António Guterres of Portugal Takes Oath of Office as Next Secretary-General, as General Assembly Pays Tribute to Outgoing United Nations Chief
António Guterres of Portugal was sworn in on 12 December 2016 as the next Secretary-General of the United Nations, with the General Assembly paying tribute to his predecessor, Ban Ki‑moon.
Against the backdrop of a more fragmented world and rising fear-based politics, the Secretary-General-designate pledged to build trust between people and their leaders and to reform the United Nations to better serve all people everywhere as his took his oath of office this morning in the General Assembly Hall before 193 Member States.
“It is time to reconstruct relations between people and leaders,” said Mr. Guterres, who will take the helm of the Organization on 1 January 2017 as its ninth Secretary-General. Laying out his vision for the five-year term, he said conflicts had recently become more complex while global terrorism had emerged alongside “megatrends” such as climate change, population growth, rapid urbanization, food insecurity and water scarcity. The world had also seen extraordinary technological progress and globalization that had contributed to growing inequalities.
“A lot of people have been left behind,” he said. Millions had lost their jobs in developed countries and youth unemployment had multiplied. Globalization had broadened the reach of organized crime and trafficking, further deepening the divide between people. Many voters were now rejecting the status quo, as they had lost confidence not only in their Governments, but also in the United Nations.
The Organization would have to be ready to overcome its shortcomings, he continued. From the crises in South Sudan, Syria, Yemen and elsewhere to long‑running disputes, including the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the world needed creative diplomacy. Pledging to focus on peace, supporting sustainable development and managing the Organization, he emphasized the need to support men and women working in peace operations. The United Nations also must do more to prevent and respond to appalling crimes of sexual violence and exploitation that had been committed under the United Nations flag.
Outlining several ways he would reform the inner workings of the Organization, he said building consensus must centre on simplification, decentralization and flexibility. “We will build on existing efforts and implement the recent initiatives,” he said. Pointing out that some United Nations staff and budgetary rules and regulations had seemed designed to prevent, rather than enable, the effective delivery of its mandates, he underscored that it benefitted no one to wait nine months to deploy a staff member to the field.
The United Nations, Mr. Guterres said, needed to be nimble, efficient and effective. It should focus more on delivery and less on process, more on people and less on bureaucracy, he said. A culture of accountability required strong performance management and effective protection for whistle-blowers, but it was not enough just to do better. “We must be able to communicate better about what we do, in ways that everybody understands,” he said.
Mr. Guterres praised Mr. Ban for his tireless efforts in pushing unprecedented global progress in the areas of human rights, climate change and sustainable development during a decade fraught by crises.
United Nations Must Change as Global Challenges Surpass Its Ability to respond, Secretary-General-designate Tells General Assembly while Taking Oath of Office
Following are UN Secretary-General-designate António Guterres’ remarks to the General Assembly on taking the oath of office, in New York on 12 December 2016:
Thank you very much for all your kind words. I am deeply honoured by the trust and confidence Member States have placed in me, and determined to be guided by the purposes and principles of the Charter.
First of all, I would like to pay tribute to Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. Secretary-General, your principled leadership has helped to chart the future of the United Nations — through the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development; through your commitment to peace and security; through your initiative to put human rights at the heart of our work. Under your direction, the world committed to the historic Paris Agreement on climate change — and ratified it in record time. I strongly believe this momentum is unstoppable. Dear Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, it is an honour to follow in your steps, defending the same values that unite us. Thank you very much.
Twenty-one years ago, when I took the oath of office to become Prime Minister of Portugal, the world was riding a wave of optimism. The cold war had ended, and some described that as the end of history. They believed we would live in a peaceful, stable world with economic growth and prosperity for all. But, the end of the cold war wasn’t the end of history. On the contrary, history had simply been frozen in some places. When the old order melted away, history came back with a vengeance.
Hidden contradictions and tensions resurfaced. New wars multiplied and old ones reignited. Lack of clarity in power relations led progressively to greater unpredictability and impunity. Conflicts have become more complex — and interlinked — than ever before. They produce horrific violations of international humanitarian law and human rights abuses. People have been forced to flee their homes on a scale unseen in decades. And a new threat has emerged — global terrorism. Megatrends — including climate change, population growth, rapid urbanization, food insecurity and water scarcity — have increased competition for resources and heightened tensions and instability.
