A new Secretary-General of United Nations will assume office from 1 January 2017, for the next five years. And the huge operations of this global organisation will slowly be handed over to him.
As Secretary-General designate António Guterres takes over from the incumbent Ban Ki-moon, we know, the state of the world is not exactly what many seasoned global diplomats would eagerly wish to inherit.
Yet, this 67 year old former Prime Minister of Portugal, who served as the UN High Commissioner for Refugees is confident he is up to the task.
And let us hope that, like many political analysts are hoping, he will do a better job than the outgoing UN head from South Korea who unfortunately had got more on his plate than what he had possibly bargained for.
Gutteres’ appointment has come out of what is hailed as “a historically transparent and inclusive” selection process. And, for those unaware, let me explain that, after the vote, all of the balloting is ‘shredded’ in the Security Council chamber.
Oh, how we all wish it was as easy to get rid of some of the global challenges facing Guterres!
But, no. It is not. A wide range of unsolved global problems are staring at him from his menu-card. Syrian turmoil, ISIS crisis, Turkey’s trouble, North Korean nukes, Saudi-Yemen conflict, Russia-Ukraine issue, South China Sea dispute, not to mention the migrant crisis, refugee crisis, climate change, virus outbreaks and a host of other issues.
In his vision statement or April 2016, addressed to Mogens Lykketoft, the President of the 70th session of the UN General Assembly, Antonio Guterres had said: “Peace, justice, human dignity, tolerance and solidarity are enshrined in the Charter and bind us together.
“These values are central to all cultures and religions in the world and are reflected in the Holy Books – from the Qur’an to the Gospels and the Torah, from the Upanishads to the Pali canon”.
We can understand how far away the UN charter we are when we look at the current day global scenario.
‘Peace’ is still elusive with airstrikes in most of Middle East and Africa, and even on Indo-Pak border. ‘Justice’ is still being sought at the International Court of Justice for various people and governments on war crimes and territorial disputes. ‘Human dignity’ is being shredded painfully with deaths of migrants on the Mediterranean.
‘Tolerance’ has sunken to a new low in many places as we read of refugees being attacked in Europe, and of a certain United States Presidential nominee, who is openly branding people of an entire religion as dangerous.
Sadly, not only is there a lack of safeguards to uphold these values by UN agencies but also a lack of grip on the global affairs by the UN bosses. At least, not as much as we want.
And that is the need of the hour – the need of a leader who can command global respect and control the enormous UN administrative machinery in about 193 countries.
With over 10 years as the head of the UN Refugee Agency, and about seven years as Portugal’s Prime Minister, he seems to fit the bill.
His long experience as the president of Portugal’s socialist party could also make him see the problems of the poor and the importance of state’s role in providing for the welfare of its people.
The most we can do for now is to hope that Antonio Gutteres will perform well in this job which the first UN Secretary General Trygve Lie, once described as “the most impossible job on this earth.”