Press Release

Secretary-General’s Press Conference Ahead of the Closing UN Civil Society Conference

11 May 2024


Secretary-General: It is a pleasure to be back in Nairobi.

Kenya is a critical partner of the United Nations, a powerful force on the global stage, and a pioneer of peace regionally and internationally. 

I am particularly grateful to Kenya for agreeing to lead international efforts to quell the violence in Haiti. 

But this visit comes at a very difficult time for the country. 

I extend my deepest condolences to all those affected by the devastating floods that have swept through Kenya and neighbouring countries.   

The United Nations stands in solidarity with the Kenyan people.  

And we will continue working hand-in-hand to support government relief efforts in any way that we can.  

I am here for the United Nations’ Civil Society Conference, focussed on September’s Summit of the Future in New York.  

Civil society is central to the Summit’s aims: advancing sustainable development; unlocking finance; and reshaping multilateralism for the 21st century. 

I am delighted by the diverse participation at this conference, including many young people and representatives from African countries.    

Their contribution is vital. 

Because our world is facing multiple crises.  

And Africa is suffering – disproportionately.  

This continent is being blasted by extreme weather, turbocharged by a climate crisis it has done next to nothing to create: From lethal floods in the East, to deadly droughts in the South. 

Africa could be a renewables giant.   

It is home to thirty percent of the minerals critical to renewables, and sixty percent of the world’s best solar resources. 

Yet, in this unfair world, in recent decades, it received just two percent of the investments in  renewables.   

And too often, countries and communities with critical energy transition minerals are exploited, and relegated to the bottom of the value chain. Others take the profits somewhere else.  

The United Nations is fighting for climate justice: 

Our new Panel on Critical Energy Transition Minerals – co-chaired by Ambassador Nozipho Joyce Mxakato-Diseko of South Africa – will develop voluntary principles to ensure developing countries receive maximum benefit. 

We are calling for developed countries to honour their promises on climate finance – including funding to help countries prepare for the worst of climate chaos; 

For significant contributions to the new Loss and Damage Fund; 

For action to reform the multilateral development banks so that finance flows to climate action; 

And for the G20 to lead efforts to slash emissions and accelerate a just global phase-out of fossil fuels. 

I ask African leaders to support these efforts. 

And I urge all governments to create ambitious new national climate plans by next year. 

Plans that drive sustainable development, attract investment, and align with limiting global temperature rise to 1.5 degrees Celsius to avoid the worst of climate chaos.  

Africa’s fate rests on meeting that limit. 

Conflicts are raging around the world, causing enormous pain and suffering. 

The fate of Palestinians, Israelis and the entire region hangs in the balance.  

I reiterate my appeal for the Government of Israel and the leadership of Hamas to demonstrate political courage and spare no effort to reach agreement to stop the bloodshed – and to free the hostages. 

The situation in Rafah is on a knife’s edge, as airstrikes continue throughout southern Gaza. Over one million Palestinians, half of whom are children, have crowded in the Rafah Governate for shelter.  

We are actively engaging with all involved for the resumption of the entry of life-saving supplies – including desperately needed fuel – through the Rafah and Kerem Shalom crossings. 

Meanwhile, our health partners tell us that all the key medical facilities in Rafah could soon become inaccessible or inoperable – including the only dialysis department still operating in Gaza. 

Around 100,000 Palestinians are moving north from Rafah, yet humanitarian partners have no tents or food stores left in south Gaza. 

A massive ground attack in Rafah would lead to an epic humanitarian disaster and pull the plug on our efforts to support people as famine looms. 

International humanitarian law is unequivocal:  civilians must be protected. 

In particular, vulnerable people unable to relocate from active fighting must be protected wherever they seek shelter – pregnant women, children, the injured, the sick, and older people, and people with disabilities. 

International humanitarian law is a must. It must be respected by all parties.  

