A new secretary general of the United Nations is set to emerge. He is Mr Antonio Guterres, a former Portuguese Prime Minister.
Guterres, 67, emerged favourite to succeed Mr Ban Ki-Moon, 72, after the sixth straw poll of the October council.
He would be formally recommended to the 193-member General Assembly for election by the Security Council today, some diplomats said yesterday.
Before Guterres’ emergence as nominee, there had been high-level advocacy for the emergence of the first female secretary general of the global body.
Two women from Bulgaria, an Eastern European country, a region that has never produced the Secretary-General 71 years after its creation, were favoured to be appointed at the end of Ki-moon’s second term in January 2017.
The women are Kristalina Ivanova Georgieva an economist and administrator, currently serving as European Commissioner for Budget and Human Resources and Irina Bokova, who is serving her second term as the Director-General of UNESCO. Bokova is the first woman and the first Eastern European to lead UNESCO.
If approved by the council, Guterres will become the ninth United Nations Secretary General.
Russia’s U.N. Ambassador, Vitaly Churkin, president of the 15-member council for October, expressed the hope that the council would universally accept and recommend Guterres, who is not new to the UN, and was previously the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees from June 2005 to December 2015.
Churkin told reporters yesterday, with 14 council colleagues standing behind him that, “Today after our sixth straw poll we have a clear favorite and his name is Antonio Guterres.
“Guterres, 67, would replace Ban Ki-moon, 72, of South Korea, who is expected to step down at the end of 2016 after working two terms. Guterres, asides being the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees from June 2005 to December 2015, was also prime minister of Portugal from 1995 to 2002.”
Born and raised in Portugal’s capital, Lisbon, Guterres studied physics and electrical engineering at university, graduating in 1971. He started an academic career as assistant professor. Guterres submitted his nomination as Portugal’s candidate for the 2016 UN Secretary-General selection on February 29, 2016.
He was the Head of Office of the Secretary of State of Industry from 1974 and 1975. He was also Deputy for Lisbon, and later Castelo Branco in the Portuguese National Parliament from 1976 to 1995. He was leader of the parliamentary bench of the Socialist Party, succeeding Jorge Sampaio in 1988. In 1992, he became Secretary-General of the Socialist Party and leader of the opposition against Aníbal Cavaco Silva’s government. He was also nominated as vice-president of the Socialist International in September 1992.
Following the retirement of Cavaco Silva in 1995, the Socialist Party won the general election and Guterres became Prime Minister of Portugal. Guterres was re-elected in 1999, and from January to July 2000, he occupied the Presidency of the European Council. Guterres is also a member of the Club of Madrid, which is an independent non-profit organisation composed of democratic former presidents and prime ministers from 57 different countries.
On 5 October, the 15-member United Nations Security Council pronounced that they agreed to nominate Guterres. This was after an informal secret ballot in which he got 13 encourage votes and two no opinion votes.
Thirteen people were nominated in the race to become the next U.N. chief, but three had already withdrawn before yesterday’s secret ballot. Among the contenders, are runner-up Kristalina Georgieva, officially supported by Germany, who had 8 discouraging votes.
Others are the current President of Latvia, Vaira Vīķe-Freiberga, Ambassador to the United Nations Chair, The Consultative Committee for UNIFEM, Zeid Ra’ad Zeid Al-Hussein and senior adviser to the president of Sri Lanka, Jayantha Dhanapala from Sri Lanka.
Furthermore, Guterres has emerged top of all the polls as at yesterday.
“In the end, there was just a candidate whose experience, vision, and versatility across a range of areas proved compelling,” United States UN Ambassador, Samantha Power, told reporters.
He is a man with several awards among which are; Grand Cross of the Order of Liberty, Collar of the Order of Isabella the Catholic, and Grand Cross of the Order of Christ.
Media reports state that the UNSC will officially nominate Gutteres, by implementing a formal resolution on 6 October, which must equally be adopted by the United Nations General Assembly. He is due to resume office on January 1, 2017 for a five-year term.
According to reports, Guterres, who is a devout Catholic, spoke about his decade as the U.N. refugee chief as “an extraordinary privilege but a terrible frustration because there was no humanitarian solution for their plight.” He said the solution was always political.
Seven of the candidates for secretary-general were reported to be women encouraged by a push from civil society groups. In April, Guterres pledged to present a roadmap for gender parity at all levels of the United Nations if elected.
The UN Director at Human Rights Watch, Louis Charbonneau, said in a report that “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.”
By Bukola Ogunsina, with agency report