The UN General Assembly on Thursday formally appointed Antonio Guterres as the new secretary-general of the United Nations, replacing 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 January 1, 2017.

The socialist politician, who also served as UN refugee chief for a decade, is expected to play a more prominent role as the world's diplomat-in-chief than Ban, the South Korean former foreign minister who will step down after two five-year terms.

In his opening speech at the UN headquarters on Thursday, he vowed to fight terrorism and populism and to help overcome divisions over ending the war in Syria.

"We must make sure that we are able to break these alliances between all those terrorist groups or violence extremists on one side and the expression of populism and xenophobia on the other side. We must be able to fight both of them with determination,"  Guterres said.


He also highlighted the importance of gender equality in his speech, calling it a priority commitment of the UN to protect and empower women.

"I have long been aware of the hurdles women face in society, in the family and in the workplace, just because of their gender. I have witnessed the violence they are subject to during conflict or while fleeing, just because they are women and I have tried to address this to every public office.

"The protection and empowerment of women in the organisation are and will continue to be a priority commitment to me."

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.

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.

“Syria is of course issue number one. He knows it’s issue number one … It’s a subject he knows extremely well because he was previously for ten years the High Commissioner for Refugees,"  Al Jazeera’s James Bays said, reporting from UN headquarters in New York.

"The number one issue there, of course, with the crises in the Middle East and the almost five million refugees who’ve left Syria for neighbouring countries or further afield for Europe. So he knows many of the top issues." 

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.

Analysis: Antonio Guterres right choice to lead the UN

Source: News Agencies