United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on Monday compared the ongoing unrest in the Arab world, which he described as a “revolution,” with the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989.
“These are once-in-a-generation opportunities,” he said.
In a speech in Buenos Aires, Mr. Ban hailed a “new era of global change” and cited recent events in Egypt, Tunisia, Yemen and even troubled Syria as examples. But he warned against euphoria.
“Every democratic transition involves more than deposing dictators,” he said.
Mr. Ban noted that even elections are “not enough” and that change needs to be systemic and to rest upon a vital civil society.
In the same way, he said, the people who break away from oppressive regimes need the help of the international community in social, economic and political terms.
Citing Argentina’s experience under the 1976-83 dictatorship, which is believed to have claimed 30,000 lives although most of the bodies were never found, Mr. Ban stressed that “bullets cannot kill the human spirit.” “Let us send a clear message to all leaders: protect your people,” he said.
The driving force behind recent unrest in many parts of the Arab world is unstoppable, and violence will prove powerless, he said.
“The leaders (of troubled countries) are coming up with too little, too late. They simply do not understand what the people want to have,” Mr. Ban said.