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Guterres vows to ‘serve most vulnerable’ as UN chief

Published on 06/10/2016

Antonio Guterres, the man set to become the next United Nations secretary-general, vowed Thursday to serve "the most vulnerable" when he takes up the post.

“To describe what I feel at the present moment two words are sufficient: gratitude and humility,” the former Portuguese prime minister said in an address at the foreign ministry in Lisbon.

“Gratitude but also humility. Humility when facing the dramatic problems of today’s world and humility that is needed to serve, and especially to serve those that are most vulnerable,” he added.

“The victims of conflict, of terrorism, the victims of the violation of rights, the victims of poverty and injustices.”

It was his first public comment since the UN Security Council earlier on Thursday unanimously backed Guterres, who was chief of the UN’s refugee agency for a decade, to be the next secretary-general.

A vote by the UN General Assembly’s 193 member states to endorse him as successor to Ban Ki-moon is expected next week, probably on Thursday.

The unanimous Security Council backing for Guterres for a five-year term from January 1 followed an informal vote on Wednesday during which 13 of the 15 members supported his candidacy and none of the five veto-holding powers blocked him.

“I was moved when I saw the Security Council able to decide in unity and consensus and to decide in a very quick way,” Guterres said in an address repeated in English, French, Portuguese and Spanish.

“And I hope this represents a symbolic moment, a moment in which the Security Council enhances its capacity to act in unity and consensus creating the conditions to decide timely in relation to the dramatic problems of out time.”

Guterres, who served as Portugal’s prime minister from 1995 to 2002, won the number-one spot in all of the informal votes held by the Security Council.

The 67-year-old socialist politician, who will be the first former head of government to lead the United Nations, has pledged to revamp the global diplomatic body to boost its peacemaking efforts and promote human rights.