In North Africa, Ban urges world community to 'speak with one voice' on Libya
21 March 2011 – The international community must “continue to speak with one voice” on the unfolding developments in Libya, or the humanitarian situation in the North African country will only worsen, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon warned today during his visit to the region.
Speaking to journalists in Egypt, Mr. Ban urged the full implementation of last week’s Security Council resolution on Libya, which authorized United Nations Member States to take “all necessary measures” to protect civilians.
“It is imperative that the international community continue to speak with one voice to fully implement the Security Council resolutions,” he told journalists in Cairo after a meeting with Amr Moussa, the Secretary-General of the League of Arab States. “Thousands of lives are at stake. We could well see a further humanitarian emergency.”
North Africa and the Middle East have been swept this year by popular protests and calls for wide-ranging reform and greater democracy. The long-standing leaders in Tunisia and Egypt were toppled while in Libya the regime of Muammar al-Qadhafi has waged a fierce military offensive against the opposition movement.
Mr. Ban pledged that the UN was moving “quickly to take effective action” in Libya and trying to both bring an end to the fighting and provide humanitarian relief.
More than 320,000 people have now fled Libya, according to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), and nearly 9,000 others remain stranded at the country’s borders with Tunisia and Egypt.
The number of people leaving Libya continues to rise, with about 2,700 people crossing into Egypt alone on Saturday.
Many of the new arrivals at the borders, particularly migrant workers, say that they are being denied access to food, health care and other basic services in Libya and are also being harassed or robbed at checkpoints.
OCHA reported that food prices have increased exponentially within Libya, notably for wheat, rice, bread and vegetable oil.
About $99 million has been received so far for the UN’s regional flash appeal for the Libyan crisis – just below two-thirds of the $160 million sought.
Rashid Khalikov, the UN Humanitarian Coordinator for Libya, yesterday wrapped up a three-day visit to Saloum, located on the Egyptian-Libyan border, where he met with people who had fled the violence and held talks with humanitarian partners on contingency plans in the event of a surge of people leaving.
Mr. Ban is on the second day of a visit to North Africa, and later today he is scheduled to travel to Tunisia. While in Cairo today, he also met with Prime Minister Ezzam Sharif and Field Marshal Mohamed Hussein Tantawi, the head of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces.
The Secretary-General commended the Supreme Council for its role in Egypt’s transition to greater democracy, but he also asked its members to lift the state of emergency well before elections and to listen to the many voices within Egyptian society in charting the course ahead.
In addition, Mr. Ban spoke at the El-Sawy Cultural Centre, telling an audience of civil society organizations, youth and women’s groups that they are the voice and face of Egypt’s future.
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