Inter Press ServiceAntonio Guterres – Inter Press Service http://www.ipsnews.net News and Views from the Global South Sun, 19 Nov 2017 14:50:58 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.8.3 No to Palestinian Peace Envoy: US to UNhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/02/no-to-palestinian-peace-envoy-us-to-un/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=no-to-palestinian-peace-envoy-us-to-un http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/02/no-to-palestinian-peace-envoy-us-to-un/#comments Tue, 14 Feb 2017 01:11:01 +0000 Lyndal Rowlands http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=148937 The failed appointment of former Palestinian-Prime Minister Salam Fayyad as the UN’s peace envoy to Libya has shown that divisions over Palestine still run deep at the world body. UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres’ pick as his Special Representative in Libya, was quickly vetoed by U.S. Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley on Friday 10 February. […]

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The flags of UN observer states the Vatican and Palestine. Credit: UN Photo/Cia Pak.

By Lyndal Rowlands
UNITED NATIONS, Feb 14 2017 (IPS)

The failed appointment of former Palestinian-Prime Minister Salam Fayyad as the UN’s peace envoy to Libya has shown that divisions over Palestine still run deep at the world body.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres’ pick as his Special Representative in Libya, was quickly vetoed by U.S. Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley on Friday 10 February.

Haley said on Friday that the United States was “disappointed” to see a letter indicating Fayyad would be appointed for the role.

By Monday Fayyad was no longer under consideration

In Dubai on Monday, Guterres described the turn of events as a “loss for the Libyan peace process,” describing Fayyad as “the right person for the right job at the right moment.”

Guterres also noted the importance of appointment given the ongoing instability in Libya.

“Let’s not forget that Libya is not only relevant in itself, Libya has been a factor of contamination to the peace and stability in a wide area, namely in Africa, in the Sahel, and to bring an end to the conflict in Libya is in everybody’s interest.”

However few if any conflicts have remained on the UN’s agenda as long as the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Indications that the Palestinian question – as it is referred to in UN Security Council meetings – may become a source of tension between the United Nations and the Trump – Republican administration began before Trump had taken office.

On December 22, the United States under then President Barack Obama allowed Security Council Resolution 2334 condemning Israeli settlements to pass by abstaining – the resolution was supported by the 14 other Security Council members, including U.S. allies such as New Zealand, the United Kingdom and France.

The resolution stated that “Israel’s establishment of settlements in Palestinian territory occupied since 1967, including East Jerusalem, had no legal validity.”

In an apparent break from protocol for a President-elect, Donald Trump appeared to respond to the vote on December 23 with a Tweet stating: “As to the U.N., things will be different after Jan. 20th.”.

Haley later described the resolution as “a terrible mistake,” in her confirmation hearing for the role of U.S. Ambassador to the UN.

Following the vote Israel passed a law on 6 February retrospectively recognising Jewish Settelements built on confiscated Palestinian land in the occupied territories.

Kofi Annan, Chair of The Elders and former UN Secretary-General, described the law as “highly damaging” to “prospects for peace.”

“Prime Minister Netanyahu should show leadership to overturn this law, paying heed to the objections of Israel’s Attorney General, broad segments of Israeli society, and members of his own Likud Party,” said Annan.

The United States has remained Israel’s closest ally both for strategic reasons as a partner in the Middle East and due to domestic support for Israel. This support comes in part from America’s Jewish population. While the current administration supports Israel, their support for Judaism is less clear, after the White House failed to refer to Jews or Judaism in its statement issued on Holocaust Remembrance Day.

Meanwhile support for Israel also comes from groups such as Christians United for Israel who say on their website that they have over 3 million members. The group’s website homepage also includes a pop-up campaign calling to defund the United Nations.

The United States provides 22 percent of the UN budget, making it the largest single member state contributor.

There is yet to be any concrete indication from either Trump or Haley that the U.S. intends to reduce U.S. funding to the UN other than through a leaked draft Executive Order published by some media outlets.

However some Republican lawmakers have been more open in their opposition to the UN’s seeming sympathy towards Palestine, presenting a bill, which has not yet passed, to withhold U.S. funding to the UN until Resolution 2334 has been repealed.

Palestine has been a non-member observer state at the UN since 2012. In a symbolic gesture, the UN began flying the Palestinian flag in September 2015, alongside the Holy See – Vatican – which is also an observer state.

