UN Secretary-General-designate Antonio Guterres vowed here Monday to reform the UN system to better support global efforts to maintain world peace, promote development and combat climate change.
Guterres made the promise after he was sworn in as the ninth secretary-general of the United Nations whose five-year term will start at Jan. 1, 2017.
Speaking to the 193-member UN General Assembly, Guterres said "the UN must be ready to change" to respond to challenges worldwide, to recognize its shortcomings, and to reform the way it works.
The most serious shortcoming, as noted by Guterres, is the inability to prevent crises. "The United Nations was born from war. Today we must be here for peace," he said.
"From the most severe crises in Syria, Yemen, South Sudan and elsewhere, to long-standing disputes, including the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, we need more mediation, arbitration and creative diplomacy," he added.
Guterres promised a management reform to make the United Nations "nimble, efficient, and effective," and to "focus more on delivery and less on process; more on people and less on bureaucracy."
"We need to create a consensus around simplification, decentralization and flexibility," he said. "It benefits no one if it takes nine months to deploy a staff member to the field."
Antonio Guterres (R) is greeted by retiring UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon after an oath of office ceremony at the UN headquarters in New York, on Dec. 12, 2016. Photo: Xinhua
In addition, he pledged to promote gender equality among UN senior management group, saying by the end of his mandate, the UN shall reach full gender parity at its high-level positions.
His speech, in particular the parts concerning reform on the organization, was interrupted by applause around the UN General Assembly Hall.
Guterres, a 67-year-old politician, served as UN High Commissioner for Refugees from June 2005 to December 2015. He was the prime minister of Portugal from 1995 to 2002.
At the oath-taking ceremony held on Monday morning, Guterres pledged to "exercise in all loyalty, discretion and conscience" the duties as a UN chief, with his left hand putting on a copy of UN Charter and his right hand up in the air.
Witnessed by senior diplomats of member states and senior UN officials, Guterres repeated the oath after current General Assembly President Peter Thomson.
After swearing in, Guterres hugged the outgoing UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon who steps down at the end of this year.
Guterres paid tribute to Ban for his leadership in charting the future of the United Nations through the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development as well as Paris Agreement on climate change, and vowed to follow Ban's steps to defend the same values that unite the world.
On Oct. 13, the UN General Assembly appointed Guterres as the ninth secretary-general of the United Nations after a long selection process during which Guterres outperformed other candidates.
Speaking of China's role in UN affairs, Guterres told reporters here that "China is strongly engaged in creating or helping creating conditions for an effective multi-lateral approach to global development."
Noting his recent visit to China, Guterres said it was very clear that China has committed a lot to strengthening multilateralism around the world by creating a new bank, relative funds as well as the Belt and Road Initiative.