Portugal’s Guterres sworn in as next U.N. secretary-general

Antonio Guterres of Portugal is sworn in as the next Secretary-General of the United Nations, pledging U.N. reform when he takes over the position on January 1, 2017.

UNITED NATIONS (DECEMBER 12, 2016) (UNTV) – Former Portuguese Prime Minister Antonio Guterres took the oath of office on Monday (December 12) to be the ninth United Nations Secretary-General with his hand on a copy of the U.N. Charter in front of the 193-member General Assembly.

He pledged to personally help broker peace in various conflicts and reform the 71-year old world body to become more effective.

He said that one of his top priorities is to reconstruct the trust between governments and their people.

“Fear is driving the decisions of many people around the world. And we must understand their anxieties and meet their needs without losing sights of our universal values. It is time to reconstruct relations between people and leaders, national and international,” he told delegates after his swearing-in ceremony.

He also said that the reformation of the world body is one of his top priorities, beginning with gender parity within the U.N.

“So in the appointments I will 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 U.N. and it will need to be respected by all,” he said.

Guterres beat out 12 other candidates, seven of whom were women, amid a push for the first woman to be elected.

Guterres, 67, will replace Ban Ki-moon, 72, of South Korea on Jan. 1. Ban steps down at the end of 2016 after serving two five-year terms. Guterres was Portugal’s prime minister from 1995 to 2002 and U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees from 2005 to 2015.

“Even as I prepare to leave my heart will stay as it has since I was a child right here with the United Nations. And that heart is greatly comforted knowing that I am passing the baton to Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, a man of integrity and principle,” Ban said congratulating his successor.

Diplomats said Guterres is expected to shortly name Nigeria’s environment minister Amina Mohammed as his deputy secretary-general. He is also planning to appoint a woman as his chief of staff before the end of the year, diplomats said.

Before her appointment as environment minister a year ago, Mohammed was U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s special adviser on post-2015 development planning – a role that culminated last year with the adoption by the General Assembly of sustainable development goals for the next 15 years.

Guterres is the first former head of government to be elected to run the world body and that experience will be reflected in how he operates, diplomats said.

Diplomats were now watching to see who Guterres appoints to senior U.N. positions amid speculation by diplomats and U.N. officials that China would like one of its nationals to head peacekeeping and that Russia is keen to have a senior role.