United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has been unanimously re-elected for a second five-year term by the 193-member United Nations General Assembly.
The 72-year-old Portuguese, the only candidate for the world body’s top post, said on Friday he was “humbled and energised” by the support, adding that the “driving theme” of his second term will be “prevention in all its aspects – from conflicts, climate change, pandemics to poverty and inequality”.
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“I will give it my all to ensure the blossoming of trust between and among nations large and small, to build bridges, and to engage relentlessly in confidence building,” Guterres told the General Assembly after taking the oath of office.
Ambassadors in the assembly chamber burst into applause as Assembly President Volkan Bozkir announced Guterres’ re-election by “acclamation”, without a vote.
The 15-member Security Council earlier this month recommended the General Assembly reappoint Guterres. His second term officially starts on January 1, 2022.
Guterres succeeded Ban Ki-moon in January 2017, just weeks before Donald Trump became president of the United States. Much of Guterres’s first term was focused on placating Trump, who questioned the value of the UN and multilateralism.
Washington is the largest UN financial contributor, responsible for 22 percent of the regular budget and about a quarter of the peacekeeping budget. President Joe Biden, who took office in January, has started restoring fundings cut by his predecessor to UN agencies and re-engaged with the world body.
Among those to welcome Guterres’s re-election were US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and German Chancellor Angela Merkel.
Blinken called Guterres a “results-oriented” and “capable leader in a demanding role”.
The US “looks forward to continuing our strong and constructive relationship … as we advance the urgent task of bringing about a more peaceful world and prosperous future,” Blinken said. “The United Nations is an indispensable anchor of the multilateral system” where nations work together “to meet such unprecedented challenges as the COVID-19 pandemic, climate change, human rights, development, migration, and humanitarian crises”.
For her part, Merkel praised Guterres’s commitment to peaceful solutions to conflicts, climate protection and “innovative solutions to global problems” in his first term and thanked him for helping set up the COVAX facility to get COVID-19 vaccines to poorer countries.
“The coronavirus pandemic in particular has shown us that the United Nations’ ability to react quickly to current challenges is essential,” she said.
Guterres was prime minister of Portugal from 1995 to 2002 and head of the UN refugee agency from 2005 to 2015. As secretary-general, he has championed climate action, COVID-19 vaccines for all and digital cooperation.
When he took the reins as the UN chief, the world body was struggling to end wars and deal with humanitarian crises in Syria and Yemen. Those conflicts are still unresolved, and Guterres is now also faced with emergencies in Myanmar and the Tigray region of Ethiopia.