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Voice for a divided world

Georg Schwarte
December 12, 2016

Antonio Guterres is set to be sworn in as the new UN secretary-general. The ex-prime minister of Portugal and former UN Commissioner for Refugees is the right man for the post, says Georg Schwarte.

Schweiz Genf Antonio Guterres To Become Next UN Secretary-General
Image: picture-alliance/ZUMAPRESS/Xu Jinquan

Take the man by his word! The new UN secretary-general wants to stamp out "political populism, racism, xenophobia and extremism." Go for it Antonio Guterres! His goals are ambitious. His job is impossible. But that doesn't matter.

A UN secretary-general is the most powerful person on the international stage. He has only one chance: he has to be able to speak out. Shake things up. Be demanding. Be appealing. Get on people's nerves. And Antonio Guterres can get on people's nerves. And he has nerves. After Ban Ki-moon, the friendly smiling man without a voice, comes a true rhetorical speaker.

Kommentarbild Georg Schwarte PROVISORISCH
Georg Schwarte is a correspondent for German public broadcaster ARD in New York

Ban Ki-moon was the friendly face of the United Helplessness of this community. The man had good intentions. No one can deny that. But he was invisible. Unassuming.  A quiet diplomat in the wrong place. What will remain after 10 years of Ban Ki-moon? A climate accord - his legacy until Donald Trump rips it to shreds. A Syrian war that became an open wound of the world.

A Security Council that appears to be in the business of blocking itself. An international community that was unable to reform itself and each body of 15 nations, including veto rights. An army of blue helmets, whose name has been damaged, its mandate limited and its training questionable. A world body, whose guest country the United States no longer is able to be hospitable to the UN, whose designated president constantly refuses to recognize its purpose and mission.

Humanity needs the UN

So now we have a new UN secretary-general. He will not try to reinvent the world. He will be confined by his borders. He will despair at this pathetic UN Security Council. But he will speak up. He will show it. He is the hope in very dark times. Those who say we don't need this UN are completely wrong. Everybody, humanity as a whole, needs this clumsy, consensus-oriented, bureaucratic entity more than ever.

Because the world is a shambles. Right-wing populism is the new fashion. Facts can be interpreted. Wars are commonplace. And when politics has been exhausted, they cry to the United Nations: "Why don't you help?" Antonio Guterres knows this pathetic game. He could and should become a spoilsport. The world needs his voice. Now. For 10 years, only a soft murmur came from the United Nations.

Now here comes Guterres. Following the election of Donald Trump, the world held its breath and fatefully decided that even such a person deserves a chance. Our chance and answer as a world community from today on has a name: Guterres. Give the man a chance. For humanity's sake. We only have him.

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