Note: Owing to the liquidity crisis and the current COVID-19 pandemic impacting our Organization, only a partial summary of statements made in today’s meetings of the General Assembly is available at this time. The complete summary will be issued later as Press Release GA/12339.
Action — Appointment of United Nations Secretary-General
SVEN JÜRGENSON (Estonia), President of the Security Council for June, said that at its meeting held in private on 8 June, the 15-member organ adopted resolution 2580 (2021), recommending to the General Assembly that António Guterres be appointed Secretary-General of the United Nations for a second term, from 1 January 2022 to 31 December 2026. Following the adoption, this information was conveyed to the Assembly President in a letter dated 8 June 2021 (document A/75/912).
He went on to explain that the Presidents of the Assembly and the Council received a communication dated 24 February from the Permanent Mission of Portugal presenting the candidature of Mr. Guterres, who was the only candidate presented by a Member State. The Council held an informal dialogue with Mr. Guterres on 18 May, which members found “meaningful and productive”, and subsequently adopted resolution 2580 (2021) by acclamation, expressing unconditional support for Mr. Guterres. In the Council’s view, Mr. Guterres corresponds to the highest standards of efficiency, competence and integrity, and a firm commitment to the purposes and principles of the Charter of the United Nations.
Acting on the recommendation of the Security Council, the General Assembly then adopted by acclamation a resolution, submitted by its President (document A/75/L.100), appointing António Guterres Secretary-General of the United Nations for a second term, beginning on 1 January 2022 and ending on 31 December 2026.
ANTÓNIO GUTERRES, Secretary-General of the United Nations, after taking the oath of office, said: “I find myself experiencing a whirlwind of emotions and thoughts. I am deeply honoured and grateful for the trust you have placed in me to serve as the Secretary-General of the United Nations for a second term.” Calling himself “a committed multilateralist” and “a proud Portuguese”, he said he is aware of the immense responsibilities entrusted to him at such a critical moment in history and at the cusp of a new era. History can go either way: breakdown and perpetual crisis or breakthrough and prospect of a greener, safer and better future for all. “I pledge to you that I will do everything in my power during my second term in office to contribute to the positive, breakthrough scenario,” he declared.
The last 18 months have been unprecedented, with the COVID-19 pandemic revealing the cracks in society, he warned. Millions of families lost their loved ones, 114 million jobs have been lost, more than 55 per cent of the world’s population is left without any form of social protection, and poverty has risen for the first time in 20 years. Citing other global challenges, such as climate change, biodiversity loss, growing inequalities, a decline in human rights and a widening digital divide, he pointed out that implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals has seen a setback. His strategic vision outlines priorities during his second term, he said.
Stressing that the Organization must consolidate the current reforms, build on their results and continue to develop new work methods to be able to deliver to the world, he said: “A United Nations 2.0” must accelerate transformation through a quintet of change — better data, analysis and communications, innovation and digital transformation, strategic foresight, stronger performance and results orientation and a work culture that reduces unnecessary bureaucracy and fosters collaboration. Equally, what is needed is a much more aligned and integrated United Nations that works seamlessly across its pillars of work, as well as an institution that is transparent and accountable.
Citing the words of Sophocles that “trust dies but mistrust blossoms”, he pledged that he would give his all to ensure the blossoming of trust between and among nations, large and small, to build bridges and to engage relentlessly in confidence-building. The Secretary-General alone neither has all the answers nor seeks to impose his views. Rather, the Secretary-General supports Member States and relevant stakeholders to lead the necessary changes, fully using the unique convening role of the United Nations and working as a mediator, a bridge and trust-builder — and an honest broker to help find solutions that benefit everyone involved. The Secretary-General must feel every day the acute responsibilities of the office, guided by the Charter and making human dignity and peace with nature — including for future generations — the core of common work and endeavour. “It is my intention to serve with humility […] in the spirit of building trust and inspiring hope. This is our common mission,” he said.
VOLKAN BOZKIR (Turkey), President of the General Assembly, said he has confidence that Mr. Guterres, as the world’s top diplomat and advocate, will continue to lead the United Nations with sincerity and integrity. “To your credit, you have sought to bring this Organization closer to the peoples it serves and their needs,” he said, noting that when setting out his vision for his second term, recovery from the pandemic was fittingly first on the list. In the Declaration on the Commemoration of the Seventy-Fifth Anniversary of the United Nations, Member States reaffirmed the necessity of multilateralism as the international community builds back better for a more equal, more resilient and more sustainable planet. As the world begins to turn a corner towards recovery, he said he has no doubt Mr. Guterres will ensure that the United Nations is positioned to foster connections and collaboration “to strengthen our weakest link” and leave no one behind. As the interconnectivity among peoples and counties continues to increase, so grows the need for a multilateral system that is fit for purpose, he stressed, welcoming the strong universal support from Member States for his reappointment.
