The Secretary General is hosting a meeting of several heads of state, including President Obama, to discuss the situation in Libya. Last Friday, the Security Council authorized the new United Nations Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL). The meeting today is to firm up commitments to the new Libya and build international support for the new UN mission there. It starts at 10:30 EST. Obama’s prepared remarks below.
President Obama’s remarks, as prepared for Delivery
Good morning. Mr. Secretary-General, on behalf of us all, thank you for
convening this meeting to address a task that must be the work of us
all-supporting the people of Libya as they build a future that is free,
democratic and prosperous. And I want to thank Chairman Jalil for his
remarks and for all that he and Prime Minister Jibril have done to help
Libya reach this moment.
Today, the Libyan people are writing a new chapter in the life of their
nation. After four decades of darkness, they can walk the streets, free
from a tyrant. They’re making their voices heard-in new newspapers, on
radio and television; in public squares and on personal blogs. They’re
launching political parties and civil society groups to shape their own
destiny and secure their universal rights. And here at the United
Nations, the new flag of a free Libya now flies among the community of
Make no mistake, credit for the liberation of Libya belongs to the
people of Libya. It was Libyan men, women-and children-who took to the
streets in peaceful protest, faced down the tanks and endured the
snipers’ bullets. It was Libyan fighters, often outgunned and
outnumbered, who fought pitched battles, town by town, block by block.
It was Libyan activists-in the underground, in chat rooms and
mosques-who kept a revolution alive, even after some in the world gave
It was Libyan women and girls who hung flags and smuggled weapons to the
front. It was Libyans from countries around the world, including my
own, who rushed home to help, even though they too risked brutality and
death. It was Libyan blood that was spilled and Libya’s sons and
daughters who gave their lives. And on that August day-after all that
sacrifice, after 42 long years-it was Libyans who pushed their dictator
At the same time, Libya is a lesson in what the international community
can achieve when we stand together as one. We cannot and should not
intervene every time there’s an injustice in the world. Yet it’s also
true that at times the world could have and should have summoned the
will to prevent the killing of innocents on a horrific scale. And we
are forever haunted by the atrocities we did not prevent, the lives we
did not save. But this time was different. This time, we found the
courage and the collective will to act.
When the old regime unleashed a campaign of terror, threatening to roll
back the democratic tide sweeping the region, we acted-as united
nations-and we acted swiftly; broadening sanctions; imposing an arms
embargo. The United States led the effort to pass an historic
resolution at the Security Council authorizing “all necessary measures”
to protect the Libyan people. And when the civilians of Benghazi were
threatened with a massacre, we exercised that authority. Our
international coalition stopped the regime in its tracks, saved
countless lives, and gave the Libyan people the time and space to
Important, too, is how this effort succeeded-thanks to the leadership
and contributions of many nations. The United States was proud to play
a decisive role, especially in the first days, and, then, in a
supporting capacity. But let us also remember that it was the Arab
League that appealed for action. It was the world’s most effective
alliance, NATO, that’s led a military coalition of nearly 20 nations.
It’s our European allies-especially the United Kingdom, France, Denmark
and Norway-that conducted the vast majority of airstrikes. It was Arab
states who joined the coalition, as equal partners. And it’s been the
United Nations and neighboring countries, including Tunisia and Egypt,
that have cared for Libyans in the urgent humanitarian effort that
This is how the international community should work in the 21st
century-more nations bearing the responsibility and costs of meeting
global challenges. Indeed, it is the very purpose of this United
Nations. So every nation represented here today can take pride in the
innocent lives we saved and in helping Libyans reclaim their country.
It was the right thing to do.
Now, even as we speak, remnants of the old regime continue to fight.
Difficult days are still ahead. But one thing is clear-the future of
Libya is now in the hands of its people. For just as it was Libyans who
tore down the old order, it will be Libyans who build their new nation.
