Opening Statement at Press Conference By UN Under-Secretary-General For Political Affairs Mr. B. Lynn Pascoe

Feb 27, 2011

It is a pleasure to be here in Egypt, a country of great significance to the region and the world. The events of the past month have shown this to be true once again. The Egyptian people have caught the attention of the region and the world with the critical transformation that they have begun. They have created a new sense of hope and possibility.

We at the United Nations have always valued Egypt’s crucial leadership role in the Organization. We are confident that as the Egyptians build a new future for themselves, Egypt’s work with the United Nations will only grow stronger.

The Secretary-General asked me to lead this delegation to Egypt to talk with the government and a wide range of Egyptians at this important time. Our goal was to get a first-hand impression of the transition now underway and to explore how the UN can be of assistance. I should emphasize that we came here, first and foremost, to listen.

The composition of our delegation reflects the broad nature of the UN’s partnership with Egypt.  It included Rima Khalef, the Executive Secretary of the Economic and Social Commission for West Asia, based in Beirut – who is not with us at the moment, but she has been an integral part of the delegation. I should mention that it was Rima’s energy and vision that led to the first Arab Human Development Report nearly a decade ago, in which Arab thinkers identified many of the issues that are on the minds of people today and which animated the spirit of the Tahrir Square.

On my left I have Amat Al Alim Asoswa, Assistant Administrator of the United Nations Development Programme. On my right,  Mona Rishmawai, Chief of the Rule of Law, Equality and Non-Discrimination Branch in the Office for the High Commissioner for Human Rights; Craig Jennes, Director of the Electoral Assistance Division in my department; and James Rawley, the UN Resident Coordinator here in Egypt. 

Firstly let me say that the UN fully respects and understands that Egypt’s transition must be done by and for Egyptians. This is and must be an Egyptian process. I like to say that I appreciate the spirit of the dialogue we had with government ministers. They seemed open and quite interested in the role that the UN could play and support. We will continue the dialogue we have begun. Obviously Egypt faces many challenges. Transitions are not easy. Transitions clearly need to be comprehensive on both the economic and the political sides, as both tracks impact on the other. The UN will be ready to support Egypt wherever that is useful and wherever our help is sought. I should emphasize that we are hardly starting from scratch – we already have a significant programme here in Egypt and the real issue is how and where we adjust and expand it to meet the needs of the time.

We talked with a wide range of civil society during our short stay here, and we appreciated all of those who spent time talking with us. This included a discussion with a team yesterday of about 20 young men and women who, along with millions of other Egyptians changed the consciousness of the country through the demonstrations. I must say I came away from those discussions with feeling that the future of Egypt is very promising indeed. We were left in absolutely no doubt that Egyptians will continue the work they have started. We all feel that Egyptians have a right to be proud of the country as a whole and of their young people in particular.

I should note that we discussed the regional situation with the Egyptian authorities, including the meeting just coming up just after this with Secretary-General of the League of Arab States, Amr Moussa, immediately after this press conference before departing. We are all deeply conscious of the broader situation in the region.

I would like to just mention that we all are watching particularly closely the crisis in Libya which is a matter of grave concern for the safety and well-being of both Libyans and foreigners, including Egyptians.

As you know, the Secretary-General has continuously called for concrete action in this deplorable situation. The Security Council yesterday adopted a resolution which deplored the gross and systematic violation of human rights taking place, and the incitement to hostility and violence coming from the highest levels of the Libyan government. It called for an immediate end to the violence and called for respect of international (human) rights and humanitarian law. The Council also took a range of measures regarding referral to the International Criminal Court, a travel ban, freezing of assets and an arms embargo. I reiterate the call of the United Nations for an end to the violence, for humanitarian protection and access, and for respect of the legitimate aspirations of the Libyan people.

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