At the same time, the last 20 years have seen extraordinary technological progress. The global economy has grown; basic social indicators have improved. The proportion of people living in absolute poverty has fallen dramatically. But, globalization and technological progress have also contributed to growing inequalities. A lot of people have been left behind, even including in developed countries where millions of old jobs have disappeared and new ones are out of reach for many. In many parts, youth unemployment has exploded. And globalization has also broadened the reach of organized crime and trafficking.
All this has deepened the divide between people and political establishments. In some countries, we have seen growing instability, social unrest — even violence and conflict. A little bit everywhere, voters now tend to reject the status quo, and whatever Government proposal is put to a referendum. Many have lost confidence not only in their Governments, but in global institutions — including the United Nations.
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. This Organization is the cornerstone of multilateralism, and has contributed to decades of relative peace. But, the challenges are now surpassing our ability to respond. The United Nations must be ready to change.
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 United Nations system has not yet done enough to prevent and respond to the appalling crimes of sexual violence and exploitation committed under the UN flag against those we are supposed to protect. I will work closely with Member States on structural, legal and operational measures to make the zero-tolerance policy for which Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has fought so hard a reality. We must ensure transparency and accountability and offer protection and effective remedies to the victims.
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. To do this, we will reposition development at the centre of our work, and engage in a comprehensive reform of the United Nations development system, at Headquarters and country levels. This must involve leadership, coordination, delivery and accountability. We will build on the outcome of the recent discussions among Member States.
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.
This approach relates to the new way of working agreed at the World Humanitarian Summit. To achieve this, we need more accountability, on the level of each individual agency carrying out its mandate, but also its contribution to the work of the United Nations system and of the system as a whole. A strong culture of accountability also requires effective and independent evaluation mechanisms.
The third key area is management reform. We will build on existing efforts and implement the recent initiatives that were approved. But, looking at United Nations staff and budgetary rules and regulations, one might think that some of them were designed to prevent, rather than enable, the effective delivery of our mandates.
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. A culture of accountability also requires strong performance management and effective protection for whistle-blowers.
And it is not enough just to do better. We must be able to communicate better about what we do, in ways that everybody understands. We need a substantial reform of our communications strategy, upgrading our tools and platforms to reach people around the world.
Finally, management reform must ensure we reach gender parity sooner rather than later. The initial target for the equal representation of women and men among United Nations staff was the year 2000. Sixteen years later, we are far from that goal. I pledge to respect gender parity from the start in all my appointments to the Senior Management Group and the Chief Executives Board.
By the end of my mandate, we should reach full gender parity at the Under-Secretary-General and Assistant Secretary-General levels, including special representatives and special envoys. We need a clear road map with benchmarks and time frames to achieve parity across the system, well before the target year of 2030. And the same concern applies to regional diversity.
Finally, any investment in a stronger United Nations must take staff into account. I look forward to working once again alongside over 85,000 men and women carrying out our mandate in 180 countries across the globe. Many of them work in difficult and sometimes dangerous circumstances. With their professionalism, expertise and dedication, they are the United Nations’ most important resource, a resource that has to be cared for, developed and used efficiently, and whose voice needs to be heard.
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.
Our humanitarian and development efforts would be insignificant without the active involvement of Member States and the contributions of civil society, international financial institutions, private investors and even financial markets. Several mediation efforts and peace operations would not be possible without the engagement of regional organizations, particularly the African Union, our most relevant international regional partner, both in peace and security and in development.
Today´s paradox is that, despite greater connectivity, societies are becoming more fragmented. More and more people live within their own bubbles, unable to appreciate their links with the whole human family. 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. Thank you very much.
United Nations Secretary-General-designate at Press Encounter
New York on 12 December
After 10 years of serving the most vulnerable of the vulnerable, refugees fleeing from all conflicts around the world, it is an enormous privilege and I feel humbled for this opportunity to go on serving the international community. I believe it is high time to reconcile the people with political leaders and international organizations, to rebuild trust in our international community.
