By Cecilia Ologunagba
New York, June 18, 2021
António Guterres has been re-appointed for a second term as UN Secretary-General and has pledged as his priority, continual help to the world toward charting a course out of the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
Guterres, whose first five-year term began on Jan. 1, 2017 and ends on Dec. 31, 2021, was the sole candidate from the UN’s 193 member states to vie for the top job.
He was nominated by his homeland, Portugal, and appointed by acclamation of the General Assembly, following prior endorsement by the UN Security Council for a second term that runs from Jan. 1, 2022 to Dec. 31, 2026.
Taking the oath of office in the General Assembly Hall, UN headquarters on Friday, Guterres said he was aware of the immense responsibilities bestowed on him at this critical moment in history.
“We are truly at a crossroads, with consequential choices before us; paradigms are shifting, old orthodoxies are being flipped.
“We are writing our own history with the choices we make right now.
“It can go either way: breakdown and perpetual crisis or breakthrough and prospect of a greener, safer and better future for all. There are reasons to be hopeful,” he said.
Speaking in a mix of English, French, and Spanish – three of the UN’s six official languages – Guterres detailed how COVID-19 had taken lives and livelihoods, while exposing inequalities.
“At the same time, countries are confronting challenges such as climate change and biodiversity loss,’’ he said.
The secretary-general emphasised that the way out of the pandemic, and the way to ensure socio-economic recovery, should occur on a much more equitable basis, going forward.
“Our greatest challenge – which is at the same time our greatest opportunity – is to use this crisis to turn the tide, pivot towards a world that learns lessons.
“Also to promote a just, green and sustainable recovery and shows the way via increased and effective international cooperation to address global issues,” he added.
With the way forward filled with colossal tasks, the secretary-general expressed confidence that they could be completed successfully, partly due to the incredible commitment of UN staff across the world.
“Although the world has changed a lot, the UN’s promises remain constant, but countries have to work together in entirely new ways to keep them alive.’’
He called for seizing momentum for transformation, while also stressing the need to bring other voices to the table, including civil society, the private sector and youth.
“Ultimately, this transformation has to do with solidarity and equality.
“But equity needs to start now: vaccines need to be available for everyone everywhere and we must create the conditions for sustainable and inclusive recovery both in the developed and developing world.
“And there is still a long way to go,” Guterres said.
The secretary-general warned that countries must overcome their current “trust deficit” if this is to be achieved.
“In particular, we need to do everything we can to overcome current geostrategic divides and dysfunctional power relations; there are too many asymmetries and paradoxes and they need to be addressed head-on.
“We also need to be aware of how power plays out in today’s world when it comes to the distribution of resources and technology,” the UN chief said.
Guterres vowed to use his second term to work towards ensuring the blossoming of trust between and among nations and to engage in confidence building.