UNITED NATIONS. SECRETARY GENERAL CALLS FOR REFORM, NOT REPRESSION. BAN KI-MOON: "LISTEN TO THE PEOPLE."

 

15 MARCH 2011

SECRETARY GENERAL CALLS FOR REFORM, NOT REPRESSION. BAN KI-MOON: "LISTEN TO THE PEOPLE."

Recent days have witnessed extraordinary developments in Northern Africa and the Middle East. I have been closely following the situation, which is still unfolding.

Across the region, people are standing up to voice their legitimate aspirations. Civil society and young people have led the way.

Each country is unique. Each situation is different. But there are also common challenges in the region and important principles to uphold.

Throughout this period, the United Nations has been clear and consistent in supporting basic human rights and freedoms.

Above all, we have insisted on respect for the rights of peaceful protest and assembly, freedom of the press and access to information.

The reports from Bahrain overnight are deeply troubling. Here as elsewhere, violence should not be used against peaceful demonstrators and against journalists. It must stop. Those responsible must be brought to justice.

In responding to peaceful protests, authorities have an obligation to respect human rights. There should be no violence from any quarter. I urge all parties to exercise restraint.

The United Nations has been urging the leaders in the region, as elsewhere around the world, to listen attentively to the people and to respond to their legitimate aspirations. I will be reaching out again in the days ahead to leaders in the region to reiterate that message.

I will say it once again: the situation calls for bold reforms, not repression. Sustainable progress can take root in places where people are empowered, where governments are responsive, where growth is inclusive.

In a number of countries, transitions have been initiated or reforms have been promised.

It is crucial that leaders deliver on those promises, and that processes of reform are built on transparent and inclusive dialogue, with broad involvement of political parties and civil society.

Turning now to Egypt in particular, I welcome the public commitments that have been made to the holding of free and transparent elections and the enactment of measures to enable them - all as part of a transition to democratic, civilian rule.

Those commitments must be fulfilled. There must be no turning back

For many years, the United Nations has pointed to the problems which have now come so forcefully to the surface.

Both the leadership and the citizens of each country have a responsibility to work together, starting now.

The United Nations not only stands ready to help, but we are actively preparing to provide any assistance that may be requested.

(Off-the-cuff remarks made to the press on 17 February.)