Newly-sworn in United Nations chief Antonio Guterres has pledged to reform the 71- year-old world body to meet the current global challenges.
Guterres, Portugal’s Prime Minister from 1995 to 2002 and former UN High Commissioner for Refugees from 2005 to 2015, became the ninth UN Secretary-General after he was administered the oath of office by General Assembly President Peter Thomson in a special session of the 193-member world body on Monday.
Guterres succeeds Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, who steps down at the end of this month after leading the global organisation for 10 years.
Giving a clarion call that the UN “must be ready to change,” Guterres pledged to reposition development at the centre of the organisation’s work and ensure that the UN can change to effectively meet the myriad challenges facing the international community.
“The United Nations needs to be nimble, efficient and effective. It must focus more on delivery and less on process; more on people and less on bureaucracy…The scale of the challenges we face requires us to work together on a deep and continued process of UN reform,” Guterres said after taking the oath of office.
Guterres highlighted three strategic priorities for the organisation — working for peace, supporting sustainable development, and reforming its internal management.
“This (United Nations) organisation is the cornerstone of multilateralism, and has contributed to decades of relative peace. But, the challenges are now surpassing our ability to respond. The United Nations must be ready to change,” Guterres said.
He also vowed to use his good offices to help mediate in long-standing disputes between nations.
“Where prevention fails, we must do more to resolve conflicts. From acute crises in Syria, Yemen, South Sudan and elsewhere to long-running disputes including the Israeli-Palestinian conflicts, we need mediation, arbitration as well as creative diplomacy. As part of my good offices, I am ready to engage personally in conflict resolution where it brings added value, recognising the lead role of member states,” Guterres said.
“Inspired by the new concept of sustaining peace, it is time for us all to engage in a comprehensive reform of the UN strategy, operational set-up and structures for peace and security,” he added.
(With inputs from agencies)