show some pictures of you visiting the Antarctic and other places -- a very passionate speech by you on this. You say, "I have my own charisma." What does that mean?

BAN: Each person, each and every person has a different style or charisma and different character, and therefore, different circumstances may require different leadership styles. And this is what we have seen in our fact of life.

Now, United Nations is -- the whole international community is facing -- going through multiple challenges, like food security, climate change, international economic crisis, pandemic crisis. In this area -- multiple crisis, we need the multiple and global coordinations. This is what I have been repeatedly calling for, renewed multilateralism. United Nations will stand there, and I'm standing there as secretary general in very close coordination with the member states.

AMANPOUR: But, for instance, on climate change, there's a meeting going on in London right now. Your representative is there, Yvo De Boer, and he has just said that right now the Copenhagen climate change conference will not produce an international treaty, that it's likely to fail, all these negotiations. I mean, why not? There's been so much effort. Why not?

BAN: I have hope that the whole international community members -- particularly developed countries -- will come out with strong, ambitious targets to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 2020. We have not come yet there. We have to mobilize enough and substantial financial support to the developing countries so that they can adapt and mitigate themselves. Otherwise, the whole international community cannot make any -- any progress.

It may be the case that in Copenhagen December, while we will try our best efforts until last minute, that this treaty-type negotiation or agreement may not be able to be made there, but what we are now aiming is that we must have a substantive agreement, political agreement, on key major political issues, like, first of all, developed countries should come out with ambitious midterm target, and they should provide economic, technological and financial support. And developing countries should also -- they take some national appropriate mitigation actions, and we should talk about the global capitalist (ph) structure.

AMANPOUR: Let me ask you about Burma, Myanmar, which also you went to. Some had suggested perhaps you shouldn't go there in July, but you did. You met with the leader of the military junta, but they wouldn't let you meet with the opposition leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, who's in prison. Some called it a fruitless trip, a fruitless meeting. What do you think you've achieved as secretary general in the last nearly three years?

BAN: I have a mandate of good offices (ph), mandated by the General Assembly. I don't think it was fruitless. It was a fruitful one. Now, we have seen some progress which has been made by the Myanmar authorities. Even though at that time I was not able to meet to Aung San Suu Kyi, because she was on trial, now the Myanmar authorities have committed to me that they would release political prisoners.

AMANPOUR: By when?

BAN: And I have been -- I have been urging them that all political prisoners, including Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, should be released as soon as possible so that everybody can participate in elections next year. And without participation of Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, nobody can believe that this election will be credible and transparent one, inclusive one. So they know that, and I will continue to promote and urge Myanmar government to fulfill their commitment.

AMANPOUR: And, finally, will you stand for a second term as secretary general?

BAN: It may be too early. I'm still -- have not yet finished a third year. But what I'm doing is to fulfill and focus, to achieve the mandate given by the General Assembly. When I work hard and when time comes, I'm confident that the member states will consider my performance. And in such case, I'll be happy to serve for the international community, for the United Nations.

AMANPOUR: Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, thank you so much for joining us.

And that is our conversation for now, but it will continue online in our after show on our Web site, Afghanistan, we have some compelling pictures showing the human cost of the war there, the cost to the Afghan people, so please join us.

And next, in our "P.S.," the story of hundreds of Pacific Islanders who could become the world's first climate change refugees.


AMANPOUR: Now, our "P.S.," our post-script. And tonight, we want to show you part of a remarkable documentary about the effect of global climate change on a small community in the South Pacific. The film, "Sun Come Up," shows what's happening to the Carteret Islands off the coast of Papua New Guinea and their 1,500 inhabitants. Their island homes are literally sinking into the ocean.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): The ocean is like a mother to my people. We bathe in the ocean all the time. We live near the shore. And when we're running out of food, we eat fish. That's all. But the ocean is also destroying our islands.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The sea has really moved further inland, and it continues to do so. It destroys our food gardens; it uproots coconut trees; it even washes over the sea walls that we have built.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): We know the island will eventually sink. Now we are looking for a new place to live.


AMANPOUR: We don't know where the islanders will go, but we will be keeping a close eye on their progress in the months and years ahead. This is part of our global dispatches that we'd love to hear from you from, as well.

That's it for now. Thank you for watching. We'll be back tomorrow with an exclusive look at a new report on the global heroin trade. Join us now for a Web cast with U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon on That begins right now.