UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon: USSR‘s contribution to victory over Nazism should and will never be forgotten
UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, who will attend celebrations of the 70th anniversary of the Great Patriotic War Victory on May 9 in Moscow, has given an interview to Interfax correspondents Alexander Korzun and Andrei Baranovsky ahead of his visit to Russia.Question: This year is the year of the 70th anniversary of the victory over Nazi Germany and the end of World War II. What is your opinion concerning the contribution of the Soviet Union in the victory over Hitler‘s troops and Japanese military?
Answer: The cost of World War II for the world was beyond calculation and beyond comprehension, with 40 million civilians dead and 20 million soldiers.
Nearly half of those were fr om the Soviet Union alone, which reminds us of the enormous price that it paid to defeat Nazism and its allies. This contribution and this sacrifice should and will never be forgotten.
Those were years of unspeakable atrocities of lost faith and lost humanity, but they also saw extraordinary bravery.
Out of this tragedy emerged a common resolve by the international community to come together and create the United Nations to foster peace and security in the world.
Q.: Where are you personally going to celebrate the 70th anniversary of V-Day?
A.: I am pleased to have been invited by the Government of the Russian Federation to commemorate V-Day in Moscow. And prior to that, I will also attend commemorations of the end of World War II in Poland and in Ukraine.
Q.: What should the international community and the UN do to prevent the revival of neo-Nazism in the today‘s world and attempts to rewrite the history of WWII? Are you concerned about the fact that 70 years after finishing WWII, the Nazi ideology still finds its supporters, with the rebirth of neo-Nazi organizations and glorification of Nazi accessories?
A.: In the years since the end of World War II, the flames of hatred and persecution have risen again to consume other societies, in Cambodia, in the former Yugoslavia, in Rwanda.
Even today, the fire smolders. Anti-Semitism retains its hold in too many places and Christians are being persecuted in the Middle East. In Europe and elsewhere, migrants, Muslims, Roma and other minorities face rising discrimination – and find too few defenders. We must remain ever on our guard. And we must do more, far more, to promote equality and fundamental freedoms.
We must also not forget that one of the communities systematically targeted for murder by the Nazis were homosexuals. Homophobia was yet another facet of Nazism, and we need to combat that with all our means as well.
The dangers of violent extremism and intolerance remain in the world, in different forms. Addressing violent extremism and terrorism may be the greatest test our human family faces in the 21st century. Our most powerful weapons against extremism are human rights, education, accountable institutions, equitable delivery of services and political participation.
The United Nations is working to build capacity among governments and also to build bridges between people.
Q.: This year is also the year of the 70th anniversary since the creation of the UN. Do you think the organization you head has managed to maintain international peace and security for all of these years? How do you see the role of the UN in solving global problems in the future? What are the main challenges the UN currently faces?
A.: The 70th anniversary of the United Nations is a timely opportunity to highlight its many and enduring achievements – and to strengthen our collective resolve to do more to promote peace and security, sustainable development and human rights.
This year will not be a year of looking back but a year of action. In 2015, the world has an historic opportunity to adopt both a new sustainable development agenda and to reach a global agreement on climate change.
Every day, the United Nations makes a positive difference for millions of people: vaccinating children; distributing food aid; sheltering refugees; deploying peacekeepers; protecting the environment; seeking the peaceful resolution of disputes and supporting democratic elections, gender equality, human rights and the rule of law.
The challenges of our times transcend borders and require complex solutions reached through negotiation and compromise. Only when we work together can we overcome shared threats and seize shared opportunities; only at the United Nations can all countries - large and small, rich and poor - and all people have their voices heard.
Q.: How do you see the role of the UN in the solution of the most critical current problems: the crisis in Ukraine, the fight against terrorists fr om the Islamic State and nowadays the situations in Libya and Yemen?
A.: I, as Secretary-General, and the United Nations remain committed to do all we can to restore dialogue and find political solutions to all the conflicts in the world. We will also spare no efforts to create bridges between peoples, States and religions, to sow the seeds of lasting peace and harmony.
However, preventing conflict and violence is a global challenge that is not confined to a particular region or religion, and that transcends borders. We cannot do it alone: no single country or organization can defeat the scourge of terrorism on its own, or resolve long-standing conflicts erupting from years of frustration and resentment.