The representative of Eritrea, speaking for the African States, welcomed the United Nations commitment — under the Secretary-General’s leadership — to working closely with African countries on vaccine roll-out through the COVID-19 Vaccines Global Access (COVAX) mechanism. Noting the egregiously uneven distribution of COVID-19 vaccines throughout the world, she called for a fair, equitable dissemination that prioritizes people over profit, praising the Secretary-General’s vocal support of patent suspension and technology transfer relating to these vaccines. She also called on the United Nations to increase its efforts to ease the pandemic’s economic and social fallout by seeking debt relief for African countries and a new allocation of special drawing rights at the International Monetary Fund (IMF).
She also urged the Secretary-General to dedicate his tenure to working with the African Union on both the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the African Union Agenda 2063, calling for increased cooperation and collaboration between these two organizations, along with regional economic communities and mechanisms, to advance peace and sustainable development on the continent. A strong United Nations is impossible unless Africa meaningfully participates in its decision-making, she added.
The representative of Kiribati, speaking for Asia Pacific States, said the selection of a Secretary-General is not only important for the Organization but also for its 193 Member States and the 7.8 billion people who call this planet “home” for themselves, their children and succeeding generations. Thankfully, this task was simple, and the Secretary-General’s sole candidature serves as a clear indication that he enjoys the full trust and confidence of the entire United Nations membership during these “unprecedentedly difficult and challenging times”.
The representative of Slovakia, speaking for the Eastern European States and highlighting the transparent, inclusive process used to select the Secretary-General, expressed commitment to exploring ways to enhance this undertaking by promoting gender equality and equitable geographic representation. The Secretary-General has demonstrated his respect for the values and principles enshrined in the Charter over the past four-and-a-half years, leading the international community to overcome challenges imposed by conflict, natural disaster and climate change, as well as economic, food, social and health crises. He praised the Secretary-General’s personal engagement in conflict prevention — focusing on “diplomacy for peace” — and efforts demonstrating to the world that “multilateralism matters”.
The representative of Costa Rica, speaking on behalf of the Latin American and Caribbean States, expressed confidence that the Secretary-General’s leadership in the second term “will bring us even closer to realizing the ideals enshrined in the Charter of the United Nations”. His delegation looks forward to five more years of reform, innovation, delivery and results. From steadfast commitment to the 2030 Agenda and the Paris Agreement on climate change, to calls for equitable vaccine distribution, universal health coverage and expanded parity of female representation in the Secretariat, “you have been indispensable in crafting a United Nations prepared for the twenty-first century,” he said to the Secretary-General, welcoming his vision of a more transparent, accountable and unified “UN 2.0.”
The representative of the United Kingdom, speaking on behalf of the Western European and other States, said that the last five years were framed by three global challenges — rising humanitarian needs, COVID-19 and climate change — all against the backdrop of difficult international relations. Mr. Guterres met the moment, leading efforts to resolve and prevent conflicts and issuing a clarion call for bolder action to address climate change, among other achievements. The complexity of these issues requires more coherent responses. Mr. Guterres is “the right person for the job”, she said, expressing confidence in his skills, ability, commitment and vision towards integrating the three United Nations pillars: peace and security, development and human rights.
The representative of the United States, speaking for the host country, said the Secretary-General has proven his capable leadership in a demanding role and welcomed further collaboration with him. The Secretary-General has again “been charged with the gravest of responsibilities,” demonstrated by the serious challenges posed by the climate crisis, imperilled human rights, mass hunger, increased humanitarian needs and a global pandemic. Expressing hope that the next five years will be more peaceful, secure and prosperous than the last, he stated that achieving this difficult task will require greater partnership with civil society and the private sector, along with dedication to purpose and results-based accountability.
MARCELO REBELO DE SOUSA, President of Portugal, said that his country submitted the Secretary-General’s name five years ago for a simple reason: “the strong conviction that António Guterres is particularly suited for the job.” The Secretary-General’s commitment to effective, efficient multilateralism is complemented by his compassion, which compels him “to put people at the very centre of his action”. Recalling the work the United Nations has undertaken during his tenure — needed reforms, the representation of women, youth empowerment, the pandemic and climate action — he said the Secretary-General’s persistence, boldness, fairness and spirit of solidarity will be instrumental over the next five years.
