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22 March 2001

New York, 22 March 2001


Good morning, Ladies and Gentlemen,

I am here mainly to answer your questions, but let me start by mentioning three or four issues that are particularly on my mind.

My most immediate concern is the situation in the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, which is very serious.  If it is not brought under control it could destabilise the entire region. 

What's important is that the whole international community has come together to re-affirm the unity and territorial integrity of the Republic.  Even those who have taken up arms claim to accept that. 

They should understand that the method they have chosen is neither an acceptable nor a credible route by which to reach their stated objective of better representation for their community within Macedonian institutions. 

No less worrying is the situation in the Middle East, where I shall be going next week to attend the Arab Summit.  There too, it is vital that both parties understand that there is no solution to be found in violence, and no sense in postponing the day when they return to the negotiating table.

There is actually somewhat better news from Africa.  The peace agreement between Eritrea and Ethiopia is being implemented, and there is now a much more hopeful atmosphere in the Democratic Republic of Congo, with a good prospect that we shall at last be able to deploy our observer force.

Of course, the continent still faces the most daunting social and economic problems, of which HIV/AIDS is now the most dramatic.  But I believe African leaders and the whole international community, including the pharmaceutical companies, are at last beginning to respond in a way that fits the urgency of the situation.

But we must not forget that Africa's underlying problem is extreme poverty, or that the most hopeful route out of poverty for all countries is through trade and investment. 

That's why I was so pleased by the European Union's decision to remove tariffs and quotas on all products (except arms) from the Least Developed Countries.  I still hope that other industrialised countries will follow this lead in time for the May conference on the LDCs in Brussels. 

That would be an important first step, but the real difference could come with the World Trade Organization meeting in Qatar.  The developing countries must go there well prepared to defend their interests, and to insist on a true “development round” of trade negotiations, focusing on giving free access to their products.

Finally, there is another matter on my mind, which I know you are keen to ask me about.  For some time, in fact, you and others have been asking me whether I would be prepared to serve a second term as Secretary-General, and I promised to give you an answer in the course of this month. 

Indeed, I have been touched and gratified by the numerous expressions of encouragement and support I have received from many Governments - most particularly from the African Group, whose Permanent Representatives last week issued a public appeal to me to stay on.

It has not been an easy issue for me to consider. 

On the one hand, I have devoted most of my professional life to advancing the values and work of the United Nations, which I firmly believe embodies humanity’s highest aspirations.  I am also sensitive to the call of duty.  And I am inspired every day by the sacrifices made by the staff of the United Nations - particularly those in the field, in peacekeeping missions or refugee camps - on behalf of the peoples we serve.  Whatever I achieve, or hope to achieve, as Secretary-General, can come about only thanks to their dedication.

On the other hand, I had to ask myself, am I willing and able to do this job for five more years, with the same level of energy and commitment I have brought to it during the last four?

This has been a very demanding and challenging responsibility to carry, which inevitably has made exhausting claims on my family and my personal life. 

After careful thought, and close consultation with my family and wife Nane, who has been my strongest support in times both good and bad, I am pleased to tell you today that my answer is Yes. 

If the Member States decide to offer me a second term as Secretary-General, I shall be deeply honoured to accept.

There is a great deal still to be done to make the United Nations, this indispensable organisation, into the effective instrument humanity needs, in this new century, to fulfil its hopes for peace, development and human rights.  If asked, I am ready to serve.

Thank you very much.