By Felipe Bueno, International News Writer
As Ban Ki-moon’s tenure as Secretary General of the United Nations comes to an end after his second term, the worlds eyes shift to his newly elected successor: Antonio Guterres. Guterres was elected by acclamation by the 193 General Assembly body of the United Nations.
Guterres is a Portuguese politician and diplomat who served two terms as the Minister of Portugal and as the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees for 10 years.
Guterres has had a deep passion and interest in refugee-related issues, saying to the World Education Forum that “we have a collective responsibility to ensure education… (For) refugees, internally displaced children, stateless children and children whose right to education has been compromised…” Considering the ongoing refugee crisis the world is facing in Syria, and especially given the current raid on Mosul, Guterres’ experience working with refugees will be a very valued and needed asset.
The UN Secretary General is elected by a two-fold process. First, the fifteen permanent members of the Security Council conduct a color-coded straw poll to see if the countries encourage, discourage, or have no opinion on the candidate; then candidate is presented to the General Assembly for a vote of confirmation.
According to UN published results, Guterres led in every straw poll and received no ‘discourage’ votes in the sixth and final poll. Guterres continuously rose to the top of a 12-candidate race, eventually winning after two candidates dropped out. Following the vote, Guterres was approved by the General Assembly and is expected to begin his first term as the 9th Secretary General on January 1st of next year.
With the current state of international affairs, CBS News called Guterres’ election a “rare show of international unity,” an impressive feat given the increased tension between the United States and Russia over Syria.
Russia’s UN Ambassador Vitaly Churkin, and president of the Security Council, hailed the moment as “historic;” US Ambassador to the UN Samantha Power said world powers were “united behind the choice;” UK Ambassador Matthew Rycroft said that Guterres will be “strong and effective,” and Ban Ki-moon called him a “wonderful choice to steer the United Nations.”
Before the announcement of his election, Guterres told CBS News “the highest priority must be a surge in diplomacy for peace.” Guterres’ upbringing under 35 years of an authoritarian regime in Portugal has vested in him a strong dedication for, and passion in, diplomatic and humanitarian endeavors.
Strong and fervent leadership is crucial to the United Nations at the moment, given not only by the current status of international affairs, but also some diplomat’s dissatisfaction with former Secretary Ban Ki-moon’s tenure.
As reported by the Guardian, many diplomats have not been happy with Ban Ki-moons performance.
With under-secretary-general Inga-Britt Ahlenius, stating in a leaked memo that “I regret to say that the secretariat is now in a process of decay. It is not only falling apart … it is drifting into irrelevance.” She went so far as to call his performance “deplorable” and “seriously embarrassing” for himself. This dissatisfaction was only proliferated by Ban Ki-moon’s inability to speak English, further decreasing his popularity among English speaking observers.
While Guterres may not have big shoes to fill, at least in the eyes of certain diplomats, the position he is entering serves a monumental role in the international community.
Serving as the leader of the world’s largest international organization has intrinsic power and responsibility, with his actions profoundly impacting the lives of billions around the world.
A version of this article appeared in the Tuesday, October 25th print edition.
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