Antonio Guterres Takes Oath of Office as he Pays Tribute to Outgoing Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon

Dec 12, 2016

UN Secretary-General Designate Antonio Guterres

Mr. President,
Mr. Secretary-General,
Ladies and gentlemen,

Thank you very much for all your kind words. I am deeply honoured by the trust and confidence Member States have placed in me, and determined to be guided by the purposes and principles of the Charter.

First of all, I would like to pay tribute to Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.


Your principled leadership has helped to chart the future of the United Nations -- through the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development; through your commitment to peace and security; through your initiative to put human rights at the heart of our work.

Under your direction, the world committed to the historic Paris Agreement on climate change – and ratified it in record time. I strongly believe this momentum is unstoppable.

Dear Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, it is an honour to follow in your steps, defending the same values that unite us. Thank you very much.

Mr. President,

Twenty-one years ago, when I took the oath of office to become Prime Minister of Portugal, the world was riding a wave of optimism. The Cold War had ended; and some described that as the end of history. They believed we would live in a peaceful, stable world with economic growth and prosperity for all.

But the end of the Cold War wasn’t the end of history. On the contrary, history had simply been frozen in some places. When the old order melted away, history came back with a vengeance.

Hidden contradictions and tensions resurfaced. New wars multiplied, and old ones reignited. Lack of clarity in power relations led progressively to greater unpredictability and impunity.

Conflicts have become more complex -- and interlinked -- than ever before. They produce horrific violations of international humanitarian law and human rights abuses. People have been forced to flee their homes on a scale unseen in decades. And a new threat has emerged – global terrorism.

Megatrends -- including climate change, population growth, rapid urbanization, food insecurity, and water scarcity -- have increased competition for resources and heightened tensions and instability.

Mr. President,

At the same time, the last 20 years have seen extraordinary technological progress. The global economy has grown; basic social indicators have improved. The proportion of people living in absolute poverty has fallen dramatically.

But globalization and technological progress have also contributed to growing inequalities. A lot of people have been left behind, even including in developed countries where millions of old jobs have disappeared and new ones are out of reach for many. In many parts, youth unemployment has exploded. And globalization has also broadened the reach of organized crime and trafficking.  

All this has deepened the divide between people and political establishments. In some countries, we have seen growing instability, social unrest -- even violence and conflict.

A little bit everywhere, voters now tend to reject the status quo, and whatever government proposal is put to a referendum. Many have lost confidence not only in their governments, but in global institutions -- including the United Nations.

Mr. President,

Fear is driving the decisions of many people around the world.

We must understand their anxieties and meet their needs, without losing sight of our universal values.

It is time to reconstruct relations between people and leaders – national and international. Time for leaders to listen and show that they care, about their own people and about the global stability and solidarity on which we all depend.

And it is time for the United Nations to do the same: to recognize its shortcomings, and to reform the way it works. This Organization is the cornerstone of multilateralism, and has contributed to decades of relative peace. But the challenges are now surpassing our ability to respond. The UN must be ready to change.

Our most serious shortcoming – and here I refer to the entire international community – is our inability to prevent crises.

The United Nations was born from war. Today we must be here for peace.


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