VOLKAN BOZKIR (Turkey), President of the General Assembly, said political turmoil has given way to an increasingly dire situation in Myanmar, where civil rule has collapsed, people are subject to arbitrary detention, the military carries out violence against civilians and humanitarian needs are growing. Communities are being uprooted as tens of thousands flee violence, humanitarian access remains restricted in all conflict-affected areas and many civilians are in acute need of food, shelter and sanitation facilities. He questioned how the spread of COVID-19 in Myanmar can be prevented if the people cannot safely socially distance, wash their hands and be vaccinated.
This is not just a crisis for the people of Myanmar, he stressed, highlighting the 1 million Rohingya sheltering in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh, and commending that country for helping its neighbours in their “darkest hour.” Recalling a visit to that city marked by driving rain, he said the effects of extreme weather on the Rohingya cannot be underestimated, as Myanmar’s rainy season begins. While voluntary, dignified and safe return for these individuals is the ultimate goal, conditions in Myanmar must first improve. Welcoming the united voice of the Security Council and the engagement of regional organizations to that end, he called on the international community to stand united to support the people of Myanmar and expressed hope that the draft resolution will be adopted by consensus.
The representative of Liechtenstein, introducing the draft resolution titled “The situation in Myanmar” (document A/75/L.85/Rev.1), said conditions in the country continue to deteriorate, as democratic transition has been reversed, peaceful protestors have been killed and political dissent has been stifled by a military crackdown. “There is a real and present danger of full-fledged civil war,” he emphasized. The draft resolution — a product of lengthy consultations — supports, complements and strengthens efforts by the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) to bring Myanmar back on the path to democracy. It condemns the use of lethal force by the armed forces of Myanmar, affirms the General Assembly’s support for the population and seeks accountability for crimes against the same, including the Rohingya. Stressing that the people of Myanmar deserve the Assembly’s full support in their struggle for a peaceful, democratic future, he said that the resolution aims to strengthen the efforts of ASEAN and the United Nations to that end.
The representative of Iran, speaking in explanation of vote, expressed concern over the crisis facing Rohingya Muslims, calling on national authorities to uphold their responsibility to this population and ensure the voluntary, sustainable return of internally displaced persons and refugees. Further, those responsible for brutal acts and crimes against the Rohingya must be held accountable. He said that Iran will abstain from the vote because the draft resolution fails to adequately address the plight of Rohingya Muslims.
The representative of Egypt stressed the need to ensure the safe, sustained repatriation of the Rohingya and protect that population’s fundamental rights. She urged, however, that the General Assembly consider how today’s draft resolution can help the current situation and said Egypt will abstain from the vote due to the unclear link between the agenda item under which the resolution falls and the current crisis.
The representative of Thailand, highlighting the close link between the peace, stability and prosperity of Myanmar and his own country, said that, while Myanmar’s future must be decided by its people, the international community can play a role in creating conditions conducive to dialogue. Thailand will abstain from the vote, however, because the General Assembly was not able to reach consensus on this resolution.
The representative of Liechtenstein then asked for clarification on who requested a recorded vote, to which the Assembly President answered that it was Belarus.
The Assembly then adopted the draft resolution by a recorded vote of 119 in favour to 1 against (Belarus), with 36 abstentions.
By its terms, the General Assembly called on the armed forces of Myanmar to respect the will of its people — as freely expressed by the results of the general election held on 8 November 2020 — to end the state of emergency, respect all human rights of the population and to allow sustained democratic transition, including the opening of a democratically elected parliament and bringing all national institutions under a fully inclusive civilian Government. The Assembly further called on the armed forces to immediately and unconditionally release President Win Myint, State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi and all others who have been arbitrarily detained, charged or arrested.
The text also had the General Assembly call on the armed forces of Myanmar to engage constructively with ASEAN to realize an inclusive, peaceful dialogue among all stakeholders through a political process led and owned by the people of Myanmar. Pursuant to the resolution, the armed forces must also immediately cease all violence against peaceful demonstrators and end certain civil restrictions. Further, they must facilitate a visit by the Special Envoy of the Secretary-General on Myanmar and provide safe, unimpeded humanitarian access to all people in need. The General Assembly additionally called on all Member States to prevent the flow of arms into Myanmar.