UN Security Council approves Portugal’s Guterres for secretary-general

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Antonio Guterres The newly appointed Secretary General of the United Nations, Antonio Guterres, reads a statement at Lisbon’s Necessidades palace, Thursday, Oct. 6, 2016. The probable next U.N. secretary-general says he faces “huge challenges” and hopes to see unity and consensus during his expected term at the international body. (AP Photo/Steven Governo)

The United Nations Security Council has formally approved former Portuguese Prime Minister Antonio Guterres to replace Ban Ki-moon as U.N. secretary-general. He was approved by acclamation for a 5-year term during a closed-door meeting on Thursday.

CCTV America’s Dan Williams reports.

UN Security Council approves Portugal's Guterres for secretary-general

UN Security Council approves Portugal's Guterres for secretary-general

he United Nations Security Council has formally approved former Portuguese Prime Minister Antonio Guterres to replace Ban Ki-moon as U.N. secretary-general. He was approved by acclamation for a 5-year term during a closed-door meeting on Thursday. CCTV America's Dan Williams reports.

Speaking at a press conference in Lisbon, Guterres expressed his humility and gratitude.

“To describe what I’m feeling at this moment, I just need two words: humility and gratitude. Gratitude firstly towards the members of the (UN) Security Council for the confidence in me, but also gratitude towards the general assembly of the United Nations and all its member states for having decided in an exemplary process of transparency and openess,” Guterres said.

Guterres had previously been elected High Commissioner for Refugees by the UN General Assembly and served from 2005 until 2015. During his tenure at the UNHCR, he was known for cutting administrative staff, but also expanding the global emergency response team to be more agile in response to growing refugee and humanitarian crises worldwide.

Under Guterres, the UNHCR brought renewed focus to areas like the Central African Republic, Democratic Republic of Congo, and Sudan. During his second term as commissioner, he tried to anticipate and direct U.N. resources to the Middle East as the Iraq refugee crisis exploded – and later Syria.

In a 2007 interview with NPR’s Scott Simon, Guterres tried to articulate the role and limitations of the U.N. in dealing with refugees worldwide.

It’s clear that for the bulk of the refugees, the solution they want is to be able to go back once the political problem is solved. But we have very vulnerable people. We have unaccompanied minors, we have women in extremely difficult situations, handicapped people. We have members of groups that are particularly targeted. But we are a humanitarian agency.

We consider ourselves as nurses. We are not doctors. We don’t cure the disease. We deal with symptoms. The disease is political and the solution is political.

Antonio Guterres in Somalia

In this July 10, 2011 file photo, U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees Antonio Guterres is surrounded by Somali refugees as he speaks to the media in an area where recent arrivals from Somalia have settled, on the outskirts of Dagahaley Camp, outside Dadaab, Kenya. (AP Photo/Rebecca Blackwell, File)

By the end of his term, the UNHCR had expanded to more than 10,000 staff working in 126 countries providing protection and assistance to over 60 million refugees, returnees, and internally displaced people.

In 2015, just before stepping down, Guterres gave this Ted Talk describing the UNHCR’s challenges moving forward.

As a member of the Socialist Party, Guterres was Portugal’s prime minister from 1995 to 2002. His party achieved great popularity in the mid-1990s as a thriving economy allowed for expanding Portugal’s welfare programs and internal investment. He resigned in 2001 as the economy contracted and the Socialist Party lost favor nationwide.

The Security Council’s recommendation now goes to the U.N.’s 193-member General Assembly, which is expected to vote on Ban’s successor next week.

Story compiled with sources from The Associated Press, NPR, and the UNHCR.