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Remarks Following a Meeting With Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon of the United Nations

August 04, 2015

The President. It is a great pleasure to welcome once again to the Oval Office my good friend, the Secretary-General of the United Nations, Mr. Ban Ki-moon.

As we celebrate the 70th anniversary of the United Nations, we can take great satisfaction in the success of the institution in resolving conflicts, in moving forward through its agencies on a whole range of development issues that are helping vulnerable peoples around the world. And at the same time, we are in a period in which the demands placed, the burdens on the United Nations have never been greater. And throughout what was a very tumultuous process, the Secretary-General and his team, I think, have done excellent work and have been excellent partners with us.

Today we spoke about a wide range of issues. At the top of our list was the urgency of a world response to the threat of climate change. And the Secretary-General has been a consistent champion of a concerted, unified, global response to the issue. I shared with him the work that we are doing in the United Nations so that we can be a leader in addressing this critical—perhaps the critical issue—that faces humankind going forward and explained how through our power plant rule, through the work we're doing on renewable energies, and so forth, that we're in a position now to meet the very aggressive targets that we're putting forward in preparation for the Paris conference.

And I encouraged the Secretary-General to continue to work with us to press those countries who have not yet put forward bold, aggressive plans to do so, because we need Paris to be a success, and the world has to step up in a concerted way on behalf of our children and future generations.

We also had opportunity to discuss a range of regional issues. In Syria, we shared our deep concerns about the humanitarian crisis there, as well as the need to stop the killing and arrive at a realistic political process that can lead to a stabilizing of the country and a transition to a government that is reflective of all the people of Syria. And we traded notes on how our diplomatic teams can work together with other interested parties on that issue.

We also discussed the need to end the conflict in Yemen and address the humanitarian situation there. We discussed some modest progress that's been made in Libya in bringing together the many factions that have created great difficulty in governance in Yemen [Libya;White House correction.] and have created a vacuum that is causing everything from a outflow of refugees to the safe havens for organizations like ISIL.

And we discussed South Sudan. As many of you know, when I was in Africa, in Addis Ababa, I convened a meeting with the leaders of the countries surrounding South Sudan. It was several years ago where South Sudan was recognized as an independent country, and there was great progress and great hope at that time. That hope has been squandered by Mr. Kiir and the opposition leader, Mr. Machar. Our goal now is to make sure that by August 17 there's an agreement for them to stop the bloodshed and to move forward in a inclusive Government. If they miss that target, then I think it's our view that it's going to be necessary for us to move forward with a different plan and recognize that those leaders are incapable of creating the peace that is required.

On a more positive note, we have now completed the follow-up on the Millennium Development Goals that had been set. We now have a new set of sustainable development goals, as well as financing for those goals, that had been agreed to through a process of international consensus. And they reflect, I think, the newest and best thinking about how we can lift people out of extreme poverty and not just provide aid, but also increase capacity with a strong emphasis on making sure that women and girls are lifted up in the process and making sure that we're emphasizing clean energy, sustainable energy, education, entrepreneurship, and small and medium-sized businesses.

And I'm very encouraged by the process and the leadership that was shown by the United Nations and all the countries involved. What we saw was, I think, far less emphasis on some of the traditional North-South divisions on the international stage and much more of a focus on how do we get the job done and deliver on behalf of the people.

And finally, we had a discussion about how we can work with the United Nations to provide them more support for the demands that are being made to them. Specifically, in September, when we have the United Nations General Assembly and leaders are gathered, we really want to make the most of the summits that are being organized around not only countering violent extremism and sustainable development, but also peacekeeping and are there ways in which we can strengthen the resources that are required in order for us to do an effective job on conflict resolution, but also stabilization postconflict, where the United Nations plays an enormous role. And we have to have greater continuity and greater capacity for these U.N. peacekeepers, because unfortunately, I don't think we can anticipate that all these conflicts are going to be going away anytime soon.

So I again want to thank the Secretary-General for his outstanding leadership, and I look forward to seeing him in September. We've got a lot of work to do between now and then, but I'm very confident that he and his very capable team will be able to do what needs to be done.

Thank you very much. Good.

