UN Secretary-General-Designate Takes Oath of Office, Highlights Peace, SDGs, UN Reform
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António Guterres will succeed UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, who will step down at the end of December 2016.

Guterres called for creating a peace continuum going from prevention and conflict resolution, to peacekeeping, peace-building and development.

The UN General Assembly paid tribute to UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, adopting a resolution that recognizes his “exceptional contribution” to the work of the UN, his “noteworthy achievements” in improving people’s lives and protecting our planet for future generations, and in promoting and protecting human rights and fundamental freedoms for all, in the interest of a safer and more secure world.

12 December 2016: António Guterres was sworn in as ninth UN Secretary-General during a UN General Assembly (UNGA) meeting, following which Guterres highlighted three strategic priorities for change: work for peace; support for sustainable development and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs); and advance UN internal management.

Guterres’ appointment will start on 1 January 2017 and end on 31 December 2021. He will succeed UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, whose term will conclude at the end of December 2016.

On 12 December 2016, during a plenary meeting of the UNGA, UNGA President Peter Thomson invited António Guterres to take his oath of office. He said Guterres emerged as the winning candidate for the role of UN Secretary-General, following an historically public and comprehensive UN selection process, during which his integrity, values and competence shone through. He indicated that the UNGA stands ready to support the UN Secretary-General-designate in priority areas the Secretary-General has identified.

Guterres called for creating a peace continuum going from prevention and conflict resolution, to peacekeeping, peace-building and development.

António Guterres remarked that the UN was born from war but “we are here for peace.” He highlighted that working for peace, supporting sustainable development and the SDGs, and reforming UN internal management are strategic priorities, adding that humanitarian response, sustainable development and sustaining peace are “three sides of the same triangle.”

Guterres called for creating a peace continuum going from prevention and conflict resolution, to peacekeeping, peace-building and development. He also called for being inspired by the new concept of sustaining peace to engage in a comprehensive reform of the UN in terms of strategy, operational set up and structures for peace and security. He stressed the importance of prevention, noting it should be the “priority in everything we do.”

On the crisis in Syria, Yemen, South Sudan to long running disputes including the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, he stressed the need for mediation, arbitration and “creative diplomacy.” He expressed his readiness to engage personally in conflict resolution where it brings added value, recognizing the lead role of UN Member States.

On supporting UN Member States in achieving the SDGs, Guterres said the UN Development System will engage in a comprehensive reform at Headquarters and country levels, which will involve leadership, coordination, delivery and increased accountability.

On UN reform, the UN Secretary-General-designate said the organization should: be nimble, efficient and effective; and focus more on delivery, less on process, and more on people and less on bureaucracy. He stressed that management reform must ensure that we reach gender parity “sooner than later.” He pledged to respect gender parity from the start in all his appointments to the UN Senior Management Group and UN Chief Executives Board. He further noted that by the end of his mandate, there should be a full gender parity at the UN Under-Secretary-General and UN Assistant Secretary-General levels, including special representatives and special envoys. He called for a clear roadmap with benchmarks to achieve gender parity across the system “well before 2030.”

Guterres also reported that young people have been excluded for far too long from making the decisions that will affect their future, and stressed the need to empower them, increase their participation in society, and their access to education, training and jobs. He remarked that despite greater connectivity, societies are becoming more fragmented, and that threats to values are of the are most often based on fear. He outlined the crucial importance of trust in the “values that bind us” and in the “institutions that serve and protect us,” and committed to inspire trust.

At the same meeting, the UNGA paid tribute to current UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, adopting a resolution (A/71/L.40) that recognizes his “exceptional contribution” to the work of the UN, his “noteworthy achievements” in improving people’s lives and protecting our planet for future generations, and in promoting and protecting human rights and fundamental freedoms for all, in the interest of a safer and more secure world.

The UNGA President noted that the list of Ban’s accomplishments “goes on and on,” but mentioned in particular: his “unswerving leadership in advancing global action on climate change” that led to the adoption and the entry into force of the Paris Agreement on climate change; his vision and determination to realize a more just, prosperous and secure world that resulted in the adoption of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development; and his support for gender equality as “a cornerstone of his tenure.”

Thomson remarked that during the course of the “mammoth process” that led to the adoption of the Paris Agreement, Ban successfully mobilized business, cities, civil society and other partners for progress, to act collectively to address the great climate change challenges.

