Former Portuguese Prime Minister Antonio Guterres has been elected by the United Nations General Assembly as the next Secretary-General.
Guterres will take his position in 2017, becoming the successor of Ban Ki-moon, who served two continuous terms. The new secretary-general stated to be in favor of ethnic diversity and the sharing of culture. Both U.S. and Russia voted in favor of Guterres. In his list of objectives, the ninth secretary-general of the United Nations cited diplomacy for peace as his priority. He recognized that the problems that thrive in our world must be attacked using a humble approach and to benefit all of the involved parties.
The first former state leader to serve as secretary-general
Guterres highlighted the need to break the alliances of terrorist groups and any coalition that supports xenophobia and extremism. He was voted to the position 13 to 0 with two abstentions. President Obama already pronounced himself in support of Guterres, as he had worked at the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).
“Guterres has the character, vision, and skills needed to lead the United Nations at this critical moment and to reform its organizations and operations to better meet these unprecedented challenges,” said the President of the United States.
The role of the secretary-general is to serve as a mediator and the voice of the United Nations Charter, always striving for the peaceful resolution of conflicts that may arise between the 193 member states. With very little de facto power, Guterres will have to lead other countries to agree to cease fires, tackle climate change, and solve worldwide humanitarian crises.
One of the latest contributions by former Secretary General Ban Ki-moon was promoting the Paris Climate Agreements, which is expected to be fully ratified before the end of 2016. But large tasks require large preparations, as it is not easy to coordinate the decisions and demands of over 100 different nations, with infinitely different beliefs and ways of proceeding when it comes to politics.
Analysts expect Guterres to be a reformer and an active leader in the United Nations, as he has become the first to assume the position of secretary general after being elected prime minister of his home country. As head of the UNHCR, Guterres managed to convince member states to provide additional financing to accomplish the organization’s agenda.
67-year-old Guterres will face one of the most critical world conflict scenarios in the form of radical Islam joined to the Syrian civil war, all while keeping in mind the urge to adapt to climate change.
But he is no stranger to adversity. Guterres was a political activist during Caetano’s dictatorship, being a member of the Socialist Party. In 1992 he became the head of the opposition and was subsequently named vice-president of the Socialist International.
In 1995, he was elected Prime Minister of Portugal, being known as a leader who promoted dialogue and discussion of problems until a solution came to light. He was re-elected in 1999, but resigned from his position in 2001 to reportedly “prevent the country from falling into a political swamp”.