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New UN chief

Guterres given Swiss seal of approval

Guterres pledged on Thursday to act as an "honest broker"and said he would take a humble approach in trying to deal with global issues (Getty Images)

Guterres pledged on Thursday to act as an "honest broker"and said he would take a humble approach in trying to deal with global issues

(Getty Images)

Switzerland has welcomed the official appointment of the new United Nations secretary-general, António Guterres, although media warned that he had his work cut out in the “most difficult job in the world”. He replaces Ban Ki-moon, who will step down at the end of the year.

The 193-member UN General Assembly on Thursday unanimously appointed the 67-year-old former Portuguese Prime Minister as the ninth secretary-general of the world body for five years, beginning January 1, 2017.

The news of his selection last week by the UN Security Council received rapturous applause from newspapers and officials in Geneva.

“International Geneva jumped with joy,” wrote the Tribune de Genève, also referring to Guterres as a “Genevan”.

“Impossible to have dreamed of a better choice,” raved an editorial. “The former boss of the UNHCR [UN Refugee Agency], who speaks perfect French, knows all the inner workings of the UN machine. This is a trump card for Geneva.”

Yves Daccord, director general of the Swiss-run International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), said Guterres had proven qualities as a leader. “His main challenge will be to build a UN capable of finding collective political solutions to the inextricable crises of today.”

The French-speaking daily Le Temps described Guterres as a “clear and strong orator compared with the South Korean [Ban Ki-Moon], who is an unassertive diplomat. But [Guterres’s] honeymoon period risks being short. How can he not disappoint, as the secretary-general’s post is the most difficult job in the world?”

In a statement on Thursday, the Swiss foreign ministry said it “looked forward to working with Guterres and supporting him in the execution of his future duties”. It underlined his extensive experience as a politician and as former head of the UNHCR from 2005-2015.

It said Switzerland was keen to work with Guterres on priorities such as international security, reforming the UN system and developing the potential of International Geneva as a centre of global governance in the fields of peace and security, human rights, humanitarian work and migration. 

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swissinfo.ch with agencies


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