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António Guterres: The Next UN Secretary-General

Monique Cuillerier

Monique Cuillerier

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Over the last couple of years, the 1 for 7 Billion campaign, with the support of organizations and individuals from all over the globe, has led the movement towards a more transparent, inclusive
process for selecting the next Secretary-General of the United Nations.

As the campaign’s website says, “An open and inclusive selection process, with genuine involvement by all UN Member States, will increase the chances of appointing the Secretary-General the world needs and could give future Secretaries- General a stronger mandate,” as well as perhaps improving the UN’s reputation and credibility. Over the last year, potential candidates for the
position engaged in informal dialogue with the General Assembly, submitted vision statements describing their perspectives, and publicly answered questions from civil society.

Beginning in the summer, the Security Council held a number of straw polls which eventually resulted in the Council nominating António Guterres, former United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees and Prime Minister of Portugal, who will take on the position as of January 1, 2017.

In a statement after it became clear that Guterres would be the Security Council’s choice, the 1 for 7 Billion campaign said that “the result is a triumph for the more open, inclusive and meritocratic process which 1 for 7 Billion has worked hard to achieve” and that “1 for 7 Billion is pleased that the Council has agreed on a well-qualified candidate who has engaged in dialogue with the General Assembly and civil society, and participated in a public debate organised by 1 for 7 Billion’s partners.”

Secretary-general Ban kimoon (left) meets with António guterres,Secretarygeneral- designate 13 October 2016 , United Nations, New York UN Photo/Eskinder Debebe

Secretary-general Ban Ki-Moon (left) meets with
António Guterres, Secretary-General-designate
13 October 2016 , United Nations, New York
UN Photo/Eskinder Debebe

There was some disappointment, however, from those who believed that one of the seven female candidates for the position should have been chosen. Jean Krasno, chair of the campaign for a woman Secretary-General, said “We thought the UN could reform and move into the 21st century with gender equality. But they are still making backroom deals among the old boys club.”

However, after meeting with Guterres in late October, Krasno said that “I was very impressed with him and I believe the way he talked about this, he is committed, honestly, to gender parity. He is not giving it lip service. He talks in depth about it. I got the understanding he knew what the problems were and that he definitely is committed.”

Also in October, the 1 for 7 Billion campaign said, “1 for 7 Billion welcomes Mr Guterres’ recognition of the fundamental role played by civil society across the UN’s work. His response has signalled fertile ground for the campaign’s forthcoming proposals about the priorities of civil society organisations around the world for the next Secretary-General.”

In an article in early November, Melissa Fleming, spokesperson for Guterres’ transition team told Devex that incoming UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres will “appoint a woman from the “global south” to serve as his deputy-secretary general.” Fleming additionally said that Guterres is “very well aware of the support behind women leadership in the UN and he is absolutely and totally committed to implementing, as fast as he possibly can, gender parity at all levels.”

Civil society will certainly be watching as Guterres moves forward, to see if he follows through on his statements on gender parity and merit-based selection of candidates at the higher levels of the
United Nations.

Monique Cuillerier is WFM-Canada’s Membership & Communications Director

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