Continuity at the UNFormer Portuguese Prime Minister Antonio Guterres is poised to become the next United Nations secretary-general. We welcome the UN Security Council’s agreement to put his name to a formal vote.
His nomination stops short of the international community’s growing expectations for a woman secretary general this time around.
Nevertheless, the agreement reflects an international consensus that he has the qualifications for weathering global challenges ahead.
Guterres, who led the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (Unhcr) over the past ten years, is an expert in refugee issues. At a time when refugees have emerged as one of the most serious and urgent issues — as vividly seen in the ongoing civil war in Syria — the UN must take advantage of his unrivaled expertise.
Guterres also successfully carried out a downsizing of the Unhcr by nearly two thirds. Guterres is expected to push forward a long-awaited reform of the mammoth organization to make it a more effective and slimmer body than in the past. His abundant experience with incumbent Secretary General Ban Ki-moon also will help him smoothly manage the international organization down the road.
The long-term goals of the United Nations cannot be realized in any single term of a secretary general. Those goals can be achieved only when a new secretary general sincerely follows through with his predecessors’ grand visions. For instance, Ban was able to achieve remarkable progress in eradicating global poverty by carrying forward the eight Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) initiated by his predecessor, Kofi Annan. In the same fashion, Guterres must continue to carry out the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), a set of seventeen aspirational “Global Goals” kicked off by Ban.
With less than three months left in office, Ban is responsible for a successful transition. Even if he runs for president in Korea’s election next year, he must not neglect his job as UN chief by immersing himself in domestic politics. He must do his best to be remembered as one of the best secretary generals in the 71-year history of the United Nations. That job is not done until he helps Guterres get off to a good start.
The Korean government must help Guterres lead the international organization. Regrettably, our government has made Ban feel ashamed after it didn’t give its UN contribution share on time. As the 11th largest economy in the world — and as a mature member of the international community — Korea must fully support the United Nations. It must never forget the UN’s help in countering the North Korea’s invasion in 1950.
JoongAng Ilbo, Oct. 7, Page 34