New UN chief pledges to make world peace a priority

  • 14/10/2016
New UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres (Reuters)
New UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres (Reuters)

Antonio Guterres has pledged to make the pursuit of peace in a conflict-torn world his "over-arching priority'' after being elected the next secretary-general of the United Nations.

The former Portuguese prime minister and UN refugee chief told the 193 members of the UN General Assembly who elected him by acclamation that the United Nations has "the moral duty and the universal right'' to ensure peace and he will be promoting a new "diplomacy for peace'' advocating dialogue to settle disputes.

Mr Gutteres said he will do his best before taking the reins of the UN from Ban Ki-moon on January 1 to prepare ``to act as a convener, an honest broker, someone trying to bring people together'' in conflicts and crises from Syria and Yemen to South Sudan.

"It's high time to fight for peace,'' he said, and make people understand that whatever divisions exist it's more important to unite and end the suffering because of the risks for countries in conflict and the international community.

Mr Guterres, who will become the ninth UN chief in the world body's 71-year history, said he is not only fully aware of the challenges the United Nations faces but the limitations surrounding the secretary-general.

"The dramatic problems of today's complex world can only inspire a humble approach, one in which the secretary-general alone neither has all the answers nor seeks to impose his views, one in which the secretary-general makes his good offices available ... to help find solutions that benefit everyone involved.''

It was Mr Guterres' strong performance answering questions before the General Assembly, and his executive experience as prime minister and as the UN High Commissioner for Refugees from 2005-2015 that propelled him to first place among the 13 candidates vying for the job in the informal polls in the Security Council. After last week's sixth poll, the council nominated him by acclamation.