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New UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres Takes Officehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/01/new-un-secretary-general-antonio-guterres-takes-office/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=new-un-secretary-general-antonio-guterres-takes-office http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/01/new-un-secretary-general-antonio-guterres-takes-office/#respond Tue, 03 Jan 2017 20:38:52 +0000 Andy Hazel http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=148392 Antonio Guterres of Portugal officially took up his position as ninth Secretary-General of the United Nations Tuesday morning, beginning his duties by addressing UN staff in New York. Guterres emphasised the urgency of addressing the plight of refugees and displaced populations, calling out richer nations for their negligence in addressing their global responsibilities, an issue many expect […]

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UN Secretary-General Anto—nio Guterres (centre) arrives at UN headquarters. Credit: UN Photo/Eskinder Debebe.

By Andy Hazel
UNITED NATIONS, Jan 3 2017 (IPS)

Antonio Guterres of Portugal officially took up his position as ninth Secretary-General of the United Nations Tuesday morning, beginning his duties by addressing UN staff in New York.

Guterres emphasised the urgency of addressing the plight of refugees and displaced populations, calling out richer nations for their negligence in addressing their global responsibilities, an issue many expect him to target upon taking office.

“We live in a world in which conflicts multiply and are interlinked with this new phenomenon of global terrorism,” said Guterres. “Conflicts in which international humanitarian law is not respected, situations in which we see massive human rights violations, even refugee law is no longer as respected as it was few years ago. I remember the times when mostly borders would be open and now we see borders closed, now people do not even have the right to be a refugee in many parts of the world.”

“We live in a world where problems became global and there is no way they can be solved on a country by country basis" -- Antonio Guterres

In his speech Guterres also emphasised the importance of multilateralism to address global problems.

“When one looks at the global mega-trends of population growth, climate change, and other aspects that are interlinked, we see that we live in a world where problems became global and there is no way they can be solved on a country by country basis.”

Prior to becoming Secretary-General – a role he will initially hold for five years – Guterres was the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) from 2005 to 2015.

He oversaw the UNHCR during a time when the number of displaced persons worldwide grew to its highest number since World War II, exceeding 65 million. He is recognised for having managed the UNHCR’s response to the refugee crisis in the Middle East and Africa while also cutting staff and administrative costs and instituting wide-ranging reform of the organisation. He has pledged to bring a similar approach to the UN.

A number of key positions appointed by Guterres embraces diverse representation in the upper echelons of the organisation, and address the lack of gender parity to which previous Secretaries General had pledged to reform.

Nigeria’s Minister for the Environment Amina J. Mohammed was appointed Deputy Secretary-General. Under-Secretary for Asia and the Pacific at the Brazilian Ministry of Foreign Affairs Maria Luiza Ribeiro Viotti becomes Chef de Cabinet. Guterres created the role of Special Adviser on Policy, Kyunga-wha Kang of South Korea who has previously served as Assistant Secretary-General and Deputy Emergency Relief Coordinator. The role of Assistant Secretary-General for Strategic Coordination in the Executive Office will be filled by Fabrizio Hochschild, former Deputy Special Representative for the UN Mission in the Central African Republic.

Spokesman for the Secretary General Stéphane Dujarric told a press conference that Guterres’ biggest challenge was to work with member states on achieving peace. “Many people are suffering from war and man-made disasters. He will focus on trying to meet the expectations that people have of this organisation (the UN).”

Dujarric also hinted that Guterres would be an open Secretary General. “As you’ll have seen if you’ve observed his career for the last ten years, he does hold press conferences frequently.”

Guterres was also quick to recognise the scale of the problems and the need for unity among the UN’s 193 member states to address them.

“I think it is useful to say that there are no miracles, and I am sure I am not a miracle-maker. And the only way for us to be able to achieve our goals is to really work together as a team, and to be able to deserve to serve the noble values enshrined in the Charter, that are the values of the UN, that are the values that unite mankind.”

The outgoing Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon described Guterres as a “wonderful choice” to lead the United Nations. “He is perhaps best known where it counts most: on the frontlines of armed conflict and humanitarian suffering.” Guterres inherits a complicated Syrian peace process; the highest number of migrant populations since the 1940s; increased tension between Israel and Palestinian; and a renewed push to admonish countries projected to fail to reach agreed climate change targets.

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Gender Equality “Clear Priority” for New UN Secretary-Generalhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/12/gender-equality-clear-priority-for-new-un-secretary-general/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=gender-equality-clear-priority-for-new-un-secretary-general http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/12/gender-equality-clear-priority-for-new-un-secretary-general/#respond Tue, 13 Dec 2016 06:40:47 +0000 Lyndal Rowlands http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=148195 Achieving gender equality in UN staff appointments will be a “clear priority” for incoming UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, when he takes up the UN’s top administrative role in January 2017. Guterres who was sworn in as Secretary-General at a ceremony at UN Headquarters on Monday, said that achieving gender parity among UN staff will will form […]

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António Guterres takes the oath of office for his five-year term as UN Secretary-General. Credit: UN Photo/Mark Garten.

