– By Srimal Fernando, Global Editor, The Diplomatic Society –
The 193-member United Nations General Assembly unanimously appointed former Prime Minister of Portugal as the new Secretary General of the United Nations on 13 October 2016, replacing Ban Ki-moon, who served two five year terms. António Guterres of Portugal became the ninth Secretary-General of the United Nations (UN) and began his five-year term on 1st January 2017.
Shortly after his appointment as Secretary-General of the United Nations he pledged to make 2017 a year for peace. In a statement the UN Secretary-General said, “I appeal to you all to join me in committing to peace, today and every day. Let us make 2017 a year for peace.”
Prior to his appointment to the UN top post, Guterres served as head of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees ( UNHCR ) from June 2005 to December 2015. In early 2000, as president of the European Council he led the adoption of the Lisbon Agenda for growth and jobs, and co-chaired the first European Union-Africa summit.
United Nations chief Antonio Guterres appointed three women to senior top positions. Nigeria’s former Minister for Environment, Amina Mohammed as UN Deputy Secretary-General, Brazilian diplomat Maria Luiza as chief of staff and South Korean Kyung-wha Kang as special policy advisor assumed responsibilities as UN Secretary-General Guterres’ transition team.
After a Turkish invasion in 1974 Cyprus was partitioned with the northern third inhabited by Turkish Cypriots and the southern two-thirds by Greek Cypriots 43 years ago. Reunification talks on Cyprus took an international turn this year when United Nations-facilitated a dialogue in Geneva. This year’s dialogue in Geneva towards a united Cyprus was chaired by UN Chief António Guterres along with Greek Cypriot leader Nicos Anastasiades and Turkish Cypriot leader Mustafa Akinci. Speaking at a press conference Guterres said “We are facing so many situations of disasters. We badly need a symbol of hope. I strongly believe Cyprus can be the symbol of hope at the beginning of 2017”.
Since assumption of duties the new UN Secretary General will focus heavily on promotion of sustainable economic growth and sustainable development, maintenance of international peace and security, development of Africa, effective coordination of humanitarian assistance efforts, disbarment and promotion of justice and international law. The Office of UN secretary-general will play major role in coordinating the process of combating international terrorism in all its forms and manifestations and prevention of crimes and drug control.
Guterres is the current Chairman of the Chief Executives’ Board for Coordination (CEB) which meets twice a year bringing together 31 Executive Heads of the United Nations and its Funds and Programmes, and the Specialized Agencies.
Furthermore, focusing on Africa, the new UN chief left to participate in the African Union Summit in Ethiopia on January 27th. In a press conference after the meeting with Chairperson of the African Union Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, the UN Secretary-General said that development must be at the center of United Nations and African Union cooperation, as the best prevention of conflicts is sustainable and inclusive development. As a next step, follow-up meetings were envisaged with Heads of African countries. Discussions were held on key bilateral issues with Heads of State from Burkina Faso, Chad, Republic of Congo, Guinea, Kenya, Senegal,Tanzania, South Sudan and Uganda.
The newly appointed Secretary-General António Guterres is a vital link in the success of United Nations (UN) in the coming years.