And, of course, what happens in Gaza has profound repercussions in the occupied West Bank, where we see a deeply disturbing spike in settler violence, excessive use of force by the Israeli Defense Force, demolitions and evictions.  

All of this speaks to the need for the international community to speak with one voice for an immediate humanitarian ceasefire in Gaza, the immediate and unconditional release of all hostages, and a massive surge in life-saving aid. 

The conflicts raging on African continent are tearing lives and communities apart. 

The United Nations fully supports the African Union’s work to silence the guns. 

We are ready to cooperate and mobilise the international community to support peace from the Sahel, to the Horn of Africa, the Great Lakes and beyond. 

I am particularly concerned about the ongoing war in Sudan where we are witnessing indiscriminate attacks against civilians, grotesque sexual violence against women and girls, and humanitarians blocked, attacked, and killed. 

Close to nine million people have fled their homes. 

And the World Food Programme warns that the window of time to prevent starvation in Darfur is closing rapidly. 

Violent clashes in El Fasher are preventing aid getting through. 

An attack on the city would have devastating consequences for civilians. And would likely see the conflict tear across Darfur.    

I am also very concerned by reports of escalating violence in North and South Kordofan and Al Jazirah States. 

I call on all parties to abide by international humanitarian law, protect civilians, and facilitate full and unrestricted humanitarian access. 

Ultimately, we know that there is no military solution to this conflict. 

We need an urgent, coordinated international effort to deliver a political process that can get Sudan back on track.  

I welcome the steps taken to end the conflict in including efforts by the Intergovernmental Authority on Development -IGAD-, the African Union, the League of Arab States, and through the Jeddah process.   

The United Nations – particularly my Personal Envoy, Ramtane Lamamra – will continue working closely with all parties to advance coordinated efforts towards an inclusive and lasting peace: 

A peace spearheaded by the region, and owned by the Sudanese people. 

And I call on all countries to use their influence to get the warring parties to the negotiating table. 

The crises we face demand international solutions. 

The United Nations will never stop fighting to deliver – for Africa and for all humanity. 

And I thank you. 




Question: Good evening, everyone. My name is Gatwiri Purity from the standard. And my question today is why was Kenya chosen to host this event? What is the significance of choosing Kenya to host this event for the very first time?


Secretary-General: For a very simple reason. Kenya is today a fundamental partner of the United Nations. In Kenya, we have the only country that hosts two UN agencies: UN-Habitat and UNEP, the United Nations Environment Programme. 

Kenya is the country that has volunteered to assume responsibilities in one of the most dramatic situations we are living in the world, Haiti. And soon, Kenya police will be in Haiti protecting those that are victims of the most horrible violence of gangs. 

Kenya is a partner in all United Nations activities, from sustainable development to climate - I was here recently, in the African Climate Summit- from peace and security in the region, as a mediator, always available, to human rights and to all other aspects of our activity. 

We felt it was very important that the meeting will take place in Africa, because Africa is in the center of our concerns when we look into reforms of multilateralism. 

If the present multilateralism has failed anywhere in the world, it has failed in Africa. 

This must be corrected. 

So, we should do this in Africa. And doing it in Africa, it makes all sense to do it in Kenya as a privileged partner of the United Nations.


Question: Thank you Mr. SG. My question is beyond Nairobi, post Nairobi, what are you doing?


What is your commitment towards ensuring that the various issues that have been discussed in this conference, there is a kind of meaningful engagement and follow up on the issues as we move towards the Summit of the Future, because oftentimes, we come to these kinds of conferences and we talk, but then, not much happens beyond the conference. Thank you.


Secretary-General: I was following from far away, but following very closely the work in this conference. 

And I have to say that from this conference is coming a very strong message for the member states that will be in the Summit of the Future. 

And the message that is clear. The multilateral institutions that we have today are the multilateral institutions created after the second world war: The Security Council of the United Nations, the Bretton Woods system, and others. 

They reflect the world of that time, not the world of today. 

