21 June 2021
Appointments Set UN Leadership for Coming Years
Photo Credit: Daryan Shamkhali /Unsplash
story highlights

Antonio Guterres was appointed to a second term of office as UN Secretary-General, which will run from 2022-2026.

The UNGA also elected the president for its 76th session, Abdulla Shahid, Foreign Minister of the Maldives, and five non-permanent members of the Security Council: Albania, Brazil, Gabon, Ghana, and UAE.

The heads of UNDP, UNCTAD and the Ozone Secretariat are among other recent appointments.

Antonio Guterres has been sworn in for his second term of office as UN Secretary-General. Several other high-level appointments and key elections add to the picture of intergovernmental leadership for the coming years.

The UN General Assembly (UNGA) agreed by consensus to reappoint Guterres for a second five-year term, which will run from January 2022 until December 2026.

The driving theme of Guterres’ second term is “prevention in all its aspects.”

In February 2021, the Presidents of the UNGA and UN Security Council initiated the process of selecting and appointing the Secretary-General with a letter inviting candidatures from UN Member States. Portugal then presented Guterres’ candidature for reappointment. In March, Guterres issued a 15-page vision statement for his potential second term, titled ‘Restoring Trust and Inspiring Hope.’ According to Guterres, the driving theme of this vision is “prevention in all its aspects – from conflict, climate change, pandemics to poverty and inequality.” He said this approach requires more innovation, inclusion, foresight, and investment in global public goods, and a reinvigorated multilateralism based on equity and solidarity. An informal, interactive dialogue on his candidature took place on 7 May, and Guterres later provided written answers to additional questions.

On 8 June the UN Security Council adopted resolution S/RES/2580 by a vote of 15-0-0, recommending that Guterres be appointed for a second term of office. The UNGA adopted a resolution appointing him on 18 June.

Upon the adoption, UNGA President Volkan Bozkir gave remarks highlighting several aspects of Guterres’ first term: prioritizing gender parity within the UN; launching a global conversation on building a better future for all and preparing recommendations on improving the UN’s response to current and future challenges; encouraging action and ambition on to address climate change; and recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic.

Guterres then took the oath of office, and provided a preview of his focus for the next five years. He called for a “quintet of change” for the UN, consisting of: better data, analysis and communications; innovation and digital transformation; strategic foresight; stronger performance and results orientation; and a work culture that reduces unnecessary bureaucracy, simplifies and fosters a work of collaboration.

Addressing his mandate to make recommendations on ensuring the UN can respond better to current and future challenges, he called for working together “in entirely new ways” to keep the promises of the UN Charter alive. He said that while the UN is an intergovernmental organization, “the levers of change lie in many hands,” and others must be brought to the table, including civil society, cities, the private sector, and young people. He described a process in which numerous, diverse actors work together to deliver global public goods, with the UN at the center as catalyst and convener. To realize this, old structures and institutions would be repurposed and new forms of collaboration would also be embraced. He highlighted the Call to Action for Human Rights launched in 2020 as a guide to a more inclusive and interconnected multilateralism.

Finally, Guterres set out his approach to the role of Secretary-General, by which he would work as “a mediator, a bridge, a trust-builder and an honest broker to help find solutions that benefit everyone involved.” He added that the Secretary-General has the task of making human dignity and peace with nature the core of countries’ common work.

After the appointment he told reporters he sees ten interrelated imperatives for action. Similar to his ten priorities for 2021 set out in January, these also emphasized the need to “turbocharge the Decade of Action to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals and a more equitable world” and that the “triple planetary crisis of climate change, nature loss and pollution” is the world’s top existential threat.

The UNGA also elected the president for its own next session. Abdulla Shahid, Foreign Minister of the Maldives, will serve as President of the 76th General Assembly, which will run from 14 September 2021 until 12 September 2022. Shahid was elected on 7 June. Zalmai Rassoul of Afghanistan also ran for the UNGA presidency. The contested election was determined by a vote of 143 to 48

The UNGA presidency rotates among the five regional groups (Asia-Pacific, Eastern Europe, Latin America and Caribbean, African States, and Western Europe and Others). The UNGA president serves in their personal capacity, representing the membership as a whole (see UNGA handbook).

The UNGA also elected five UN Member States to serve as non-permanent members of the Security Council for a two-year term (2022-2023). At elections on 11 June, the Assembly elected Albania (for the Eastern European Group), Brazil (for Latin America and the Caribbean), Gabon and Ghana (for the African Group), and the United Arab Emirates (for Asia and the Pacific). The newly elected countries will replace the five non-permanent members ending their terms in December 2021: Estonia, Niger, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Tunisia, and Viet Nam.

The Council has 15 members, five of which are permanent members: China, France, Russia, the UK, and the US. The other five members are non-permanent members elected in 2020: India, Ireland, Kenya, Mexico, and Norway.

The leadership of other UN bodies have also been set in recent weeks, including:

  • UNCTAD: Rebeca Grynspan of Costa Rica was confirmed by the UNGA as the next Secretary-General of the UN Conference on Trade and Development, on 11 June. Grynspan has served as Vice-President of Costa Rica, the head of the UN Development Programme (UNDP) in Latin America and the Caribbean and Associate Administrator of UNDP, and most recently Secretary-General of the Ibero-American Conference. Grynspan succeeds Mukhisa Kituyi of Kenya.
  • Ozone Secretariat: On 18 May 2021, the UN Secretary-General appointed Megumi Seki of Japan as Executive Secretary of the Ozone Secretariat, which is the administrative office for the Vienna Convention and the Montreal Protocol. Seki was an original staff member when the Secretariat was established in 1989 and has worked across UNEP, including on the Global Environment Outlook, for the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, and on interlinkages among multilateral environmental agreements.
  • UN Development Programme: On 22 April, the UNGA confirmed Achim Steiner for a second four-year term as Administrator of UNDP, beginning June 2021. Steiner was previously the Executive Director of UNEP and head of the UN Office in Nairobi.

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