Secretary-General Pledges UN Support for ‘Bold Reforms’ in Egypt

NEW YORK–(ENEWSPF)–3 February 2011 – Reiterating his call to all sides to exercise restraint in the current turmoil sweeping Egypt, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon today pledged United Nations support for the “bold reforms” needed to meet the people’s aspirations in the Middle East.

“We should not underestimate the danger of instability across the Middle East,” Mr. Ban told a news conference in London. “The United Nations stands ready to support the bold reforms that are needed to meet the people’s aspirations.”

Asked about reports that supporters of President Hosni Mubarak, whose resignation has been the main demand of hundreds of thousands of demonstrators for more than a week, today attacked journalists in Cairo and threatened to shoot camera crews if they continue to film, he said freedom of speech of peaceful demonstrators or journalists should be fully protected.

“That’s a ground principle of democracy,” he added. “And the government should listen very attentively to the wishes of people. This is the beginning point.”

He reiterated his call that a peaceful transition should begin now. Mr. Mubarak on Tuesday announced that he intended to serve out the remainder of his term but would not seek re-election in September.

“It is important to ensure an orderly and peaceful transition,” Mr. Ban said. “I have urged all parties to engage in such a process without delay, with full respect for human rights, in particular the freedoms of speech, expression, association and information.”

The protests “reflect the great frustration of the Egyptian people about the lack of change over the past few decades. This discontent calls for bold reforms, not repression,” he added. “I am concerned about the growing violence. I have urged all sides to exercise restraint. Violent attacks against peaceful protestors are completely unacceptable.”

The Director-General of the UN International Labour Organization (ILO), Juan Somavia, has joined Mr. Ban in calling on the leaders of Egypt to “listen attentively and sincerely to the voices of the people,” and on “their responsibility, first of all, to provide decent jobs and good opportunities to maintain a decent living.”

For many years, the ILO has been pointing to the lack of decent work in Egypt and other countries in the region, where the rates of unemployment, underemployment and informal work remain among the highest in the world.

“The failure to address this situation effectively, with all of its consequences for poverty and unbalanced development, together with limitations on basic freedoms, has triggered this historic outpouring of popular demands,” Mr. Somavia said in a statement from his headquarters in Geneva.

He welcomed the establishment in the last days and independent trade union calling for jobs, a living minimum wage, social protection, and freedom of association. “Theirs must be foremost among the voices that must now be heard,” he added.