António Guterres, a Socialist former prime minister of Portugal, is the unanimous choice of the 15-member United Nations Security Council to become the next leader of the organization, the ambassadors announced on Wednesday.
Guterres will replace Ban Ki-moon as a secretary-general in January. He’s a U.N. insider, who until last December had led the U.N. refugee agency.
The 15 ambassadors of the U.N. security council appeared in the lobby of United Nations headquarters in New York to make the announcement.
António Guterres was born and raised in Portugal’s capital, Lisbon, son of Virgílio Dias Guterres (1913-2009) and his wife Ilda Cândida de Oliveira (born 1923). He studied physics and electrical engineering at IST. He graduated in 1971 and started an academic career as assistant professor.
His political career started in 1974, when he joined the Portuguese Socialist Party. Shortly thereafter, he quit academic life and became a full-time politician. In the period following the Carnation Revolution of 25 April 1974, which put an end to Caetabo’s dictatorship, Guterres was closely involved in the organization of the Socialist Party, especially the Lisbon section. Guterres became one of the party leaders and held the following offices:
Head of Office of the Secretary of State of Industry (1974 and 1975)In 1992, he became Secretary-General of the Socialist Party and leader of the opposition against Aníbal Cavaco Silva’s government. He was also nominated as vice-president of the Socialist International in September 1992.
Following the retirement of Cavaco Silva in 1995, the Socialist Party won the election and Guterres became Prime Minister of Portugal. With a style markedly different from that of his predecessor, based on dialogue and discussion with all sections of society, Guterres was a popular prime minister in the first years of his government. Portugal was enjoying a solid economic expansion which allowed the Socialists to reduce budget deficits while increasing welfare spending and creating new conditional cash transfer programes. Also important was the successful staging of Expo 98, in Lisbon, which increased Portugal’s visibility in the world.
Guterres was re-elected in 1999, and from January to July 2000, he occupied the Presidency of the EC. This second term in government was not as successful however. Internal party conflicts along with a slowdown of the economic growth and the Ribeiro Bridge disaster damaged his authority and popularity.
In December 2001, following a disastrous result for the Socialist Party in the local elections, Guterres resigned,stating that “I am resigning to prevent the country from falling into a political swamp”. President Jorge Sampaio dissolved the Parliament and called for elections. Guterres has been strident in calling for Western countries to do more to protect and welcome refugees.
After U.N. agencies failed to meet their funding goals that would help with basic needs for those who are displaced in Lebanon, Jordan and Turkey, he said: “The global humanitarian community is not broken – as a whole they are more effective than ever before. But we are financially broke.”