Ninth UN Secretary General Sworn In

Secretaries General 320[UN-NGO] Sisters Catherine Prendergast and Margaret O’Dwyer, representing the Company of the Daughters of Charity at the United Nations, share the news below from the UN in New York:

The torch for leading the world’s over 7 billion people will soon be passed to Portugal’s Antonio Guterres.   Mr. Guterres was sworn in, and outgoing Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon honored, December 12, at the United Nation’s General Assembly Hall in New York.

Mr. Guterres, 67, previously served as the Prime Minister of Portugal from 1995-2002, and as the UN’s High Commissioner for Refugees from 2005-2015.  He will lead the global organization beginning January 1.

Mr. Guterres will be the ninth UN Secretary General.  He said it will be an honor to follow in the footsteps of Mr. Ban, whom he lauded, especially for his work in combatting climate change.  “The momentum (related to climate change efforts) is unstoppable,” he commented.  Mr. Guterres promised to focus on three particular areas when he assumes office—working for peace, sustainable development, and internal UN management.

In terms of peace-making, he said it is time for the world to engage in strategy, setup, and structures for peace. “From the acute crises in Syria, Yemen, South Sudan and elsewhere, to long-running disputes including the Israeli/Palestinian conflict, we need mediation, arbitration as well as creative diplomacy,” Guterres said. He noted he was personally ready to engage in conflict resolution if needed.

In terms of development, Mr. Guterres said that sustainable development, humanitarian response, and peace are three sides of a triangle.  He noted also that effective evaluation mechanisms must be put in place regarding development.

Mr. Guterres received applause as he discussed inefficiencies at the UN. “It benefits no one if takes nine months to deploy a staff member to the field,” he said. “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.” The Secretary General-elect further called for more partnerships, observing that the UN cannot succeed alone.   He also talked of the need to further engage young people in decision making processes and spoke of hopes for better communication and gender parity.

UN 161223 quote ENMr. Guterres assumes his role at a time when the world experiences increased connectivity but greater fragmentation.  He spoke of the importance of UN values such as peace, justice, respect, human rights, and solidarity.  He also appealed for the world to address fear. “Threats are often based on fear,” he said.   He called for the globe to move from fear to trust and promised to try to inspire trust as he does his best to serve common humanity.

Mr. Ban received a standing ovation after multiple tributes.   US Ambassador Samantha Power credited him with three primary values:  leaving no one behind, service, and defending the dignity of the most vulnerable among us.

Mr. Ban said that serving as Secretary General had been “the privilege of a lifetime.”  He brought to the role his own experience of poverty and memories of how the UN had helped him.   “The power of the UN is not abstract or academic.  It is the story of many millions around the world.”

Mr. Ban recalled the UN and the world had faced multiple challenges during his term, such as financial crises, eruptions of conflict, great numbers of people fleeing persecution and poverty, and natural disasters.   “This turmoil tested us,” he said.  Despite the huge differences, he said, the UN helped to save lives and protect millions.

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