By Abdul Ruff
The UN General Assembly on December 08 formally appointed former prime minister of Portugal Antonio Guterres as the new secretary-general of the United Nations, replacing Ban Ki-moon. Guterres won unanimous support from the UN Security Council during a vote last week that capped the most transparent campaign ever held at the UN for the top post. The Security Council is deadlocked over Syria after two draft resolutions were defeated in separate votes over the weekend, one of which was vetoed by Damascus ally Russia.
The 193 member states adopted by acclamation a resolution appointing the former prime minister of Portugal for a five-year term beginning 1 January. The 67-year-old polyglot campaigned on a pledge to promote human rights and enact reforms within the UN system, seen as clunky and too slow to respond to unfolding disasters. His appointment comes at a time of global anxiety over the ongoing war in Syria, the refugee crisis and raging conflicts in South Sudan and Yemen.
It was Guterres’ strong performance answering questions before the General Assembly, and his executive experience as prime minister and as the UN High Commissioner for Refugees from 2005-2015 that propelled him to first place among the 13 candidates vying for the job in the informal polls in the Security Council. After last week’s sixth poll, the council nominated him by acclamation.
General Assembly President Peter Thompson introduced the resolution to elect Gutteres, said members wanted it adopted by acclamation, and banged his gavel in approval as diplomats broke into applause. Guterres “embodies the highest standards of competence, integrity and leadership,” Thompson said.
An engineer by training and practicing Catholic, Guterres fought for migrants’ rights over a decade as UN High Commissioner for Refugees from June 2005 to December 2015. He served as prime minister of Portugal from 1995 to 2002, anchoring his country to the European Union and working to raise living standards.
Guterres said he will do his best before taking the reins of the UN from Ban Ki-moon on 1 January to prepare “to act as a convener, an honest broker, someone trying to bring people together” in conflicts and crises from Syria and Yemen to South Sudan. “It’s high time to fight for peace,” he said, and make people understand that whatever divisions exist it’s more important to unite and end the suffering because of the risks for countries in conflict and the international community. He told the 193 members of the UN General Assembly who elected him by acclamation that the United Nations has “the moral duty and the universal right” to ensure peace — and he will be promoting a new “diplomacy for peace” advocating dialogue to settle disputes.
Secretary-General Ban, recalling Guterres’ decade as the UN’s refugee chief, told the assembly that he is “best known where it counts most, on the front lines of armed conflict and humanitarian suffering.” Ban noted that Guterres’ election was 10 years to the day after his own election in 2006, calling the ceremony “poignant for me.” But he told Guterres: “the people of the world are all looking forward to your tenure with confidence and excitement.” Ambassador Samantha Power, speaking on behalf of the United States as the host country of the United Nations, called Gutteres “supremely qualified,” saying he will use the office to be “an independent force to prevent conflict and alleviate human suffering.”She said the world’s nations are challenging the United Nations and the secretary-general to do more than they have ever done before.
For the UN to succeed, Power said, nation are asking Guterres to serve as a peacemaker, a reformer to streamline the UN bureaucracy, and an advocate rallying the world “to respond to humanitarian and man-made catastrophes, and defending the human rights of all people.” Power stressed the importance of UN unity in selecting Guterres, especially in the often divided Security Council — a view echoed by Guterres who expressed hope that this unity can be channeled to take decisions to bring peace. He said that in a world which is more and more multi-ethnic, multi-cultural and multi-religious, “diversity can bring us together not drive us apart.” But Guterres said: “We must make sure that we are able to break this alliance between all those terrorist groups, or violent extremists on one side, and the expressions of populism and xenophobia on the other side. These two reinforce each other, and we must be able to fight both of them with determination.”
The first former head of government at the UN helm, Guterres takes over officially from Ban Ki-moon on 1 January amid bloodshed in Syria and uncertainty following the election of Donald Trump. “The organization is the cornerstone of multilateralism, and has contributed to decades of relative peace, but the challenges are now surpassing our ability to respond,” Guterres told the General Assembly. “UN must be ready to change,” he added.
The 67-year-old socialist politician said the United Nations must “recognize its shortcomings and reform the way it works” and singled out the failure to prevent crisis as the most serious failure. Guterres, who will become the ninth UN chief in the world body’s 71-year history, said he is not only fully aware of the challenges the United Nations faces but the limitations surrounding the secretary-general. “The dramatic problems of today’s complex world can only inspire a humble approach, one in which the secretary-general alone neither has all the answers nor seeks to impose his views, one in which the secretary-general makes his good offices available to help find solutions that benefit everyone involved.”
Incoming UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres vowed to improve the world body’s ability to respond to global crises after taking the oath of office. The socialist politician, who also served as UN refugee chief for a decade, Guterres is expected to play a more prominent role as the world’s diplomat-in-chief than Ban, the South Korean former foreign minister who will step down after two five-year terms. Today, UN, controlled by US led notorious UNSC, has been reduced to a forum for military deals and no peace deal is signed. Citizens worldwide are losing confidence in their governments and in global institutions, he said, adding that it was “time to reconstruct relations” between leaders and their people. USA shamelessly uses it veto only to shield the fascist Israel from punishment for its criminal operations in Palestine, killing people, including children.
True, UN is supposed to protect and promote world peace but it has not been able to bring peace o to the world as it refuses or unable to sole the regional tensions. Had it sought world peace sincerely, UN would have brokered peace honestly between Israel and Palestine and helped Palestinians establish their own Palestine state with full sovereignty necessary to defend its freedoms. But USA took the initiative only to defend the Zionist fascism in Palestine. This led to repeatedly failed talks.
The former Portuguese prime minister and UN refugee chief Antonio Guterres pledged to make the pursuit of peace in a conflict-torn world his “over-arching priority” after being elected the next secretary-general of the United Nations. Guterres laid out three priorities for change during his five-year term: work for peace, supporting sustainable development and internal reforms.
Since Antonio Guterres who replaced Ban Ki-moon as UN Chief, says peace is his top priority, humanity in general and Kashmiris and Palestinians in particular can hope to be soverign states soon with a new president taking office soon in USA. UN and USA must insist the Sri Lankan government and its president Sirisena to let the UN in vestige war crimes of the previous Rajapksha regime so that Tamils, the target the military for years, get proper justice. In fact, what the Rajapaksha regime attempted in Tamil localities is Tamilian holocaust by fast track genocides of Tamils so that they never ask for any rights in the Island nation, already facing extinction due to dangerous climate change.
Regional peace in South Asia is impossible without justice for the Tamil community and Kashmiris. Hopefully with a new leader at the helm of UN affairs and a new president in USA, all tensions in regions would find credible solutions, especially Mideast and South Asia with the emergence of Palestine and Kashmir as independent nations. Let us all hope for the best. Let us positively look or a new world of peace and prosperity.