New UN chief Guterres calls for ‘year of peace’ in 2017

3 Jan 17

António Guterres has appealed for a year of peace in 2017 in his first address as the United Nation’s new secretary general.


Antonio Gutteres

Antonio Guterres, secretary general of the United Nations. Credit: Eric Bridiers


Guterres, former Portuguese prime minister and UN high commissioner for refugees, succeeded Ban Ki-Moon when the latter’s ten year tenure as UN chief ended on 31 December.

Speaking on New Year’s Day, Guterres called for “one shared New Year’s resolution” – to “put peace first”.

“On my first day as secretary-general of the UN, one question weighs heavily on my heart,” he said. “How can we help the millions of people caught up in conflict, suffering massively in wars with no end in sight?”

He stressed that in these wars “everyone loses”, highlighting the loss of life, displacement, damage to economies and insecurity caused.

“Let us make 2017 a year in which we all – citizens, governments, leaders – strive to overcome our differences,” he continued. “Peace must be our goal and our guide.”

Guterres was confirmed as the next UN chief in October last year, winning the approval of the UN security council after a long leadership contest. He five-year term will span until December 2021.

The Portuguese socialist, who served as prime minister from 1995 to 2002, is reportedly set to dedicate the core of his work to ensuring human dignity, and looking to become a peace broker and to push for reform and innovation.

Guterres has already served in the upper echelons of the UN, as chief of the organisation’s refugee agency, the UNHCR, from 2005 to 2015.

He will succeed Ban Ki-Moon at a difficult time for the organisation, which has been criticised for a number of failures, in particular on the crisis in Syria.

Many nations flagrantly violate its resolutions and the UN is increasingly facing numerous calls for reform.

As the Ban Ki-Moon’s tenure came to an end, the outgoing secretary general thanked UN staff for their “leadership for humanity”.

“You have been working hard day in and day out,” he said on the eve of his term ending. “This has really motivated me. Knowing that you are very much committed, that has given me motivation to work harder and harder.

“Now I feel a bit like Cinderella. Tomorrow at midnight, everything changes. It is a bit awkward. I will have to do all on my own. So far I have been assisted and supported by thousands and thousands of hard-working staff and member states. But let us see how I survive.”

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