UPDATED: U.N. chief Guterres appointed for second term

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The 193-member United Nations General Assembly on Friday appointed Secretary-General Antonio Guterres for a second five-year term, beginning on Jan. 1, 2022.

Guterres succeeded Ban Ki-moon in January 2017, just weeks before Donald Trump became U.S. president. Much of Guterres’ first term was focused on placating Trump, who questioned the value of the United Nations and multilateralism.

The United States is the largest U.N. financial contributor, responsible for 22 percent of the regular budget and around a quarter of the peacekeeping budget. President Joe Biden, who took office in January, has started restoring funding cuts made by Trump to some U.N. agencies and re-engaged with the world body.

A handful of people sought to challenge Guterres, but he was formally unopposed. A person was only considered a candidate once nominated by a member state. Portugal put forward Guterres for a second term, but no one else had the backing of a member state.

Guterres, 72, was prime minister of Portugal from 1995 to 2002 and head of the U.N. refugee agency from 2005 to 2015. As secretary-general, he has been a cheerleader for climate action, COVID-19 vaccines for all and digital cooperation.

When he took the reins as U.N. chief, the world body was struggling to end wars and deal with humanitarian crises in Syria and Yemen. Those conflicts are still unresolved, and Guterres is also now faced with emergencies in Myanmar and Ethiopia’s Tigray.

New York-based Human Rights Watch urged Guterres to take a more public stand during his second term, noting that his “recent willingness” to denounce abuses in Myanmar and Belarus should be expanded to include “powerful and protected” governments deserving condemnation.

“Guterres’s first term was defined by public silence regarding human rights abuses by China, Russia, and the United States and their allies,” said Kenneth Roth, executive director of Human Rights Watch.

U.N. spokesman Stephane Dujarric said Guterres has a “strong stance on defending human rights, speaking up against abuses.”

Photo: UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres. EPA-EFE/Claus Bech DENMARK OUT