The United Nations General Assembly has approved by acclamation Portugal’s former prime minister, Antonio Guterres, as the world body’s ninth secretary general.
Guterres was appointed by the 193-member UN assembly to succeed Ban Ki-moon of South Korea on Thursday. The 67-year-old will take up the position on January 1, 2017, for a five-year term.
“He is a wonderful choice to steer this Organization as we build on the progress of the past decade, while addressing the insecurity and uncertainties of today's world,” said Ban.
“Guterres is well known to all of us in the hall. But he is perhaps best known where it counts most: on the front lines of armed conflict and humanitarian suffering,” added Ban, referring to his time as head of the UN refugee agency (UNHCR).
Speaking at the General Assembly following his appointment, the veteran Portuguese politician vowed to act as an “honest broker.”
“We must make sure that we are able to break this alliance between all those terrorist groups or violent extremists on one side and the expressions of populism and xenophobia on the other side,” he said, adding, “These two reinforce each other, and we must be able to fight both of them with determination.”
Last week, the UN Security Council forwarded Guterres’ name to Peter Thomson, the General Assembly president, to get consensus of opinion from the 193-member body.
Antonio Manuel de Oliveira Guterres was born and raised in Portugal’s capital, Lisbon.
He graduated from high school in 1965, winning the “Prémio Nacional dos Liceus” as the best student in the country. He then studied physics and electrical engineering at Instituto Superior Técnico in Lisbon.
Guterres graduated in 1971 and started an academic career as assistant professor teaching Systems Theory and Telecommunications Signals before leaving academia to pursue a political career in 1974, when he joined the Socialist Party.
He was closely involved in the Socialist Party activities, especially the Lisbon section, and became one of the party leaders. In 1992, he became secretary-general of the Socialist Party and leader of the opposition.
In 1995, the Socialist Party won the general election and Guterres became prime minister of Portugal from 1995 to 2002.
He later joined the United Nations as the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, from June 2005 to December 2015.