UN Chief Guterres Wins Council’s Backing for Second Term

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United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres won support from the UN Security Council on Tuesday for a second five-year term at the world body he’s led since 2017.

Guterres, a 72-year-old former prime minister of Portugal, has struggled to forge diplomatic compromises in troubled hot spots amid deepening rifts between the U.S. and its key rivals, Russia and China. He has instead focused on uniting the world behind efforts to combat climate change and environmental collapse.

The recommendation from the 15-member council will be sent to the president of the 193-member General Assembly for an official vote, but that’s seen as largely symbolic. Estonia’s Ambassador Sven Jurgenson, the council’s rotating president for June, said last week that the General Assembly’s adoption is likely to take place soon after the council’s recommendation.

In May, Guterres made his case for a second term, saying that countries need to move beyond policies focused solely on economic growth, which he argued has fueled inequality and environmental degradation. He said the world needs to let go of illusions from the 1990s, when there was faith that “globalization would lift and resolve everything.”

He also warned about the “dangers of the new geostrategic divide and dysfunctional power relations.”

In a statement after the UNSC decision, Guterres said he would be “deeply humbled” if the General Assembly follows through on the Security Council’s recommendation.

Guterres should energetically promote human rights in his second term by using the “UN bully pulpit” to call out powerful governments responsible for systematic abuses, Human Rights Watch said in a statement Tuesday. Guterres has largely refrained from criticizing the five permanent members of the council: Russia, China, France, the U.K. and U.S.

‘Public Silence’

“Guterres’s first term was defined by public silence regarding human rights abuses by China, Russia and the United States and their allies,” Kenneth Roth, executive director of Human Rights Watch, said. “With his re-election behind him, Guterres should use the next five years to become a strong vocal advocate for rights. His recent willingness to denounce abuses in Myanmar and Belarus should expand to include all governments deserving condemnation, including those that are powerful and protected.”

Guterres faced little opposition for re-election. Although several candidates submitted applications, only Guterres was nominated by a UN member state. Under UN rules, the secretary-general is appointed by the General Assembly, based on the recommendation of the Security Council. That gives the five permanent members of the council effective veto power.

Guterres took office in January 2017 just as the Trump administration came to office promising an “America First” foreign policy that threatened to put it in direct and immediate conflict with the UN. Yet as UN chief, Guterres initially found common cause with the Trump administration in efforts to scale back costly and ineffective peacekeeping missions. The relationship grew more tense as the U.S. criticized and then withdrew from UN bodies such as the Human Rights Council and World Health Organization.

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