Portugal’s Antonio Guterres as Top Pick for next UN Secretary General

Antonio Guterres

Former Portuguese Prime Minister Antonio Guterres is the top pick for the ninth United Nations Secretary-General and is expected to be formally recommended to the 193-member General Assembly for election by the Security Council on Thursday, diplomats said.

Guterres has come out atop the five closed-door polls since July. The 15-member council is aiming to reach consensus on a replacement for Ban Ki-moon of South Korea, who will step down at the end of 2016 after two five-year terms.

Russia’s U.N. Ambassador Vitaly Churkin, president of the 15-member council for October, said he hoped the council would unanimously recommend Guterres, who was also the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees from June 2005 to December 2015.

However, amid a push for a woman to lead the 71-year-old world body for the first time, European commissioner Kristalina Georgieva of Bulgaria was a last-minute entry a week ago. It remains to be seen how great a threat she will pose to Guterres, with several diplomats saying her candidacy is too late.

In the fifth secret poll on September 26, Guterres received 12 encourage, two discourage and one no opinion.

British UN ambassador Matthew Rycroft said on Tuesday that he hoped, “Russia will join others and there will be a consensus candidate and if so then it would be possible to move very quickly to a formal vote.”

When the council is ready to recommend a candidate to the 193-member General Assembly for election, it will adopt a resolution behind closed doors. The resolution needs nine votes in favour and no vetoes to pass.

Russian UN ambassador Vitaly Churkin, president of the Security Council for October, said on Monday there was a “good chance” the body would hold a formal vote a few days after Wednesday’s secret ballot.

The U.N. Director at Human Rights Watch, Louis Charbonneau, said: “Ultimately, the next U.N. secretary-general will be judged on his ability to stand up to the very powers that just selected him, whether on Syria, Yemen, South Sudan, the refugee crisis, climate change or any other problem that comes his way.”

About Guterres

António Manuel de Oliveira Guterres, (born 30 April 1949) is a Portuguese politician who was Prime Minister of Portugal from 1995 to 2002. He also served for a time as President of the Socialist International. He served as United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees from June 2005 to December 2015. In October 2016 the United Nations Security Council announced he will be the next United Nations Secretary General.

In May 2005 Guterres was elected High Commissioner for Refugees by the UN General Assembly. As High Commissioner, he heads one of the world’s largest humanitarian organizations with more than 9,000 staff working in 123 countries providing protection and assistance to over 46 million refugees, returnees, internally displaced people and stateless persons. Some 88 per cent of UNHCR staff work in the field. The organization’s 2015 budget is over US$ 6.8 billion.

In a February 2007 NPR interview devoted mainly to the plight of Iraqi refugees, he said that this was one of the greatest refugee crisis in the Middle East since 1948. Among poorly publicized refugee crises, he cited those in the Central African Republic and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. More recently, he has been working to secure international aid for the refugees of the Syrian civil war, calling the refugee crisis an “existential” one for host countries (such as Lebanon and Jordan), and describing additional aid as a “matter of survival” for the refugees. He left office on 31 December 2015.

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