Antonio Guterres of Portugal Takes Oath of Office as Next Secretary-General, as General Assembly Pays Tribute to Outgoing United Nations Chief

Antonio Guterres of Portugal was sworn in today 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.

Throughout the morning meeting, Member States also paid tribute to the outgoing Secretary?General, adopting a resolution paying tribute to his tenure.

In his remarks to the Assembly, Mr. Ban said that serving as Secretary?General had been the privilege of a lifetime. “Together, we have faced years filled with challenge,” he said, pointing in particular to the worst financial collapse since the Great Depression, eruptions of conflict, uprisings for freedom, record numbers of people fleeing war, persecution and poverty and disruptions brought by disease, disaster and a rapidly warming climate. Noting that the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the Paris Agreement on climate change had opened a pathway to a safer, more just and peaceful world for all, he stressed that “day by day, brick by brick, we built stronger foundations for peace and progress”.

Mr. Ban said the power of the United Nations had never been abstract or academic, but represented the story of his life. “I am a child of the United Nations,” he said, recalling that after the Korean War, the United Nations had provided him with food aid and education.

Yet, much suffering and strife endured, he said. Women and children still faced violence and exploitation, while many people faced hatred and prejudice. Many problems had proven intractable, none more so than the bloodshed in Syria. While countries and peoples had become more interconnected than ever before, many continued to question global institutions and saw them as out of step and unable to deliver.

The goals and ideals enshrined in the United Nations Charter, he said, were neither luxuries nor bargaining chips, but instead what people needed and deserved today. “These principles must continue to animate and guide our work,” he said. Recalling that his tenure had focused on people’s dignity and rights and that he had sought to stand up for the vulnerable and those left behind, he said that “even as I prepare to leave, my heart will stay as it had since I was a child – right here with the United Nations”. Incoming Secretary-General Guterres, a man of great integrity and principle, would successfully navigate many complex challenges and steer the Organization to new and higher heights, he said.

General Assembly President Peter Thomson (Fiji) said Mr. Ban had always stood firm. Mr. Ban’s unceasing efforts had ultimately led to the adoption of the Paris Agreement and the 2030 Agenda, which was “a universal master plan to end extreme poverty, increase prosperity, empower women and girls and build peaceful and inclusive societies”.

Mr. Thomson said the Secretary-General-designate had emerged as the winning candidate following a historically public and comprehensive selection process. The international community stood ready to work in support of Mr. Guterres’ priority areas in advancing the core values of the United Nations relating to peace, justice, inclusion and diversity throughout the world.

“We the people of the United Nations have in Secretary-General-designate Guterres a man who can shape our common endeavour to overcome those many challenges,” he said, and a leader to help transform the world into a more sustainable and better place for all.

Mr. Thomson was then joined by the Presidents of the Security Council, the Trusteeship Council and the International Court of Justice and the Vice-Presidents of the General Assembly, the Chairpersons of its Main Committees and the Prime Minister of Portugal, as he administered the Oath of Office.

At the meeting’s outset, Lao People’s Democratic Republic’s delegate introduced the draft resolution titled “Tribute to Mr. Ban Ki-moon, Secretary-General of the United Nations” (document A/71/L.40) on behalf of the Asia?Pacific Group. Expressing his gratitude to all the groups of States co?sponsoring the draft, he said he honoured the outgoing Secretary-General, who had displayed great professional and personal qualities and had contributed to helping the United Nations make progress. Mr. Ban had also made many sacrifices and undertaken extraordinary efforts, often under very difficult circumstances, over the course of his tenure. He also said Mr. Ban had left a legacy of making the world a better and more peaceful place to live. Congratulating incoming Secretary?General Guterres, he said the latter brought to the position a wealth of knowledge, vision, experience and wisdom as a veteran political leader.

Burkina Faso’s delegate, speaking on behalf of the African States, commended the structural reforms that had been introduced to improve the United Nations effectiveness. They included the 2030 Agenda, Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction 2015-2030, Addis Ababa Action Agenda and the Paris Agreement. Other achievements included the adoption of the Organization’s Plan of Action to Prevent Violent Extremism and the Human Rights Up Front initiative and the United Nations role in combating the Ebola outbreak in West Africa.

Latvia’s representative, speaking on behalf of the Eastern European States, expressed deep gratitude to Mr. Ban. Commending Mr. Ban’s openness and subtle sense of humour while working to be a bridge?builder for the 193 Member States, he said the outgoing Secretary-General had done everything in his power to ensure that the United Nations lived up to its name. Being a strong supporter of sustainable development, Mr. Ban’s tireless dedication was responsible for achieving consensus on climate change. Under Mr. Ban’s leadership, the United Nations had become more inclusive and had empowered young people.

Costa Rica’s representative, speaking on behalf of the Latin American and Caribbean States, said that 10 years ago Mr. Ban had promised to strengthen the pillars of the United Nations. “Mr. Secretary-General, you have delivered,” he said, describing a legacy was as wide and diverse as climate change and promoting rule of law to mobilizing the international community to overcome the refugee crisis. Mr. Ban had also advanced the cause of nuclear disarmament. Not only did the outgoing Secretary-General build political will for the establishment of the 2030 Agenda, that instrument would guide the work of the Organization for years to come.

Sweden’s representative, speaking on behalf of the Western European and other States, said Mr. Ban had shown admirable courage to deliver sustainable development and build consensus on tackling climate change. Noting that his term had been marked by immense challenges, including terrorism, Ebola, the Zika virus and other protracted conflicts, he said that while there had been dark days, much progress had been made, including the adoption of the Paris Agreement. “You have been a true climate champion,” he said.

The representative of the United States said Mr. Ban had led the United Nations through some of the most tumultuous periods in the Organization’s history and managed to champion the rights of all people. Mr. Ban understood suffering because he had experienced hardship. On climate change, not only did Mr. Ban possess absolute clarity about the existential threat it posed, he had used all his diplomatic power to bring together leaders on an agreement. She also commended his ground-breaking work in defending human rights, particularly those of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex persons.

Source: United Nations