There is not one single African permanent member in the Security Council. That is unacceptable.

And the Bretton Woods institutions still reflect the economy of the post second world war situation, and doesn't take into account that the large majority of the African countries were not even represented then because they were under still colonial domination. 

So, these institutions must be renewed in order to have justice, equity, and to have the capacity to respond to the dramatic needs of the peoples in Africa, with countries that are drowning in, not only with the floods, but drowning in debt, because the international financial system has not worked in favour of them. 

Countries that have not received the financial support that was needed in order to invest in adaptation to climate change. And we see the results in the impacts of devastating floods in different African countries. 

Countries in relation to which there is not enough support to investment in the sustainable development goals. There are many African countries that spend more, paying interest of their debt than paying for education and health. 

So, there is a basic unfairness in today's world. And our systems are outdated, are unfair, and are dysfunctional. 

And, there was a very strong voice from this conference, from the civil society saying this must change. 

And at the same time, we must be much better equipped to deal with the problems of peace and security, to invest much more on prevention of conflicts. And prevention of conflicts means development, human rights. This is where we must invest much more in the international community. 

A very strong message about the need for gender equality. A very strong message about the needs to support developing countries to create the emergency platforms able to respond to dramatic impacts, like the ones of the recent droughts. 

So, there is a lot that needs to be changed in our international multilateral system to make it equitable, to make it fair, to make it correspond to the needs of the people of the 21st century. And the voice of the civil society here was very clear, telling the government: time to move. 

We cannot go on postponing decisions. We cannot go on resisting change. We need to change dramatically. The skeleton of all the international community creates the force that is necessary to provide the support that developing countries require to face the enormous challenges of our time. 

At the same time, a very strong message on the use of digital technologies, not as a privilege of the rich, but as something that will help developing countries to catch up more quickly, and to be able to provide to their citizens the same rights that richer countries are able to provide.


Question: Yes, good afternoon, everybody, Secretary General, my name is Mercedes Ortuno, from the Spanish News agency EFE. Thank you for being here and answering our questions. I have two of them. After the recent unsuccessful negotiations about the ceasefire in Gaza, do you think we will see a ceasefire soon, at least a temporary one?


And, is Israel committing a genocide against Palestinians in Gaza some countries and human rights organizations have denounced? Thank you very much.


Secretary-General: First of all, we have been asking for a ceasefire, a humanitarian ceasefire, independently of any negotiations. 

We think that a ceasefire is necessary, as we think the release of hostages are necessary.

And I strongly hope that it will be possible to go the extra mile and come to an agreement that would allow at least for an end of the bloodshed and for the release of the hostages, and for unimpeded humanitarian access. 

Now, it's for the courts to qualify the legal concepts. But I don't need, in relation to that, to say more than what I'm going to say. 

The number of civilians that were killed in Gaza is unprecedented. 

You have more civilians killed in Gaza during a few months, much more, more than double, than the civilians killed after the Russian invasion of Ukraine, in more than two years. And there you have two of the most powerful armies in the world, using the most sophisticated weapons with bombardments all over. 

And this has caused much less civilian casualties than the civilians in Gaza, which means that something is fundamentally wrong in the way this military operation has been conducted.


Question: Thank you, Secretary General. My name is Nyaradzo Mashayamombe. I am a gender advocate and a storyteller from Zimbabwe. My question is pertaining to the outcomes of the Civil Society conference with the feminist lens. As we speak, there is a petition from the global feminist that they are not happy with the with the outcome document. Which is it? The impact coalition. Yes. As we move forward, the impact coalition, they believe that they may not be as inclusive, they are not acknowledging what is already existing, the structures that have been existing, they may not be as inclusive, as I mentioned for everyone. So, I don't know what you think about that, is there a room to re-look, is the women speaking out?


Secretary-General: Civil society is by nature diverse. This conference is not a conference in which we believe it would be possible that all members of the civil society would think exactly the same about all issues that are on the table. 

