United Nations Secretary-General
Prior to his appointment as Secretary-General, Mr. Guterres served as United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees from June 2005 to December 2015, heading one of the world’s foremost humanitarian organizations during some of the most serious displacement crises in decades.
Before joining UNHCR, Mr. Guterres spent more than 20 years in government and public service. He served as prime minister of Portugal from 1995 to 2002, during which time he was heavily involved in the international effort to resolve the crisis in East Timor.
He was the president of the European Council in early 2000, he led the adoption of the Lisbon Agenda for growth and jobs, and co-chaired the first European Union-Africa summit.
Mr. Guterres was elected to the Portuguese Parliament in 1976 where he served as a member for 17 years.
From 1981 to 1983, Mr. Guterres was a member of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, where he chaired the Committee on Demography, Migration and Refugees.
For many years Mr. Guterres was active in the Socialist International, a worldwide organization of social democratic political parties.
Mr. Guterres was born in Lisbon, Portugal, in 1949 and graduated from the Instituto Superior Técnico with a degree in engineering. He is fluent in Portuguese, English, French and Spanish.
The role of the Secretary-General
Equal parts diplomat and advocate, civil servant and CEO, the Secretary-General is a symbol of United Nations ideals and a spokesman for the interests of the world's peoples, in particular the poor and vulnerable among them.
The Charter describes the Secretary-General as "chief administrative officer" of the Organization, who shall act in that capacity and perform "such other functions as are entrusted" to him or her by the Security Council, General Assembly, Economic and Social Council and other United Nations organs. The Charter also empowers the Secretary-General to "bring to the attention of the Security Council any matter which in his opinion may threaten the maintenance of international peace and security".
One of the most vital roles played by the Secretary-General is the use of his "good offices" -- steps taken publicly and in private, drawing upon his independence, impartiality and integrity, to prevent international disputes from arising, escalating or spreading.
On 12 December 2016, António Guterres said “Fear is driving the decisions of many people around the world. We must understand their anxieties and meet their needs, without losing sight of our universal values. It is time to reconstruct relations between people and leaders — national and international; time for leaders to listen and show that they care, about their own people and about the global stability and solidarity on which we all depend. And it is time for the United Nations to do the same: to recognize its shortcomings and to reform the way it works.”
He continued “Our most serious shortcoming ¬¬¬¬_and here I refer to the entire international community _ is our inability to prevent crises. The United Nations was born from war. Today, we must be here for peace.”
“The second key element of the reform agenda concerns the United Nations support to Member States in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals and the objectives of the Paris Agreement, an expression of global solidarity, with their promise to leave no one behind.”
“We must also bring the humanitarian and development spheres closer together from the very beginning of a crisis to support affected communities, address structural and economic impacts and help prevent a new spiral of fragility and instability. Humanitarian response, sustainable development and sustaining peace are three sides of the same triangle.”
“The third key area is management reform. We will build on existing efforts and implement the recent initiatives that were approved. We need to create a consensus around simplification, decentralization and flexibility. It benefits no one if it takes nine months to deploy a staff member to the field. The United Nations needs to be nimble, efficient and effective. It must focus more on delivery and less on process; more on people and less on bureaucracy.”
We live in a complex world. The United Nations cannot succeed alone. Partnership must continue to be at the heart of our strategy. We should have the humility to acknowledge the essential role of other actors while maintaining full awareness of our unique convening power.
In the end, it comes down to values, as was said so many times today. We want the world our children inherit to be defined by the values enshrined in the United Nations Charter: peace, justice, respect, human rights, tolerance and solidarity. All major religions embrace these principles, and we strive to reflect them in our daily lives.
But, the threats to these values are most often based on fear. Our duty to the peoples we serve is to work together to move from fear of each other, to trust in each other. Trust in the values that bind us and trust in the institutions that serve and protect us.
"My contribution to the United Nations will be aimed at inspiring that trust, as I do my best to serve our common humanity."
quoted and edited by: Negar Paidar