After Trump’s Defeat, UN Chief Wants to Stay On for Second Term

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United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres told the five permanent members of the Security Council Monday that he would like to stay on for a second term, a move that diplomats said he’d delayed until it became clear that Donald Trump will no longer be the U.S. president.

“I wish to inform you that I am available to serve a second term as Secretary-General of the United Nations, if that will be the will of Member States,” Guterres, a former Portuguese prime minister, wrote on Monday to the president of the UN Security Council.

After Trump’s Defeat, UN Chief Wants to Stay On for Second Term

Guterres, 71, assumed office in January 2017 for a five-year term that finishes at the end of this year. Diplomats, who spoke on condition of anonymity, say Guterres, who managed to avoid Trump’s wrath largely by refraining from criticizing the U.S. president in public, was waiting for the results of the November election before coming to a decision.

Under Trump, the U.S. has repeatedly clashed with the UN and its organizations, quitting the World Health Organization and angering Security Council members with its effort to kill what remains of the multinational Iran nuclear accord. President-elect Joe Biden has pledged to reverse the go-it-alone approach by returning to the WHO, seeking to repair the Iran deal and rejoining the Paris climate accord.

Guterres has made climate change his signature issue, pushing countries to up their commitments to reduce carbon emissions. Biden’s administration has signaled that climate will be a top priority and his pick for UN ambassador, Linda Thomas-Greenfield, is a seasoned diplomat with experience on four continents.

“Since assuming office, I have had the privilege of working towards the reform of the United Nations to meet the aspirations of Member States, striving for the dignity and the well-being of people, while ensuring the sustainability of our planet for future generations,” Guterres wrote the Security Council.

Urging Transparency

Most recent UN chiefs have served out two terms, and diplomats expected the so-called P5-- Russia, the U.S., the U.K., China and France -- to support his re-election bid. Guterres, who has been criticized for at times for failing to call out world powers for human rights abuses, has had to navigate a turbulent period at the UN as Trump turned away from the world body while China grew increasingly assertive.

The selection process for a UN chief has been called opaque, with the permanent five members wielding disproportionate influence over who gets selected, though the 2016 election was the first one to be made more open. Critics have also called on the UN to finally name its first woman chief.

Writing on behalf of a group of 25 countries, Costa Rica and Denmark in December called on the UN to ensure that the “upcoming selection process” meets the “minimum standards of transparency.”

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