So, it's natural that different opinions exist in relation to several issues. 

But I must say that, beyond the questions that you raised, and others of the same nature, there was a fundamental movement in this civil society gathering, a fundamental movement claiming for justice and equity in the world, and for reforms of the international system to provide that justice and equity in the world. 

So, I fully respect that in some aspects, there are differences of opinion, we will take all into account. 

But, we are extremely encouraged by the very dynamic contribution that the civil society is giving in this conference.


Question: Thank you very much, Secretary-General. My name is Injuruki Wanjiku, from the Mount Kenya Times. And my question for you, it's in light of the leave nobody behind in life, and the question is, what's your assurance to the being left behind African nations, where over 690 million people do not have access to water and sanitation. And 453 are living below the poverty line. And the speculation that gender equity could take about 300 years.


Secretary-General: Well, I cannot give you the assurance that I will solve that problem, because I have not the power to solve that problem. But I can give you the assurance that the United Nations will be fighting hard to make it happen, for all Africans to have access to energy, and for the impact of poverty in Africa to be dramatically reduced, with the extinction of extreme poverty. 

And that is the reason why we committed to the Sustainable Development Goals. 

That is the reason why we are claiming for the reform of international financial architecture. 

That is the reason why we are claiming for debt relief. 

That is the reason why we are claiming for fairness, in trade, and in other aspects of international economic relations. 

So, we have not the power to give those things to the African continent. But we have the convening power to bring together, as much as possible, governments and societies to claim for the needs, for those that are still in the strongest position in the international institutions to understand that things have to change, that power must be better distributed, that wealth must be better distributed, and that fairness and justice must prevail in international relations.


Question: Thank you so much. My name is Enock Sikolia, from CGTN Africa. I know you've talked about your concerns on the issue in Sudan, but of concern to Africa is the level of attention. When you look at the attention that is given to other conflicts across the world -we're talking about the Gaza, the Russia-Ukraine conflict. But in Africa, we have decades-long conflicts where people are still dying: Democratic Republic of Congo, the Sahel region, and even the Sudan one that you've talked about. And yet, the attention that is being given by the United Nations, by the powerful nations that form the UN Security Council. So, the question is, and among Africans, is why little attention is given to African conflicts, as compared to other conflicts across the world?


Secretary-General: The UN does not give less attention to the African conflicts. We have peacekeeping operations in Africa. We have practically no peacekeeping, or very small peacekeeping operations out of Africa. And we have had many, many UN members of those peacekeeping that have given their lives for peace in Africa. We have several political missions in Africa, we have regional offices in Africa dealing with conflicts, and we are permanently, permanently mobilizing the international community to be able to support populations victim of those conflicts, and at the same time to facilitate the capacity of these conflicts to ends.

 Let's be honest. Many of the conflicts are not only the responsibility of the Africans. Many of the conflicts are also the responsibility of those that, from outside Africa, have a negative influence in the way things are moving. And if you look at several situations that you've mentioned, you recognize that that is true.

 We give total priority to our engagement in the African conflicts, and they correspond to a permanent, central, concern of the United Nations. It is evident that the way the global media exists, and the different impact of the areas of the global media makes naturally stronger impact in relation to European media, or in relation to American media, or in relation to media conglomerates in the developed world, more attention to conflicts in the Global North than to conflict in the Global south. It is true.

 It is also true that many political leaders tend to look more to the conflicts that are close and forget those that are a little bit more far away, not being wise enough to understand that the conflicts that are more far away, can have a big influence in the peace and security situation of their own countries, even if they are in the Global North.

And so, my appeal for the political leaders, and my appeal for the media organizations, is to give to the African conflicts of today the same level of priority that is given to other conflicts, because they represent the same kind of threat to global peace and security, and they are causing a volume of suffering that is unparalleled in the international community. 

Thank you very much. All the best.


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