António Guterres began his service as the United Nations Secretary-General by issuing a call for peace in 2017.
“On this New Year’s Day, I ask all of you to join me in making one shared New Year’s resolution: Let us resolve to put peace first. Peace must be our goal and our guide.”
Formerly the Prime Minister of Portugal as a leader of the Socialist Party and more recently the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees, Guterres was elected by the U.N. in October but assumed office on January 1. He succeeded former Secretary-General and longtime associate Ban Ki-moon after ten years of leadership by the South Korean diplomat.
During his tenure at the helm of the Socialist Party and the Portuguese government, Guterres directed vast expansion of the Portuguese welfare system, liberalized abortion and homosexuality laws and decriminalized drug abuse. After his election as High Commissioner for Refugees, Guterres oversaw the effort to care for 60 million homeless and displaced refugees in 126 countries. His time in office was marked by a fundamental organizational reform, cutting staff and administrative costs and expanding emergency response ability.
Guterres’ election marks only the second time that a Secretary-General and an American President assume office at the same time. President-Elect Trump has notably called for a radical change in U.N. operations and hinted at withdrawing U.S. support from the international union, but Guterres has expressed optimism about working the Trump. Earlier this week, Guterres remarked that it is “certainly in my interest to visit (Trump) as soon as possible,” also noting that, “the United States is not only the main donor of the U.N. but a fundamental element in its actions.”
The Secretary-General met for his first meeting as the U.N. premier on Tuesday and also posted a series of videos on Snapchat in which he reasserted his desire to work with President Trump.
Guterres has stated that his focus as Secretary-General will be ending the Syrian conflict, battling extreme poverty and refugee situations, pursuing new answers to climate change and tackling corruption within the U.N. Human Rights Council.