The United Nations Security Council has selected committed Catholic and human rights advocate as the nominee for Secretary General of the international organization.
“I have two words to describe what I’m feeling now – gratitude and humility,” António Guterres said.
“Humility about the huge challenges ahead of us, the terrible complexity of the modern world. But it is also humility that is required to serve the most vulnerable, victims of conflicts, of terrorism, rights violations, poverty and injustices of this world.”
Should Guterres’ nomination be approved by the 193-member UN General Assembly, he will begin his tenure as UN Secretary General Jan. 1, 2017. Guterres will replace outgoing secretary general Ban Ki-moon, who has served two five-year terms.
From 2005 to the end of 2015, Guterres ran the UN refugee agency, where he has oversaw aid and assistance for more than 60 million refugees and displaced persons around the world. As high commissioner, Guterres reformed the internal administration of the UN Refugee Agency and coordinated and expanded the response to the Syrian refugee crisis and refugee crises in Iraq, the Central African Republic, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, among other locations.
While at the UN, Guterres also received a reputation for being a skilled diplomat, as well as for challenging wealthier and more powerful nations to do more to help the vulnerable and those facing human rights crises.
Previous to his work at the UN, Guterres also helped to found Portugal’s Socialist party and served as head of the party and then Prime Minister of the country from 1995-2002. Wile prime minister, he helped overturn attempts to legalize abortion in Portugal.
Guterres was also involved in combating Portugal’s heroin addiction problem through decriminalization accompanied by the promotion of therapy, family support, and social reintegration. In the 15 years since the implementation of the program, drug use and health problems related to addiction have dropped precipitously.
Guterres was selected as the nominee for UN Secretary General by representatives of the 15-member Security Council, which includes the United States, United Kingom, France, Russia and China, along with 10 temporary members from around the world. Also running for the position were 13 other candidates, including a record seven women. The United Nations has not been led by a woman in its 71-year history.
While Guterres has been the front runner due to his strong record with refugees and human rights, his selection did not come without conflict. His nomination has been criticized by those who hoped a woman would lead the international organization. Guterres has also been opposed by abortion-supporting organizations and advocates of same-sex marriage, who decry his for his defense of life as well as statements he has made in the past against same-sex marriage and concerns he has raised regarding the LGBT movement.
To address the issue of gender equality within the United Nations, Guterres has vowed gender parity in making appointments to high-level UN positions.