And we have come here today to say to the people of Libya-just as the
world stood by you in your struggle to be free, we will stand with you
in your struggle to realize the peace and prosperity that freedom can
In this effort, you will have a friend and partner in the United States
of America. Today, I can announce that our ambassador is on his way
back to Tripoli. And this week, the American flag that was lowered
before our embassy was attacked will be raised again, over a re-opened
American embassy. We’ll work closely with the new U.N. Support Mission
in Libya and with the nations here today to assist the Libyan people in
the hard work ahead.
First, and most immediately, security. So long as the Libyan people are
being threatened, the NATO-led mission to protect them will continue.
And those still holding out must understand-the old regime is over, and
it is time to lay down your arms and join the new Libya. As this
happens, the world must support efforts to secure dangerous
weapons-conventional and otherwise-and bring fighters under central,
civilian control. For without security, democracy, trade, and
investment cannot flourish.
Second, the humanitarian effort. The Transitional National Council has
been working quickly to restore water and electricity and the food
supply to Tripoli. But for many Libyans, each day is still a
struggle-to recover from their wounds, reunite with their families, and
return to their homes. And even after the guns of war fall silent, the
ravages of war will linger. So too must the effort to assist its
victims. In this, the United Nations will play a key role. And along
with our partners, the United States will do our part to help the hungry
and the wounded.
Third, a democratic transition that is peaceful, inclusive and just.
Chairman Jalil has reaffirmed the Transitional Council’s commitment to
these principles, and the United Nations will play a central role in
coordinating international support for this effort. We all know what’s
needed. A transition that is timely. New laws and a constitution that
uphold the rule of law. Political parties and a strong civil society.
And, for the first time in Libyan history, free and fair elections.
True democracy, however, must flow from citizens. As Libyans rightly
seek justice for past crimes, let it be done in a spirit of
reconciliation, not reprisals and violence. As Libyans draw strength
from their faith-a religion rooted in peace and tolerance-let there be a
rejection of violent extremism, which offers nothing but death and
destruction. As Libyans rebuild, let those efforts tap the experience
of all those with the skills to contribute, including the many Africans
in Libya. And as Libyans forge a society that is truly just, let it
enshrine the rights and role of women at all levels of society. For we
know that nations that uphold the human rights of all their
people-especially their women-are ultimately more successful and more
Which brings me to the final area where the world must stand with
Libya-restoring prosperity. For too long, Libya’s vast riches were
stolen and squandered. Now, that wealth must serve its rightful
owners-the Libyan people. As sanctions are lifted, as the United States
and the international community unfreeze more Libyan assets, and as the
country’s oil production is restored, the Libyan people deserve a
government that is transparent and accountable. And bound by the Libyan
students and entrepreneurs who have forged friendships in America, the
United States will build new partnerships to help unleash Libya’s
None of this will be easy. After decades of iron rule by one man, it
will take time to build the institutions needed for a democratic Libya.
There will be days of frustration; when progress is slow; when some
begin to wish for the old order and its illusion of stability. And some
in the world may ask-can Libya succeed? But if we have learned anything
these many months, it is this-do not underestimate the aspirations and
will of the Libyan people.
So I want to conclude by speaking directly to the people of Libya. Your
task may be new; the journey ahead may be fraught. But everything you
need to build the future you seek already beats in the heart of your
nation. It’s the same raw courage you summoned on that first February
day. The same steely resilience that brought you back out the next day
and the next, even as you lost family and friends. The same unshakeable
determination with which you liberated Benghazi, broke the siege of
Misrata and have fought through the coastal plains and the western
mountains. It’s the same unwavering conviction that said-there’s no
turning back; our sons and daughters deserve to be free.
In the days after Tripoli fell, people rejoiced in the streets and
pondered the road ahead. And one of those Libyans said, “We have this
chance now to do something good for our country, a chance we have
dreamed of for so long.” To the people of Libya-this is your chance.
And today the world is saying, in one unmistakable voice-we will stand
with you as you seize this moment of promise; as you reach for the
freedom, the dignity and the opportunity you deserve.