By Lyndal Rowlands
UNITED NATIONS, Dec 13 2016 (IPS)

Achieving gender equality in UN staff appointments will be a “clear priority” for incoming UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, when he takes up the UN’s top administrative role in January 2017.

Guterres who was sworn in as Secretary-General at a ceremony at UN Headquarters on Monday, said that achieving gender parity among UN staff will will form an important part of his agenda for his first 100 days in office.

“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,” Guterres told journalists after the ceremony.

Guterres was selected as UN Secretary-General by the 15 members of the UN Security Council in October.

His selection upset campaigners, and many within the UN, who had hoped that the successor to Ban Ki-moon, the UN’s eighth Secretary General, would be the first woman to lead the international organisation in its more than 70 years.

However UN member states proved unready to seriously consider a woman for the role, with several highly qualified female candidates failing to perform well in successive UN Security Council votes.

Guterres, like many of his rivals, campaigned on a platform of gender equality, and is keen to show that despite his own gender he is committed to promoting women within the UN system.

He noted that the first target to achieve gender equality within the UN had been set as the year 2000 and that the new target year of 2030 was too far off.

“The UN set itself a goal of reaching gender parity by 2000,” Anne Marie Goetz, Professor in the Center for Global Affairs at New York University told IPS. “It set that goal in 1993. 23 years later and progress in reaching the goal has been pathetic, faltering, and sometimes flatlining.”

Despite commitments from current Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, senior appointments in 2015 and 2016 have repeatedly gone to male candidates.

“While gender, geographic and other forms of diversity are incredibly important, merit should be the primary consideration for every appointment,” -- Natalie Samarasinghe

However while Guterres will bear the responsibility for making numerous high level UN appointments, Goetz noted that UN member states also bear responsibility for the lack of women in high-level positions at the UN.

“The Secretary-General relies on Member States to supply suggestions about qualified candidates for these high profile roles,” said Goetz, who is also a member of the Campaign to Elect a Woman Secretary-General.

According to various media reports, one of Guterres’ first appointments is expected to be Nigerian Minister of the Environment, Amina Mohammed as Deputy Secretary-General.

“Ms Mohammed’s appointment is an excellent choice but not a specific gain for gender equality at the UN as the Deputy position has been held by women before,” said Goetz.

Unlike the position of UN Secretary-General the position of Deputy Secretary-General has been previously held by two women.

However Goetz noted that this role has been more likely to be given to women, not only because it is not selected directly by UN member states, but also because “women are much more commonly found in the deputy or second rank position than they are at the very apex of power.”

Meanwhile, Guterres also noted that the same concerns with gender representation also applied to regional diversity in UN senior appointments.

However, pressures from powerful UN member states to appoint their own candidates to high level positions should not overcome the need for high calibre candidates, Natalie Samarasinghe, Executive Director of the United Nations Association UK told IPS.

“While gender, geographic and other forms of diversity are incredibly important, merit should be the primary consideration for every appointment,” said Samarasinghe who also represents the 1 for 7 Billion campaign which has pushed for a more open and transparent process for the selection of the UN Secretary-General.

“Several General Assembly resolutions make clear that there should be no monopoly on senior posts by any state or group of states,” said Samarasinghe.

“States – especially those that feel entitled to certain jobs – should field high calibre candidates. They should not try to foist failed or inconvenient politicians onto the UN.”

However despite the General Assembly resolutions, certain top UN roles are usually taken up by nationals of the five permanent members of the UN Security Council – China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom and the United States.

For example, the current head of UN Peacekeeping, Hervé Ladsous is a national of France. Rumours are circulating, that China, which has recently increased its own involvement in UN peacekeeping, may have its eye on this role from 2017.

Meanwhile, recent media reports have suggested that the UK’s David Milliband may be being put forward for the role of Administrator of the UN Development Program, currently held by former Prime Minister of New Zealand, Helen Clark.

Milliband, who is currently head of the International Rescue Committee, may have appropriate qualifications for the role, however this would mean that the UN’s top development body would again be led by an administrator from a developed country.

