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UN Security Council unanimously backs Guterres for second term as chief

15-member council adopts resolution endorsing incumbent secretary-general to be world’s top diplomat for another five years starting January 1, 2022

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres attends a joint news conference with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov following the talks in Moscow, Russia, Wednesday, May 12, 2021. (Maxim Shemetov, Pool via AP)
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres attends a joint news conference with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov following the talks in Moscow, Russia, Wednesday, May 12, 2021. (Maxim Shemetov, Pool via AP)

UNITED NATIONS (AP) — The UN Security Council gave its unanimous backing to Secretary-General Antonio Guterres for a second term on Tuesday, assuring his election as the next UN chief by the General Assembly, most likely on June 18.

The 15 council members adopted a brief resolution by acclamation and approved a communique at a brief private meeting endorsing Guterres — the only candidate — to be the world’s top diplomat for another five years starting January 1.

“He has proven worthy of the post already with the five years he has been in office,” said Estonia’s UN Ambassador Sven Jurgenson, the current council president, after reading the communique to the media. “He has been an excellent secretary-general. He’s a bridge-builder. … He’s able to speak to everybody, and I think this is something that is expected from the secretary-general.”

Traditionally, candidates for the UN’s top job have been nominated by a UN member state, but that is not a requirement in the UN Charter or in a resolution adopted by the General Assembly in 2015. That measure made the previously largely secretive selection of the secretary-general more open and transparent, allowing member states for the first time to see basic information about all candidates, including their resumes, and to question them at open sessions.

Guterres, a former Portuguese prime minister and UN refugee chief, was elected by the assembly to succeed Ban Ki-moon after a hotly contested and transparent race in October 2016 that initially included 13 candidates — seven women and six men. Guterres took office on January 1, 2017.

Outgoing United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, left, clasps hands with UN Secretary-General designate Antonio Guterres after Guterres was sworn in at UN headquarters, Dec. 12, 2016. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)

This year, seven individuals submitted applications to be secretary-general without backing from any government, including most recently former Ecuadorian President Rosalia Arteaga.

Guterres, whose five-year term ends December 31, was the only applicant nominated by a UN member state, his home country Portugal. He followed the 2015 process, holding a lengthy open question and answer session with UN diplomats in the General Assembly last month and then meeting privately with Security Council members.

General Assembly President Volkan Bozkir told reporters last month “the rule” is that an applicant can only become a candidate when a letter signed jointly by the presidents of the assembly and the Security Council is sent to all member states.

He said, “It looks like the Security Council has the opinion that, traditionally, only applicants supported by a country can become a candidate,” so the only joint letter was sent on behalf of Guterres.

Estonia’s Jurgenson confirmed the council’s position again on Tuesday, saying according to the rules and procedures “only states can nominate candidates — fortunately, unfortunately.”

Under the UN Charter, the 193-member General Assembly elects the secretary-general and Jurgenson said: “The timeline now is that most probably it will happen in the General Assembly in the morning of June 18.”

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