I feel that we need to put prevention in the centre of our work, to make sure that we bring together peace and development, together with human rights, and make sure that these three pillars of the UN are seen as a combination, are seen in an integrated manner in everything we do. And we need a surge in the diplomacy for peace when we see this multiplication of new conflicts and the old conflicts that seem never to die. At the same time, we need to make sure that we are able to reform — to reform our peace architecture from prevention to the solution of conflicts to peacekeeping to peacebuilding and to long-term development. And simultaneously, to mobilize the entire UN system, reforming the UN development system to be able to support Member States as they will do their best to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals and to make sure that the Paris Agreement becomes a reality, allowing us all to tame climate change. Simultaneously, to make sure that human rights will be able to prevail in our common world. And that the UN is able to reform itself, to become more nimble, more flexible, with processes more simplified and decentralized and more able to be effective and cost-effective in the service of mankind.
This is a very ambitious agenda, an agenda that must be an agenda for both women and men, and that is why parity is so important in our reform perspectives and that is why the empowerment of women is so important in everything the UN will be doing around the world.
As I said, I feel humbled with this opportunity and the only thing I want is to be able to correspond to the expectations that you put in me, serving our common humanity.
I am [at] your disposal for a few questions.
Q & A:
Question: Thank you, your Excellency. It’s Pamela Falk from CBS News.
Secretary-General-designate: Without excellencies.
Question: Yes. [laughter] All right. Secretary-General-designate, Pamela Falk, CBS News. My question to you is how do you plan to shake up the UN in order to restore confidence, as you said? And what would be your message if and when you meet with the President-elect of the United States? Thank you.
Secretary-General-designate: Well, to restore confidence, I think the first thing that is important is to tell the truth. Sometimes the truth is ignored in political relations around the world. And when people talk to each other, the truth is that many times there are different perceptions about each other. To tell the truth is the only way to re-establish confidence in human relations. It’s the only way to re-establish confidence in international relations. And I believe it is with truth that I need to engage with all Governments in the world and, of course, also with the next Government of the United States, showing a clear will to cooperate in relation to the enormous challenges that we’ll be facing together.
Question: Your most immediate challenge is going to be the situation in Aleppo. Your predecessor has been insistent that there is no military solution there, yet Aleppo’s days away from falling. Would you do anything differently? What do you think must be done?
Secretary-General-designate: Well, obviously, I think it is very important in relation to the Syrian crisis, Aleppo and the Syrian crisis in general, but also other crises that we are facing. It is very important to mobilize all efforts in order to be able to have what I call the surge of diplomacy for peace.
And my intention is to serve, is to be available, to help bridge the relations between the key stakeholders in the conflict, to be an honest broker, creating the conditions for confidence, also to be re-established in relation to those [actors/stakeholders] that are more relevant in each of these conflicts.
I know the Secretary-General is not the leader of the world. I know that the role of the Secretary-General is just to be conceived as an added value. The primacy of the work comes to Member States. But I will be there to support all Member States that, using goodwill, understand that now it’s time to bring those conflicts to an end.
I remember when I was in school and I was reading history books; all wars had a winner. We are now facing wars in which nobody wins. Everybody’s losing. And if you look at the Syria crisis, the Syria crisis is not only a tragedy for the Syrian people that is suffering in a horrible way, and the Syrian people that I will never forget was extremely generous hosting refugees from around the country in an extremely open and positive way.
So it’s not only a terrible suffering for the Syrian people; it became a factor for instability in the region that we all recognize, and it is clearly one of the elements that has more dramatically contributed to this new threat of global terrorism.
So this is a war in which everybody’s losing, not only in the region but around the world. And so whatever the contradictions that exist between Member States, whatever the different perspectives that might exist, I think that there is a value that is above all. The value of peace in Syria corresponds to a necessity for us all, and I hope I will be able to bring people together to this understanding.
As I said, this is a war in which nobody’s winning. This is a war in which everybody’s losing. This became a threat for everybody around the world. It’s high time to put an end to this nonsense.
Question: [in Portuguese] Antes de mais parabéns. Gostava de lhe perguntar como é que antecipa a relação das Nações Unidas com um dos países mais influentes ao nível da comunidade internacional, os Estados Unidos, sobre a nova administração…?
Secretary-General-designate: [in Portuguese] Com a necessidade para mim evidente em relação a todas, a todos os contactos que temos com quaisquer outros países a necesiddade de estabelecer uma plataforma de cooperação, baseada na vontade que temos de reformar as Nações Unidas, de fazer das Nações Unidas uma organização mais eficiente, com maior capacidade de responder às necessidades do mundo presente e que seja um valor acrescentado para todos incluindo para os interesses das principais potências e nomeadamente aquela que nos acolhe aqui em Nova Iorque.
