Portugal’s Guterres appointed as new UN Secretary-General

Guterres, Prime Minister of Portugal until 2002, and UN High Commissioner for Refugees until 2015 will hold his new position for five years starting from January 1.

Photo by: Reuters
Photo by: Reuters

Secretary General-designate Antonio Guterres of Portugal (L) is greeted by current U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon at the U.N. headquarters in New York City, US October 13, 2016.

The United Nations General Assembly has appointed former Portuguese prime minister Antonio Guterres as the new secretary-general of the United Nations.

The former Portugese prime minister pledged on Thursday to act as an "honest broker" and said he would take a humble approach in trying to deal with global issues, with human dignity at the core of his work.

"Diversity can bring us together, not drive us apart," 67-year-old Guterres told the General Assembly.

Guterres was greeted by loud applause as he entered the packed hall following the vote and told the assembly he was "fully aware of the challenges the UN faces and the limitations of the secretary-general."

His appointment comes at a time of global anxiety over the ongoing war in Syria, the refugee crisis and raging conflicts in South Sudan and Yemen.

"Whatever divisions might exist, now it's more important to unite," Guterres told reporters after the vote. "It's high time to fight for peace."

The former Portugese premier told the General Assembly that protection and empowerment of women and girls was a priority commitment. He has pledged to work toward gender parity within the United Nations.

Samantha Power (C), United States Ambassador to the United Nations, speaks about Secretary-General-designate, Antonio Guterres of Portugal at the U.N. headquarters in New York, US, October 13, 2016.

Incumbent Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon told the assembly that Guterres was well-known in diplomatic circles as a man of compassion during his decade as UN high commissioner for refugees.

"He is perhaps best known where it counts most — on the frontlines of armed conflict and humanitarian suffering," Ban said.

"His political instincts are those of the United Nations — cooperation for the common good, and shared responsibility for people and the planet."

Diplomats were now watching to see who Guterres appoints to senior UN positions amid speculation by diplomats and UN officials that China would like one of its nationals to head peacekeeping and that Russia is keen to lead political affairs.


TRTWorld and agencies