17 October 2016
UNGA Appoints Ninth UN Secretary-General
UN Photo/Eskinder Debebe
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The UN General Assembly has appointed António Guterres as the next Secretary-General of the UN.

Guterres addressed the Assembly upon his appointment to outline his vision for the next five years.

Guterres said he must be at the service of all countries equally, working as a convener, mediator, bridge builder and honest broker to find solutions that benefit everyone.

13 October 2016: The UN General Assembly has appointed António Guterres as the next Secretary-General of the UN. Guterres addressed the Assembly upon his appointment to outline his vision for the next five years.

Addressing the Assembly in a plenary meeting on 13 October 2016, UN Security Council Vitaly Churkin (Russia) recalled that the Council had recommended Guterres for appointment, in a resolution adopted by acclamation on 6 October (SC/2311 (2016)), which indicates a five-year term beginning on 1 January 2017. Churkin expressed satisfaction that the Council had concluded its part of the selection process in a timely manner to allow the incoming Secretary-General sufficient time to prepare for the job, and he welcomed the Assembly’s convening so quickly to take action on the Council’s recommendation. He added that Council members have expressed unconditional support for Guterres. Churkin also noted the “high professional skills and commitment to the purposes of the UN” of the other candidates during the process.

UNGA President Peter Thomson said the draft resolution before the Assembly sought to reflect the historic advances made in the selection and appointment process, in line with UNGA resolutions 69/321 and 70/305. Among these advances, he highlighted the informal dialogues conducted between candidates and the Assembly, and the “unprecedented level of coordination” between the presidents of the UNGA and Security Council. The Assembly adopted draft resolution A/71/L.4 by acclamation, thus appointing Guterres as the ninth Secretary-General of the UN.

Thomson remarked that the process leading to this decision had been “historically rigorous and comprehensive,” and guided by transparency and inclusivity “for the first time” in the UN’s history, including the first-ever joint call from both presidents to formally solicit candidates, and the explicit invitation to nominate women candidates. He noted that of the 13 candidates, seven were women. Thomson added that all candidates had participated in formal dialogues with the UN membership, which were “deeply enriched by the engagement of civil society and the wider global public.”

Thomson said that through the process, Member States had conveyed several key messages, including the desire for a Secretary-General who will ensure the UN embraces and exemplifies gender equality at all levels, and acknowledges the importance of geographic and gender balance in senior posts. Other key messages included the call for an independent, courageous Secretary-General, and the ability to innovate and adapt the UN’s structures and culture to respond to current challenges, he said.

Outgoing UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon commended Member States for their choice as well as the process. He said Guterres, who served as UN High Commissioner for Refugees for ten years, is best known where it counts the most, on the frontlines of armed conflict and humanitarian suffering, and that his work is characterized by compassion and solidarity, providing a lifeline for millions of people. He said Guterres was an active participant in the UN Senior Management Group and the UN System Chief Executives Board for Coordination (CEB), and understands the inner workings of the UN. Ban added that after ten years as Secretary-General, he “could not agree more” with Guterres’ remark that the UN is the best place to work.

The countries serving as chair of the five UN regional groupings then made statements. Expressing appreciation to Ban Ki-moon for his service as Secretary-General, Niger for the African Group said he had made laudable achievements under difficult circumstances, and would leave as his “enduring legacies” the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the Paris Agreement on climate change. Kuwait for the Asia-Pacific Group noted Ban’s advances on women’s empowerment, gender equality, human rights and climate change, as well as pushing forward the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and 2030 Agenda. He also commended the work of Mrs. Ban Soon-taek for children, the elderly, people with autism, and the fight against violence against women. The UK, for the Group of Western European and Other States (WEOG), applauded Ban’s work for the SDGs, the Paris Agreement, and human rights.

