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Antonio Guterres appointed as new UN secretary-general

The United Nations General Assembly on Thursday appointed Portugal's former Prime Minister Antonio Guterres as next UN secretary-general to succeed retiring Ban Ki-moon whose term expires at the end of this year.

The 193-member General Assembly adopted a resolution on his appointment by acclamation after Russian Ambassador Vitaly Churkin, Security Council president for October, reported to the Assembly on the council’s unanimous recommendation of Guterres.

The five-year term for the secretary-general designate will start on Jan. 1, 2017 and end on Dec. 31, 2021, according to the resolution.

Guterres, a 67-year-old politician, served as UN High Commissioner for Refugees from June 2005 to December 2015. Before joining the UN refugee agency, Guterres spent more than 20 years in government and public service. He was the prime minister of Portugal from 1995 to 2002.

On his appointment, Guterres said he felt gratitude and humility as well as a profound sense of responsibility, while adding that “he is fully aware of the challenges the UN faces and the limitations surrounding the secretary-general.”

“The dramatic problems of today’s complex world can only inspire a humble approach - one in which the Secretary-General alone neither has all the answers, nor seeks to impose his views,” said Guterres.

“One in which the secretary-general makes his good offices available, working as a convener, a mediator, a bridge-builder and an honest broker to help find solutions that benefit everyone involved,” he added.

Guterres expressed his gratefulness to the General Assembly and the Security Council for entrusting him with the position “in a remarkable demonstration of consensus and unity” and for the transparency and openness of the selection process.

The dramatic problems of today’s complex world can only inspire a humble approach - one in which the Secretary-General alone neither has all the answers, nor seeks to impose his views.

Antonio Guterres, secretary-general designate, United Nations

The incumbent UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said to the Assembly that Guterres not only brings “deep and solid political experience” and has acted as a lifeline for millions upon millions of people forced from homes over the past decade.

“He is a wonderful choice to steer this Organisation as we build on the progress of the past decade while addressing the insecurity and uncertainties of today’s world,” said Ban.

Representatives from five regional groups as well as the host country of the UN congratulated Guterres on his appointment and have pledged support for him to guide the UN in face of challenges ahead.

On Thursday, the UN Security Council formally and unanimously recommended Guterres to head the world’s largest international organisation.

The UN Charter says “the secretary-general shall be appointed by the General Assembly upon recommendation of the Security Council.” In practice, the Security Council will make the final choice and send a single candidate to the General Assembly for approval.

Traditionally, for a UN secretary-general, each term is five years with a maximum of two terms.

This year, for the first time in history of the United Nations, UN chief candidates were asked to submit resumes and answer questions from UN member states as well as the civil society during the selection process.

President of the General Assembly Peter Thomson said at the appointment that guided by principles of transparency and inclusivity, the process that has been undertaken to arrive at today’s decision has been a “historic” one.

“I am confident that Mr. Guterres will serve the global community with dedication, as a moral authority, and be the voice of our collective conscience and humanity, throughout his term,” he said.

According to Thomson, the ceremony at which Guterres takes the oath of office will be held later this year.

This story was published with permission from

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