In Ukraine, I remain gravely concerned that we are heading towards a complex, protracted conflict, threatening the progress and long-term stability of the country and its neighbors. It is an illusion to imagine that this crisis can be resolved militarily or that it is somehow in people‘s real interests to keep it in some form of frozen conflict, in limbo, without any prospect for real stability or investment. The crisis an only be solved through genuine dialogue and compromises, and through all parties honoring their peace commitments. The United Nations will continue to support all efforts to this end, including through its Human Rights Monitoring Mission and response to the ever-increasing humanitarian needs of the population in eastern Ukraine as a result of the hostilities.
In Libya, the process is complex and fraught with difficulties, given the political and security challenges, but I am confident that the parties do recognize that there is no alternative to dialogue. We have now reached a critical point wh ere they are negotiating on a draft agreement for a political solution to the crisis. My Special Representative, Bernardino Leon and his team continue to work tirelessly with Libyan parties to help reach a political agreement accepted by all Libyans.
The unspeakable situation in Syria, wh ere the conflict is now entering its fifth year, shows the damaging consequences of a divided international community. Only when the Member States of the UN, especially the Members of the Security Council, live up to their responsibilities and act with a common vision can we address the challenges of our time. I am shocked by the cruelty of this conflict and the suffering that makes it the worst crisis of our generation. And by the inability or unwillingness of members of the international community to come together and try to stop it, rather than fuelling it, as many are doing.
I am convinced that we must redouble our efforts in search of a political process. This view is shared by the wider international community. Russia helpfully refocused attention on the political track earlier this year through the Moscow Forum and last week the Security Council fully expressed that another attempt to politically resolve the conflict should be made.
That is why my Special Envoy for Syria, Staffan de Mistura launched on Tuesday a new round of consultations with a wide array of Syrian, regional and international parties with a view to ‘operationalizing‘ the Geneva Communique
We know what can happen when the Security Council and the international community are united. The destruction of the Syrian chemical weapons is a great example of the positive impact of a united front. Conversely, if nations are not united, the peoples of the world pay the price.
On Yemen, I have called on the parties to declare an immediate cease-fire, as I am deeply concerned that the longer this goes on, the more civilians will be killed by the bombing.
Q.: What do you think about the critical rhetoric about the inability of the UN to promptly react to crises arising in the world and the attempts to resolve these crises in breach of UN resolutions and by generally bypassing the UN?
A.: On this 70th anniversary of the United Nations, Member States can take pride in many successes on development, decolonization, human rights, international law, peacekeeping and many more.
The United Nations has evolved to deal with emerging threats. Just last year, I established the first-ever UN health emergency mission to respond to the Ebola outbreak in West Africa. Even if the fight against Ebola will not be over until we reach zero cases, the impact of our common efforts is undeniable.
While I am very much conscious of the criticism about the effectiveness and efficiency or even relevance of the United Nations during the last seven decades, I know that without the United Nations, this world would have been, could have been, much more difficult and more tragic.
Imagine a world without a common meeting ground for all countries: there would be no blue helmets separating forces and disarming fighters; there would be no trusted mediators helping parties to make peace; there would be more entrenched conflicts and more needless deaths.
Q.: More and more people are now calling for a reform of the UN, in particular its main body, the Security Council. Proposals are being made to expand the composition of its permanent Members, deprive them of their right to veto or ban them from using this right in the debate of issues involving major human rights violations and genocide. What do you think of such proposals and do you generally think the UN needs to be reformed? What changes do you think need to be made?
A.: The United Nations was created after World War II to save succeeding generations from the scourge of war. We have to acknowledge that that vision by our founding fathers has not been fully realized.
Compared to when the United Nations was founded 70 years ago, we are living in a very different world. Today, we face a host of challenges, ranging from cybercrime to violent extremism to climate change.
It is true that more and more people are calling for a reform of the Security Council and interesting proposals are being floated. This is, however, a matter for Member States to debate and decide on, not the secretariat which I head.
The organization is changing together with the rest of the world, and it is an ongoing process. I am working closely with member states on institutional restructuring, improving coordination within the UN system and on the strategic priorities of the organization.