The new Secretary General of the United Nations, Antonio Guterres, assumed office on New Year’s Day with an “appeal for peace”, urging the people across the world to “put peace first.”
Guterres, the former Portuguese prime minister and UN refugee chief, was sworn in on December 12 to succeed Ban Ki Moon who served as the chief of the world body of 193 member states for 10 years.
After taking over as UN chief on Sunday, Guterres urged all people in the world to make a shared New Year’s resolution: “Let us resolve to put peace first.”
“Let us make 2017 a year in which we all — citizens, governments, leaders — strive to overcome our differences,” the new secretary-general said.
As Guterres begins his five-year term facing conflicts from Syria and Yemen to South Sudan and Libya, as well as global crises including terrorism, refugees and climate change, US support for the UN remains a question mark.
He promised to be a “bridge-builder” but faces an antagonistic incoming US administration led by Donald Trump who thinks the UN does nothing except “talk and have a good time.”
Immediately after Washington’s outgoing Obama administration allowed the Security Council to condemn Israeli settlements on Palestinian territory on December 23, Trump warned in a tweet that “things will be different” after he takes office.
Guterres said the values enshrined in the UN Charter that should define the world that today’s children inherit — peace, justice, respect, human rights, tolerance and solidarity — are threatened, “most often by fear.”
Guterres won the UN’s top job after receiving high marks from almost every diplomat for his performance in the first-ever question-and-answer sessions in the General Assembly for the 13 candidates vying to replace Ban.
Ban Ki Moon bid his farewell to his colleagues in New York on Friday.
“I have been working as voice of voiceless people, defender of the defenseless people,” he said in his speech, telling his successor “you’ll have to continue to do that.”