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Antonio Guterres Selected as Next UN Secretary-General Faces Tremendous Challengeshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/10/antonio-guterres-selected-as-next-un-secretary-general-faces-tremendous-challenges/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=antonio-guterres-selected-as-next-un-secretary-general-faces-tremendous-challenges http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/10/antonio-guterres-selected-as-next-un-secretary-general-faces-tremendous-challenges/#respond Wed, 05 Oct 2016 21:19:21 +0000 Lyndal Rowlands http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=147249 The 15 members of the UN Security Council jointly announced Wednesday their decision to select Antonio Guterres of Portugal as the ninth Secretary-General of the United Nations. “We have a clear favourite and his name is Antonio Guterres,” Vitaly Churkin, Russia’s Permanent Representative to the UN and Security Council President for the month of October told media, flanked […]

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Antonio Guterres will be the ninth UN Secretary-General from January 1 2017. Credit: UN Photo/Jean-Marc Ferré.

By Lyndal Rowlands
UNITED NATIONS, Oct 5 2016 (IPS)

The 15 members of the UN Security Council jointly announced Wednesday their decision to select Antonio Guterres of Portugal as the ninth Secretary-General of the United Nations.

“We have a clear favourite and his name is Antonio Guterres,” Vitaly Churkin, Russia’s Permanent Representative to the UN and Security Council President for the month of October told media, flanked on either side by his 14 counterparts on the council.

Per UN tradition, the UN Security Council’s decision, to be formalised on Thursday, is expected to be endorsed by the full 193 members of the UN General Assembly.

However this show of unity from Security Council members comes at a time when diplomacy over Syria is at a new low with US Secretary of State John Kerry announcing earlier this week that Russia and the United States were suspending talks on Syria.

The ongoing conflict in Syria is just one of the many challenges that Guterres will face as the world’s top diplomat.

Fortunately many believe that Guterres is among those best prepared for the task, as shown through his performance in what has been the most open and transparent selection process of a UN Secretary-General to date.

Prime Minister of Portugal from 1995 to 2002 Guterres was later UN High Commissioner for Refugees from 2005 to 2015, during a time when the number of displaced people worldwide grew to its highest level since the end of the Second World War.

However Guterres’ selection has ultimately disappointed those who believed that the next Secretary-General should be the first woman to lead the international organisation or the first Eastern European to hold the job.

“Ultimately, the next UN 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,” -- Louis Charbonneau, Human Rights Watch.

While skipping the Eastern European rotation is a break with tradition, the inability to select a female candidate from seven highly qualified female contenders seems like an even deeper blow for an organisation which has long claimed to see gender equality as one of its central goals. However the gender break down of the Security Council itself, 14 men and one women, shows that for many UN member states gender equality is still a long way off. Guterres will also be the fourth European man to hold the position – although the first since 1981 – showing that Europe with just over 10 percent of the world’s population still has a firm grasp on global affairs.

Michel Gabaudan President of Refugees International who worked under Guterres at UNHCR told IPS that he was delighted that this year’s open selection process ultimately resulted in the selection of Guterres.

“I think we need a strong leader, we need a visionary leader and we need a diplomatic leader and I think Mr Guterres definitely has shown to have all of these qualities,” said Gabaudan.

“He brings countries together which is basically the job of the Secretary General so tremendous challenge ahead for Mr Guterres but I think the UN has selected the right person for that difficult job.”

Natalie Samarasinghe, Executive Director of the United Nations Association, UK and co-founder of the 1 for 7 Billion campaign told IPS that she believes that Guterres selection also reflects the success of this year’s improved selection process.

“The announcement today is testament to the impact of the more open and inclusive process for which 1 for 7 Billion campaigned,” Samarasinghe told IPS.

“Guterres was not seen as a frontrunner at the beginning of the race – “wrong” gender and region for starters – but was widely considered to have done well in his General Assembly dialogue and in other events, with many commenting on his experience and ability to inspire.”

The 1 for 7 Billion campaign has called for improvements in the appointment of the Secretary-General, including calling for a single, longer term of office to remove the perceived pressures of pleasing the veto-wielding five permanent members of the Security Council – China, France, Russia the United States and the United Kingdom.

These perceived pressures were also noted by Louis Charbonneau, UN Director at Human Rights Watch.

“Ultimately, the next UN 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,” noted Charbonneau.

However, like many others, Charbonneau also welcomed Guterres appointment:

“With Antonio Guterres, the Security Council has chosen an outspoken and effective advocate for refugees with the potential to strike a radically new tone on human rights at a time of great challenges.”

Guterres is considered likely to be a candidate willing and able to stand up for the voiceless at the UN. In April, he told journalists of how his experience volunteering with the homeless had inspired his career in politics.

The news of Guterres’ selection also coincided with the confirmation that the Paris Climate Change agreement has enough signatories to enter into force within 30 days. The important next stage of implementing the non-binding agreement will now fall to Guterres’ purview.

Guterres will replace outgoing Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon of South Korea.

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