Question: You have laid out quite a large agenda. Would you please lay out the first 100 days in office? What are the most important items on this agenda?
Question: The 100… the most important items on the agenda for the 100 first days of office.
Secretary-General-designate: I think that one very important element of the agenda will be to give a clear signal that gender parity is a must, and so, in the appointments I’ll be making, and the first ones will be announced soon, you will see that gender parity will become a clear priority from top to bottom in the UN. And it will have to be respected by all.
Question: Your Excellency, I’m from China Central Television. My question is, what do you think about China’s role in the UN? What’s your expectation for cooperation between China and the UN?
Secretary-General-designate: In my recent visit to China, it was very clear the commitment of the Chinese President and the Chinese Government to multilateralism, to strengthen multilateral institutions around the world. And the recent announcements made by China in relation to both the creation of funds, the creation of a new bank, the One Belt, One Road initiative all show that China is strongly engaged in creating or helping create the conditions for an effective multilateral approach to global development, leaving no one behind, as it is the objective of Agenda 2030.
Thank you very much. Thank you.
Secretary-General Wishes Peace, Prosperity to Successor, Member States, in General Assembly Tribute Statement
Following are UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s remarks to the General Assembly plenary meeting to pay tribute to the Secretary-General and the taking of the oath of office by Secretary-General-designate António Guterres, in New York on 12 December:
Thank you for your very kind words and for your trust. I am deeply moved by your tributes. Serving as Secretary-General of this great organization, has been a great privilege for me of a lifetime.
As some of you said, I am a child of the United Nations. After the Korean War, United Nations aid fed us. United Nations textbooks taught us. United Nations global solidarity showed us we were not alone. For me, the power of the United Nations was never abstract or academic. It is the story of my life, and many Korean people. It is a story of many millions, and millions of people around the world, many children, young boys and girls. This profound appreciation grew even stronger every day during my service with the United Nations.
For the past 10 years, I have been honoured to serve alongside the many courageous, dedicated and talented women and men of the United Nations. I have seen the power of international cooperation in taking on our most pressing challenges, and I have seen the United Nations open its doors wider than ever to civil society and many partners to help us transform our world.
Together, we have faced years filled with challenge: the worst financial collapse since the Great Depression; eruptions of conflict and uprisings for freedom; record numbers of people fleeing war, persecution and poverty; disruptions brought by disease, disasters and a rapidly warming planet. This turmoil tested us. Despite huge difficulties, we helped save lives and protect tens of millions.
The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the Paris Agreement on climate change have opened a pathway to a safer, more just and peaceful world for all of us. The empowerment of women took great strides during these years. Youth took on new levels of leadership. New mindsets took hold. Day by day, brick by brick, we built stronger foundations for peace and progress. Yet, so much suffering and strife endure.
So many women and children face violence and exploitation. So many people face hatred solely because of who they are, and so many problems have proven intractable — none more than the bloodshed in Syria and the upheaval it spawned.
As I contemplate how well we have upheld that responsibility across a decade in office, a kaleidoscope of faces is at the forefront of my mind — memories of my visits to the front lines of human need and the frontiers of human progress.
I have maintained a focus on people’s dignity and rights — the pillars of our common humanity. I have sought to stand up for the vulnerable and those left behind today. And I have tried to be sure that we are doing all we can so that future generations can live in peace.
Even as I prepare to leave, my heart will stay as it has since I was a child — right here with the United Nations. And that heart is greatly comforted knowing that I am passing the baton to Secretary-General António Guterres, a man of integrity and principle. I have no doubt that he, with his passion and compassion, will successfully navigate many complex challenges and steer the Organization to new and higher heights.
I would also like to express my most profound appreciation to my home country, the Korean people and the Government. Their wholehearted support for the past 10 years has been a great source of encouragement in working proudly for peace, development and human rights across the world. I also take this opportunity to express my deepest thanks to Deputy Secretary-General Jan Eliasson for his outstanding leadership and compassion for humanity. Thank you, and thank you to many other hardworking staff.
In closing, I wish the new Secretary-General, and all of our Member States, peace, prosperity and every success. It has been an honour to serve our United Nations, and work together with you, and for “We the peoples”. I thank you all for your support and your continued commitment to the noble purposes and principles of the United Nations.
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