The former Portuguese Prime Minister and UN refugee Chief, Antonio Guterres was sworn in yesterday as Secretary-General of the United Nations.
According to Reuters, 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.
Guterres is the ninth UN chief in the organisation’s 71-year history.
Guterres who was formerly the UN refugee chief was nominated to the top job by acclamation in the General Assembly in October. He will take over duties from Ban Ki-moon on the 1st of January 2017.
He got the position among 13 candidates competing for the job in informal polls in the Security Council. After the sixth poll, the council nominated him by acclamation.
The swearing-in ceremony was held in the UN’s General Assembly hall in New York City following tributes to outgoing Secretary General Ban Ki-moon.
The General Assembly president John William Ashe has said, “We have every confidence he will lead our organisation with wisdom and rectitude.”
After the oath taking, the former UN Refugee Chief spoke about his goals as Secretary General, stating that the optimism that was felt at the end of the Cold War has been replaced with a multiplication of old wars, and new wars created.
“The UN was born from war. Today we must be here for peace,” he stated.
“As part of my good offices I am ready to engage personally in conflict resolution where it brings added value,” he told the 193-member General Assembly.
Guterres beat out 12 other candidates, seven of whom were women, amid a push for the first woman to be elected. He said on Monday he aimed to have gender parity among senior U.N. leadership within his five year term.
Before the appointment of Mohammed, who’s to emerge deputy secretary-general as environment minister a year ago, she was 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.
“He’s looking for a big shake-up, reshuffle,” said a senior U.N. diplomat, speaking on condition of anonymity. “He’s looking to create … a different feeling, with the under-secretary-generals much more part of a collective leadership of the U.N.”
“Having what he calls a cabinet, like when he was prime minister, his senior officials would come together every week and collectively they would have responsibility for the totality of the organization,” the diplomat said.
Diplomats are 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.