On the process of selecting Guterres, the African Group said it had remained faithful to the UNGA’s call for transparency and inclusiveness, and thus reinforced the legitimacy of the Assembly as well as of Guterres’ appointment. He also expressed the “deepest gratitude” to Mogens Lykketoft, president of the 69th UNGA, for his leadership throughout the selection process. Georgia, for the Eastern European Group, noted the high professional performance by all candidates, including those from Eastern Europe. WEOG welcomed the quick and consensual concluding of the selection process, which he said enables a smooth transition and sufficient time to prepare. He said the Assembly has “set a new standard for selections,” which should be built upon in the future.

On Guterres’ approach as Secretary-General, the Asia-Pacific Group highlighted the need to end prolonged conflicts around the world, to bring the SDGs to fruition, and to further strengthen and reform the UN. He said that terrorism, extremism, racism, xenophobia and religious intolerance will be among the foremost issues for the Secretary-General to address. He added, quoting Isaac Newton, “we build too many walls and not enough bridges.” Chile, for the Latin American and Caribbean Group, highlighted large movements of refugees and migrants as one of the most pressing challenges, and also noted the international community’s “historic commitment to free the human race of poverty” in the 2030 Agenda. WEOG said it looks forward to Guterres managing the Secretariat efficiently and effectively, and advancing much needed reforms.

The regions also underscored the appointments to be made by Guterres as he begins his term as Secretary-General, with Latin American and Caribbean States calling for an equal and fair distribution of senior posts, based on gender and geographic balance, and the Eastern European Group noting its commitment to promoting gender and regional balance in selecting high-ranking officials.

The US, as host country, said Ban has shown that progress can be made by setting ambitious goals and mobilizing Member States to meet them. He has also been instrumental, she said, in driving momentum and concrete commitments necessary for both the Paris Agreement and the SDGs. She said that if implemented, these achievements will improve people’s lives for decades to come. The US said Guterres’ appointment “matches the world’s growing demands for a strong UN.” Instead of a “lowest-common-denominator candidate,” Guterres is supremely qualified candidate and has a passion for using the office as an independent force to prevent conflict and alleviate human suffering. She called on Guterres to serve as: a peacemaker to end conflicts in Syria, Yemen and South Sudan; a reformer to streamline bureaucracy, eliminate redundancies and ensure peacekeepers can protect; and an advocate, to rally the world to respond to catastrophes and demand human rights for all people. She also said that the informal dialogues with candidates had mattered, and there is no question that they shaped perceptions informing the Council’s and broader UN membership’s thinking. She noted that Guterres has pledged gender parity at all levels with clear benchmarks and timeframes. Finally, she said that he “brings both head and heart,” who has High Commissioner for Refugees had asked field staff how Headquarters could help, shifted resources to field teams rather than adding jobs in Geneva, and spent the night in camps to witness crises and the suffering of the displaced.

Addressing the Assembly, Guterres said he is thrilled to become a UN colleague again. He praised the selection process, saying that the “true winner today is the credibility of the UN.” Guterres said he must be at the service of all countries equally, working as a convener, mediator, bridge builder and honest broker to find solutions that benefit everyone. Asking what has made us “immune to the socially and economically underprivileged,” he said human dignity will be at the core of his work. Guterres noted that he has addressed gender equality in every public office he has held, and said gender parity is “a priority commitment to me,” a statement met by applause from the Assembly.

Guterres said he believes in a “reform-minded” UN, that diversity is a “tremendous asset” that can bring us together, and that his overarching priority will be diplomacy for peace. He noted that terrorism and violent extremism, on one hand, and populism and xenophobia on the other hand, reinforce each other, and must be addressed with determination. While expressing appreciation to peacekeepers, he said all UN structures must work to prevent “appalling behavior.” Saluting Ban, he said his achievements in securing the 2030 Agenda and Paris Agreement are “absolutely remarkable” and that he will support efforts to implement them.

Thomson announced that on 19 October he will convene a meeting with Guterres to begin a dialogue on critical, priority and emerging issues for the UN. In addition, an oath of office ceremony will take place on a date to be announced. [UN Press Release] [Remarks of UN Secretary-General] [Remarks of UNGA President] [Statement by Antonio Guterres] [Meeting Summary] [Webpage on UNSG Selection Process] [IISD RS Sources]

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