UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres.—Reuters
UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres.—Reuters

NEW YORK: The United Nations Security Council backed Secretary General Antonio Guterres on Tuesday for a second term, recommending that the 193-member General Assembly appoint him for another five years from Jan 1 of next year.

Estonia’s UN Ambassador Sven Jrgenson, council president for this month, said the General Assembly was likely to meet to make the appointment on June 18.

“I am very grateful to the members of the council for the trust they have placed in me,” Guterres said in a statement. “I would be deeply humbled if the General Assembly were to entrust me with the responsibilities of a second mandate.”

Guterres succeeded Ban Ki-moon in Jan 2017, just weeks before US president Donald Trump took office. Much of Guterres’s first term was focused on placating Trump, who questioned the value of the United Nations and multilateralism.

The United States is the largest UN financial contributor, responsible for 22 percent of the regular budget and around a quarter of the peacekeeping budget. President Joe Biden has already started restoring funding cuts made by Trump to some UN agencies and re-engaged with the world body.

A handful of people sought to challenge Guterres, but the 72-year-old former prime minister of Portugal was formally unopposed. A person was only considered a candidate once nominated by a member state. Portugal put forward Guterres for a second term, but no one else had the backing of a member state.

Guterres was prime minister of Portugal from 1995 to 2002 and then head of the UN refugee agency from 2005 to 2015. As secretary-general, he has been a cheerleader for climate action, Covid vaccines for all and digital cooperation.

When he took the reins as 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 also now faced with new emergencies in Myanmar and Ethiopia’s Tigray.

Published in Dawn, June 9th, 2021

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