UN appoints Guterres as new secretary-general

UNITED NATIONS • The UN General Assembly yesterday formally appointed Antonio Guterres as the new secretary-general of the United Nations, replacing Mr Ban Ki Moon.

The 193 member states adopted by acclamation a resolution appointing the former prime minister of Portugal for a five-year term beginning from Jan 1 next year.

UN diplomats say they expect the socialist politician to play a more prominent role as the world's diplomat-in-chief than Mr Ban, the South Korean former foreign minister who will step down after two five-year terms.

French Ambassador Francois Delattre described Mr Guterres as the "best possible captain during this stormy period" of global crises, praising him as a reformer, a unifier and a "humanist with a genuine moral compass".

As Portugal's prime minister from 1995 to 2002 and as UN high commissioner for refugees from 2005 to December last year, Mr Guterres demonstrated that "he is a reformer", said British Ambassador Matthew Rycroft.

Mr Guterres won unanimous support from the UN Security Council during a vote last week that capped the most transparent campaign ever held at the United Nations for the top post.

Following the council vote, Mr Guterres pledged to serve "the most vulnerable" with humility.

The 67-year-old polyglot campaigned on a pledge to promote human rights and enact reforms within the UN system, seen as clunky and too slow to respond to unfolding disasters.

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.

The Security Council is deadlocked over Syria after two draft resolutions were defeated in separate votes over the weekend, one of which was vetoed by Damascus ally Russia.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 14, 2016, with the headline 'UN appoints Guterres as new secretary-general'. Print Edition | Subscribe