Secretary-General Antonio Guterres officially declared on Monday that he is seeking a second five-year term with the UN leadership.
Guterres, whose current term expires next December 31, said in a letter to General Assembly President Volkan Bozkir that “it would be my honor to continue to serve the organization to achieve its goals and fulfill its noble goals.”
The former Portuguese prime minister and UN refugee chief was elected by the 193-member assembly to succeed Ban Ki-moon after a hotly contested and transparent race in October 2016 that originally included 13 candidates – seven women and six men. Guterres took office on January 1, 2017.
“I am available to serve a second term as UN Secretary-General, if that is the will of the Member States,” Guterres said in a letter to Bozkir received by the Associated Press.
Several diplomats have said that Guterres was waiting for the result of the US presidential election and would not have sought a second term if Donald Trump won. But another diplomat who was familiar with his thinking said that Guterres, after more than 40 years of public service, would have felt he could not leave the UN if Trump had defeated President-elect Joe Biden, who takes office on January 20.
Trump withdrew the United States from the World Health Organization, the UN-sponsored climate agreement in Paris in 2015, and the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, and stopped funding the United Nations Population Fund and the United Nations High Commissioner for Palestine. Biden has said that the United States will soon be reunited with the WHO and the climate agreement.
UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric said Guterres responded to a letter from Bozkir on Friday asking his “intentions for a second mandate.”
The general secretary spent time during the holidays talking to his family, Dujarric said, and “I do not think any particular election cycle in any particular country influenced his decision.”
Dujarric said Guterres informed the five permanent members of the Security Council – the United States, Russia, China, Britain and France – on Friday. China’s UN ambassador Zhang Jun hosted a luncheon for the P5 ambassadors, as they are called, with the secretary general on Friday, diplomats said.
The General Assembly elects the Secretary-General on the recommendation of the 15-member Security Council, where the five permanent members have a veto, so their support is crucial.
Guterres, 71, received his first major vote of support late Monday.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson “welcomed the Secretary – General’s decision to run a second term and congratulated him on a successful first term”, his office said after a virtual meeting between the two leaders.
Guterres also spoke with leaders of UN regional groups on Friday and sent a letter to the Security Council on Monday, the UN spokesman said.
With regard to the next step, a General Assembly resolution adopted in September 2015 calls on the Presidents of the Assembly and the Security Council to “begin the process of recruiting candidates for the post of Secretary-General through a joint letter addressed to all Member States.”
Assembly spokesman Brenden Varma said President Bozkir spoke with Tunisia’s UN ambassador Tarek Ladeb, this month’s council president, on Monday and will meet with him on Tuesday, among other things, to discuss “the next steps in this process.”
The 2015 resolution, which was adopted by consensus, made the previously largely secretarial selection of the Secretary-General more open and transparent. It enabled the World Body Member States to see for the first time basic information about all candidates, including their CVs, and to meet and question them at open sessions.
Just before Christmas, a group of 25 countries from all regions called the Group of Accountability Coherence and Transparency wrote to the General Assembly and the Security Council urging that the selection process “at least” meet the 2015 standards for transparency and involvement of UN members.
Guterre’s choice was disappointing for women, who have never had the top job in the United Nations, and for Eastern Europeans, who have never had a Secretary-General from the region. It was supposed to be next in the informal geographical rotation for the UN chief when Guterres, a Western European, was elected.
As this is the first time an existing candidate is seeking a second term after the adoption of the resolution, and it is not yet known if there will be any other candidates, the next step is unclear.
Guterres said in his reply to Bozkir: “In line with the General Assembly’s strong interest in openness and inclusion, I am ready to fully meet the expectations set out in your letter, in particular in submitting a vision statement and participation in an informal dialogue with the Member States. ”
The Secretary-General said in the letter that he has worked to reform the UN “to meet Member States’ ambitions, strive for dignity and well-being for the people, while ensuring the sustainability of our planet for future generations.”
On the day of his election, Guterres promised to be “a bridge-builder” and to promote a new “diplomacy for peace.”
But over the past four years, the United Nations, the global bastion of multilateralism, and its leaders have sought to tackle an increasingly polarized world in the face of a pandemic, regional conflicts, a shrinking economy, growing inequality, and escalating tensions between the United States and China.