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Informal dialogue on UN chief selection process gets underway

The former Portuguese Prime Minister who went on to run the UN refugee agency (UNHCR) for over a decade, before being appointed to the UN’s top job in October 2016, is currently the only official candidate for the position, having being nominated by the Government of Portugal.

He circulated his vision statement for a second five-year term in March, but Friday’s informal interactive dialogue was his opportunity to share a more personal vision of why he was offering himself as a candidate once more.

Selection process

The informal dialogues were introduced during the last selection process in the UN General Assembly, with the idea of allowing candidates to present their views and take questions from a wide range of representatives of the global community, including civil society, establishing a new standard of transparency.

Following informal dialogues with Member States, the Security Council will begin its selection process by June, although there could be further dialogues if other candidates emerge.

As per the UN Charter, the Security Council makes its recommendation for filling the post, to the General Assembly, and since 1996, the Council recommendation has been unanimous.

The Assembly formally appoints the Secretary-General through a resolution, which in the past has been submitted by the President of the General Assembly and adopted by consensus.

Tackling root causes

Outlining his initial motivation for running five years ago, Mr. Guterres said he sought to dedicate his energy “to working on addressing the root causes of war, underdevelopment and violence” and creating conditions in which “people could prosper and thrive”, as both the right thing to do, and “also the smart thing to do”.

He said the failures of globalization, growing inequality, and the man-made destruction of nature and the climate, had made him realize a “renewed social contract” was imperative.

“More and more people live within their own echo chambers. They are lured by misinformation, populism, extremism, xenophobia and racism”, he said.

“We live in a kind of post-enlightenment era that has nurtured irrational, even nihilistic belief systems, spreading fear, denying science and truth.”

A new type of geostrategic fracture, or Cold War, had to be avoided at all costs, he added, and the best antidote, lies in “rekindling a shared commitment to fundamental values.”

Surge in diplomacy

The next Secretary-General needed “to maximise the unique convening power of the UN, to redouble efforts for the surge in diplomacy for peace, to foster trust, build confidence, identify areas of convergence, mediate in good faith and constantly bring people together”, he told Member States, from the General Assembly Hall podium in New York.

Championing those who have traditionally not been offered a seat at the world’s main diplomatic table, he said that civil society, cities, the private sector and young people, were “essential voices that must be heard.”

Injustice and suffering had to be faced up to, he said, and the power dynamics of resource and technology distribution, reckoned with.

The COVID-19 pandemic has been a “stark reminder” of the limitations of collective action, as well as it’s potential, “when it comes to vaccines or acting in solidarity with those underserved or struggling communities and countries.”

Rise to the test

In a note of optimism, he said it was now “up to us, to rise to the test of this pivotal moment for our future. I strongly believe this momentum is unstoppable.”

He offered his services for another term as a Secretary-General who would be “at the service of all Member States equally and with no agenda” except that of the Charter.

“We are at a fragile moment, and it is absolutely clear to me that today’s complex challenges can only inspire a humble approach – one in which the Secretary-General alone neither has all the answers, nor seeks to impose his views…working as a convener, a mediator, a bridge-builder and an honest broker to help find solutions that benefit everyone involved and to overcome the challenges and contractions”.

Mr. Guterres said he would continue to “feel every day, the acute responsibilities of the office”, putting “human dignity and peace with nature, including for future generations, the core of our common work and endeavour.”

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