Antonio Guterres has taken charge of the United Nations with a New Year's appeal to put peace first. The former UN refugee chief has vowed to make necessary changes to restore faith in the organization.
New United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres asked the world "to put peace first," in New Year's comments on Sunday, marking his first official statement as head of the organization. The former Portuguese prime minister has taken over after 10 years of leadership from his predecessor Ban Ki-moon.
"How can we help the millions of people caught up in conflict, suffering massively in wars with no end in sight?" Guterres asked.
"Civilians are pounded with deadly force. Women, children and men are killed and injured, forced from their homes, dispossessed and destitute. No one wins these wars; everyone loses."
The new leader will have to face complicated crises in Syria, Yemen, and South Sudan, amongst others.
Appealing to the world to "strive to overcome our differences," the 67-year-old ended his message with a note on personal responsibility, saying "all that we strive for as a human family - dignity and hope, progress and prosperity - depends on peace. But peace depends on us."
Guterres vows to reform UN
After fighting for the rights of asylum seekers for a decade as the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, Guterres' unanimous election has invigorated diplomats amidst waning faith in the world body's ability to affect change. Indeed, during his swearing-in ceremony earlier in December, he acknowledged that he was taking over during a time when the world seemed to have lost faith in its leaders and institutions.
Guterres vowed to reform the way the UN operates. "It is time for the United Nations to do the same - to recognize its shortcomings and reform the way it works…The UN must be willing to change," he said.
The new secretary-general will not only have to contend with entrenched routines, but with potential hostility from the administration of US President-elect Donald Trump. Trump has made no secret of his support for Israel, condemning the recent move by the Obama administration to abstain from voting on a UN resolution calling on Israel to stop illegal settlement construction.
With veto power, a permanent seat on the Security Council, and contributions that amount to 22 percent of the UN's regular budget, a combative US presence could be the first stumbling block for the body's new leader.
es/se (AP, AFP, dpa)