Secretary-General Ban. Thank you, Mr. President, for your warm welcome to the Oval Office again. I had an extremely constructive meeting with President Obama this time on the eve of a truly historic General Assembly in September and in the aftermath of all this very historic diplomatic achievement that President Obama and the U.S. Government have been making in many areas like Iranian nuclear deals and normalization of diplomatic relations with Cuba and his recent very successful visit to Africa. And all these are truly historic diplomatic achievements.

The United Nations continue to stand working with you and U.S. Government. We really appreciate your strong leadership and support and strong, generous humanitarian assistance to many places of the conflict. And I really count on your strong support.

On climate change, I highly commend President Obama's strong commitment since day one in his office up to now, and I count on your continuing leadership until we'll be able to address at this one—this climate change—and have climate change agreement in December in Paris. In that regard, I'd like to congratulate you and highly commend your visionary and bold leadership announcement of yesterday on a Clean Power Plan. This is a hugely important and visionary leadership. U.S. can and will be able to change the world in addressing a climate phenomenon. And we are the first generation, as President Obama rightly said yesterday, to put an end to global poverty. And we are the last generation who can address climate change phenomenon.

I think this Clean Power Plan powers economies and generates jobs. And also, it can have—generate huge dividends here at home, in U.S. economy. And I'm sure that this will impact a lot of countries. And I really appreciate your personal engagement starting with China and Brazil and India and many others, as I'm going to have some small-scale leaders meetings on the margins of General Assembly. I hope you will really lead all this campaign under your strong leadership.

We are very much committed. We discussed about how to mobilize a hundred billion dollars for climate financing, and working very closely with President Hollande, in his capacity as President of future COP 21, and Chancellor Angela Merkel, in her capacity as the Chair of G-7, and World Bank President and IMF Managing Director, and we see, the Secretary-General. We are really trying to present a politically credible trajectory of a hundred billion dollars to the world so that this can be supported at the COP 21 in Paris.

And anyway, this is a top priority now as we have successfully agreed on sustainable development agenda with a set of 17 sustainable development goals. This is a hugely ambitious and encouraging news. And we also agreed in Addis Ababa last month a financial and technological framework to support sustainable development agenda and climate change. On all these matters, we really count on your strong support.

On regional issues, President Obama has explained and briefed all what we discussed. We are completely on the same page. On Syrian issues, on 29th of July, last week, my Special Envoy and I presented a proposal to establish a four-thematic working group to operationalize a Geneva communiqué, and I'm very much encouraged to find such strong support by the Security Council members. We tried to expedite to provide some political solution to this, operationalizing Geneva communiqué. At the same time, we are doing our best efforts to provide humanitarian assistance to needy people.

On Yemen, there is no military solution, there is only solution by political way, through dialogue. I have been continuously coordinating and working together with GCC members led by, again, the Saudi Arabia. And my Special Envoy is always on the region working very closely with the parties.

We are very much concerned about the humanitarian situation in Yemen, as President Obama said. Eighty percent of population—to be exact, more than 21 million people—are in need of urgent humanitarian assistance. Our humanitarian team, despite the difficulties of security and safety, will mobilizing all possible support. I'm urging the world members—member states—to provide the generous humanitarian assistance. This is what I'm really asking for such generous support.

I highly appreciate and commend leadership of President Obama on South Sudan. His recent visit to Africa and convening a leaders meeting on South Sudan really made a big impact. We are working very hard with the IGAD members and African Union so that this August 17 summit meeting of IGAD will be able to have adoption of this agreement between the parties. We are working very hard. And I really appreciate your strong support for human rights—of human rights. In all these conflict areas, it is the people whose human rights are being abused. And we are taking this issue human rights up front as priority issues, and I really appreciate the United States continuing support and leadership.

Again, thank you very much, Mr. President, for your global leadership. And I wish you continued good success. Thank you.

NOTE: The President spoke at 12:01 p.m. in the Oval Office at the White House. In his remarks, he referred to President Salva Kiir Mayardit and former Vice President Riek Machar Teny Dhurgon of South Sudan. He also referred to the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) terrorist organization. Secretary-General Ban referred to President François Hollande of France; Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany; Jim Yong Kim, President, World Bank; Christine Lagarde, Managing Director, International Monetary Fund; U.N. Special Envoy for Syria Steffan de Mistura; U.N. Special Envoy for Yemen Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed. He also referred to the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) in Eastern Africa; and the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC).

Barack Obama, Remarks Following a Meeting With Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon of the United Nations Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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