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New UN chief's "monthly exam paper" graded: not bad
Last Updated: 2017-02-13 08:27 | Xinhua
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On January 1, Antonio Guterres took the reins of the United Nations, beginning his five-year term facing conflicts from Syria and Yemen to South Sudan and Libya and global crises from terrorism to climate change.

However, what also troubles this former UN refugee chief is that some Western leaders have shown little interest in multilateralism, which is regarded as the "cornerstone" of the world body.

Having been in the saddle for just a month, Guterres, with his hard work and political wisdom, has proved to be highly qualified for this job of "world moderator" as envisioned by U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt.

APPOINTED IN CHALLENGING TIMES

It is agreed that Guterres faces much more and serious challenges than his predecessors.

Refugee crisis has run rampant. The UN estimates some 65.3 million people were displaced in 2015. Of that number, 21.3 million were refugees living outside their country of origin, and some 40.8 million were internally displaced. Fifty-one percent of refugees are children. Just 1 percent of all refugees will ever be resettled. One in every 113 people in the world is a refugee.

Terrorism is a nightmare, having caused widespread panic and disturbances around the world.

Xenophobia and racism are gaining momentum in some countries and regions, which are downgrading the role of multilateralism.

Climate change, population increase and shortage of grains and water have all intensified the struggle for resources, making tensions and turbulence escalating.

With all these at the backdrop, Guterres took office, which means he has to deal with myriad problems and headaches of the mankind.

APPEAL FOR PEACE

On his first day at the helm of the United Nations, Guterres pledged to make 2017 a year for peace.

"On this New Year's Day, I ask all of you to join me in making one shared New Year's resolution: Let us resolve to put peace first," he said in an appeal for peace.

Appealing to the world to "strive to overcome our differences," the 67-year-old ended his message with a note on personal responsibility, saying "all that we strive for as a human family - dignity and hope, progress and prosperity - depends on peace. But peace depends on us."

The UN chief's new year appeal won him a big hand and favorable impressions as the world is being torn apart by terrorist attacks here and there, said Liu Tiewa, deputy director of the Research Center of United Nations and International Organizations in Beijing Foreign Studies University.

"What the world needs most is peace," she said, adding this won him the first "Brownie points."

PREVENTION FIRST

Ever since he was put in the saddle, Guterres has been trying to make UN voices clearly heard both at the United Nations headquarters and on other important occasions.

His new thinking of resolving conflicts right at the source has attracted much attention with the help of such occasions.

Delivering his first formal briefing to the Security Council, Guterres underlined the need for new, strengthened efforts to build and sustain peace ranging from prevention, conflict resolution and peacekeeping to peacebuilding and sustainable development.

"We spend far more time and resources responding to crises rather than preventing them. People are paying too high a price...We need a whole new approach," Guterres stressed at a Security Council debate on conflict prevention and sustaining peace.

According to the UN chief, most of today's conflicts were still essentially internal, even if they quickly took on regional and transnational overtones. They were fuelled by competition for power and resources, inequality, marginalization and exclusion, poor governance, weak institutions and sectarian divides.

Furthermore, they were exacerbated by climate change, population growth and the globalization of crime and terrorism, he said, adding that with so many factors at work, it took very little to trigger a crisis that could engulf a country or a region, with global consequences.

The UN chief said he had appointed a Special Adviser on Policy, whose main task would be to map the prevention capacities of the United Nations system and to bring them together into an integrated platform for early detection and action.

"We need a global response that addresses the root causes of conflict, and integrates peace, sustainable development and human rights in a holistic way - from conception to execution," Guterres said.

"Our priority is prevention - prevention of conflict, of the worst effects of natural disasters, and of other manmade threats to the cohesion and wellbeing of societies," he stressed, noting that the best means of prevention, and of sustaining peace, is inclusive and sustainable development.

BUILDING PARTNERSHIP

Guterres has once and again stressed the importance of partnership building.

On January 30, in his first address to the African Union since taking office, Guterres underscored the importance of a strategic AU-UN partnership for building sustainable development and advancing peace and security on the continent.

Speaking in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, Guterres told African leaders that "I am here to listen to you, learn from you and work with you for the people of Africa and the wider world."

It is crucial to build a new generation of partnership, with governments, civil society, regional organizations, international financial institutions, academia and the business community and to implement the "Addis Ababa Action Agenda" on financing for development, he said.

Addressing the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, on January 19, Guterres also called for a new generation of partnerships with the business community to limit the impact of climate change and to reduce poverty.

The UN chief singled out business as the "best allies" to shield the Paris climate deal from "the possibility of less supportive action of some governments."

UN REFORM

Guterres made the promise that "the UN must be ready to change" to respond to challenges worldwide, to recognize its shortcomings, and to reform the way it works.

"We need to create a consensus around simplification, decentralization and flexibility," he said. "It benefits no one if it takes nine months to deploy a staff member to the field."

In addition, he pledged to promote gender equality among UN senior management group, saying by the end of his mandate, the UN shall reach full gender parity at its high-level positions.

His speech, in particular the parts concerning reform on the organization, was interrupted by applause around the UN General Assembly Hall.

As part of his reform agenda, Guterres has made it a priority for the UN to have a whistleblower protection policy that meets the highest possible standards, and the updated plan aims to ensure the Organization functions in a more open, transparent and fair manner.

GREAT EXPECTATIONS

"I am fully aware of the challenges the UN faces and the limitations surrounding the Secretary-General,"said the new UN chief.

The dramatic problems of today's complex world can only inspire a humble approach - one in which the Secretary-General alone neither has all the answers, nor seeks to impose his views; one in which the Secretary-General makes his good offices available, working as a convener, a mediator, a bridgebuilder and an honest broker to help find solutions that benefit everyone involved, said Guterres.

The new UN chief's first month in office is bearing fruits, said UN expert Liu Tiewa, adding his good relationships with world leaders, rich and colorful experience as a country's prime minister and UN refugee chief -- tend to make people believe that he is likely to make a great stir.

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