UNITED NATIONS – Portugal’s Antonio Guterres was sworn in as the ninth United Nations Secretary-General on Monday, 12 December. Guterres will take over from South Korea’s Ban Ki-moon on 1 January, whose second five-year term will end on 31 December.
The 67-year-old former refugee agency chief has pledged to reposition development at the centre of the Organization’s work while ensuring that the UN could change to effectively meet the myriad challenges faced by the international community.
In his brief speech, Guterres said the world body must work to simplify, decentralize and make more flexible its sprawling bureaucracy.
“It benefits no one if it takes nine months to deploy a staff member to the field,” he said.
Guterres has also expressed his commitment to help reach peace in conflict-hit areas and reform the 71-year-old world body to become more effective.
“The United Nations needs to be nimble, efficient and effective. It must focus more on delivery and less on process; more on people and less on bureaucracy,” Guterres said after taking the oath of office at a ceremony before the 193-member UN General Assembly.
“As part of my good offices I am ready to engage personally in conflict resolution where it brings added value,” he added.
“The United Nations was born from war. Today we must be here for peace,” he added, noting that addressing root causes, cutting across all three pillars of the UN: peace and security, sustainable development and human rights, must be a priority for the Organization.
Guterres – who was Portugal’s prime minister from 1995 to 2002 – defeated 12 candidates, seven of whom were women, to secure the post. He said that he aimed to have gender uniformity among senior UN leadership in his five-year term.
According to reports, Guterres will soon announce Nigeria’s environment minister Amina Mohammed as his new deputy secretary-general. Mohammed has already worked as Ban Ki-moon’s special adviser on post-2015 development planning.
Guterres was appointed by the General Assembly on 13 October. Usually the selection of a UN secretary-general is decided behind closed-doors by a few powerful countries; however, this time the selection involved public discussions with each candidate seeking the leadership position.
The swearing-in came after the 193 General Assembly members paid tribute to Ban, ending with a standing ovation for the outgoing UN chief. The swearing-in ceremony included the U.N.’s top leaders and was attended by dignitaries.
U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Samantha Power lauded Ban’s accomplishments while in office and said she was confident Guterres is the right person to replace him. “He is the man for the job in such challenging times,” she said.
“He is the man for the job in such challenging times,” she said.
UN chiefs are charged with promoting sustainable development, working for peace around the globe, protecting human rights and dealing with humanitarian catastrophes.