United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres locked up the race to serve as head of the world body for the next five years, winning the U.N. Security Council’s unanimous support on Tuesday.
Maldives Foreign Minister Abdulla Shahid won election a day earlier to serve a one-year term as the next president of the U.N. General Assembly, the main deliberative chamber for all 193 nation members, starting on September 14. The assembly’s formal vote to confirm Guterres as the next secretary-general, based on the council’s recommendation, is expected on June 18.
During a private meeting the 15-nation council, the U.N.’s most powerful arm, approved a resolution by acclamation, along with a communiqué, to recommend giving Guterres a second term.
He was the sole candidate for the job — in contrast to his frequent calls for more diversity, equity and inclusion in the world body’s top ranks and despite the emergence of seven challengers, including several women, that were self-nominated but unable to formally compete because they lacked government backing. The assembly had made that an unofficial requirement of all candidates entering the race.
“Even though we had only one official candidate, the process of the selection has not changed since last time,” said Estonia’s U.N. Ambassador Sven Jurgenson, who holds the council’s monthly revolving presidency. “Now we pass on the torch to the U.N. General Assembly. As I have said many times before, Estonia as chair of the council for the month of June — we have had the honor to guide these discussions in the council.”
Asked about the uncontested race, Jurgenson acknowledged “there were other self-proclaimed candidates who were not official candidates, because according to the rules only states can nominate candidates. Fortunately — unfortunately — the beauty is in the eyes of the looker, as they say. This time, no other state presented a candidate.”
He added that Guterres is a “bridge-builder” and experienced leader who has demonstrated he is “able to speak to everybody,” and that “he has proven worthy of the post already with the five years that he has been in office.”
— Estonia in UN 🇪🇪 (@EstoniaUN) June 8, 2021
A ‘presidency of hope’
Shahid will step to the forefront of the assembly, replacing Turkey’s Volkan Bozkir, with an agenda largely based on vows to lead a fight for more equitable global access to coronavirus vaccines and for stronger efforts to combat global warming. He won election over Zalmai Rassoul, a former Afghan foreign minister, in a 143-48 secret ballot vote. Two nations did not take part.
The top diplomat from the Maldives has long represented one of the most climate-vulnerable, low-lying nations in the Indian Ocean that are prominent symbols of the need for the 2015 Paris Agreement on global warming. Reflecting his emphasis on international cooperation to solve the planet’s most urgent health and environmental challenges, Shadid said he had both “an undying belief in multilateralism with an ardent desire to serve the international community.”
Shadid also said he wants his tenure to be a “presidency of hope” that tackles inequalities and pushes for greener economies around the world. “This is a crucial time for the United Nations and for the world,” he said. “There is very little time to spare.”
Guterres congratulated Shahid on his election, and described the assembly as “the foundation of all our work at the United Nations, and essential to our effectiveness as an organization” with a mission made all the more urgent by the pandemic.
“We are a world in mourning for the millions of people we have lost to the COVID-19 pandemic. The crisis has dealt a body blow to communities, societies and economies,” said Guterres. “Until everyone, everywhere has access to vaccines, it continues to pose an enormous threat.”