On gender equality, he noted that Ban oversaw the establishment of UN Women, pushed for a stronger role for women at the UN, championed numerous campaigns relating to women’s rights, and was the first UN Secretary-General in history “to identify as a feminist.”

Thomson also thanked UN Deputy-Secretary-General Jan Eliasson for his long service to the UN, noting he will serve as an example for young diplomats.

Representative from UN regional groups of States delivered statements honoring Ban’s contribution to respond to global challenges, including on sustainable development in general, climate change, disaster risk reduction (DRR), the advancement of human rights, women empowerment and gender equality, peace and security, and UN reform.

The representative from Latin American and Caribbean States (GRULAC), among others, expressed his appreciation for Ban’s efforts regarding the review processes on peacekeeping operations, the peace building architecture and the role of women in promoting international peace and security, including his efforts to appropriately address allegations or confirmed acts of sexual exploitation and abuse by peacekeepers. He added that the UN Secretary-General built political will and mobilized global action for the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), and “was one of the main actors” of the 2030 Agenda and the SDGs.

Representatives of regional groups highlighted Ban’s other accomplishments, including: his push for the creation of UN Women as a separate UN agency; the launch of the ‘He for She Campaign’ aimed at taking action against all forms of violence and discrimination faced by women and girls; the establishment of the UN High Level Panel on Women Economic Empowerment that seeks to address structural barriers to women’s full inclusion in economic activities; and his superheading of ‘Every Woman Every Child,’ a global movement to address the major health challenges faced by women, children and adolescents.

They also outlined: the establishment of the Office of the UN Secretary-General’s Envoy on Youth; the Human Right’s Upfront initiative launched in 2013 to ensure the UN system takes early and effective action to prevent or respond to large-scale violations of human rights or international humanitarian law; his commitment to protect human rights of asylum seekers, refugees and migrants; and his efforts to make the rights of people who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, and/or intersex (LGBTIs) recognized.

The US, in its capacity as the host country, outlined three qualities that define Ban as a leader, including: a belief that nobody anywhere should be left behind; understanding the notion of service and serving others; and defending the dignity of the most vulnerable. She qualified him as an ‘LGBTI champion.’

Ban said he was “a child of the UN,” noting that after the Korean war, the UN fed him, UN books taught him, and UN solidarity showed him he was not alone. He noted that serving as a UN Secretary-General had been the “privilege of a lifetime,” and outlined challenges faced during the past ten years, including: the worst financial collapse since the Great Depression; records people fleeing war, persecution and poverty; eruptions of conflicts and uprisings for freedom; and disruptions brought by diseases, disasters and a rapidly warming planet.

He noted that the 2030 Agenda and the Paris Agreement on climate change have opened a pathway to a safer, more just and peaceful world for all, and called on everybody to “rise above the narrowly national in a spirit of enlightened self-interest as one international community.” On the UN Secretary-General-designate, he said he is a “man of integrity and principle.”

António Guterres was appointed as the next UN Secretary-General by the UNGA on 13 October 2016, after the UN Security Council recommended him for appointment in a resolution adopted by acclamation on 6 October (SC/2311 (2016)). The appointment followed a series of ‘informal briefings’ between UN Secretary-General candidates, UN Member States and civil society representatives, where candidates presented their ‘vision statements’ and answered questions on how they would promote sustainable development, improve efforts to create peace, protect human rights, and deal with “huge” humanitarian catastrophes. Guterres was Prime Minister of Portugal from 1995 to 2002, and the UN High Commissioner for Refugees from June-December 2015. [UNGA Draft Resolution on Tribute to UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon] [UNGA President Statement Paying Tribute to Ban] [Ban’s Statement] [Statement of Burkina Faso on Behalf of the African States] [Statement of Lao People’s Democratic Republic on Behalf of the Asia Pacific Group] [Statement of Costa Rica on Behalf of GRULAC] [UNGA President Statement on Guterres’ Oath of Office] [Statement from UN Secretary-General-designate António Guterres] [UN Press Release announcing António Guterres Oath of Office] [IISD RS Story on António Guterres Appointment by the UNGA] [UN Meeting Coverage] [UN Webcast] [IISD RS Sources]

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