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2018 Challenge for Guterres

Secretary-General António Guterres meets with Donald Trump, President, United States (UN photo)

Secretary-General António Guterres meets with Donald Trump, President, United States (UN photo)

News Analysis by Erol Avdovic – UNITED NATIONS - When the new Secretary General of the United Nations Antonio Guterres took office one year ago, on January 1st, he appealed for 2017. to be a year for peace. But just on the eve of the New Year 2018 he confessed – the world has gone in reverse: “Unfortunately – in fundamental ways,” he said.

“I think the Secretary General will be the first one to tell you that the world today is in a mess”, his spokesman Stephane Dujarric told Webpublicapress.

“And I think none of us can look around the world as it is today with the threats that we’re seeing, whether it’s on nuclear war, on terrorism, and on conflict, can be happy about the state of the world”, he added.

 

Red Alarm

 

Indeed, the conflicts in 2017, did not slow down, but deepened and new dangers has emerged, Mr. Guterres said in his short “Happy New Year” video address. He put in order our current about global anxieties: horrific violations of human rights, nationalism and xenophobia on the rise and nuclear weapons that are, as he said – “the highest since the Cold War.”

Of course he didn’t miss the climate change as a epic of our time that is “moving faster than we are,” while economic inequalities are growing.

Rightly so, the UN Secretary General skipped appeals on New Year’s Day 2018. Instead, Mr. Guterres issued an alarming call for the World that went from bed to worst in his first 365 days on 37th floor at the UN Headquarters in New York.

“I am issuing an alert — a red alert for our world,” UN Secretary General warned rather then advised in his sobering address at the end of passing year.

Back in his campaign for UN chief, the former Prime Minister of Portugal and a decade long UN High Commissioner for refugees of (UNHCR) sounded most spiritual among all other candidates for that post – already forgotten competing game of choosing United Nations Secretary General.

A year later, we laughed when UN’s Guterres on December 15th, 2017, speaking at the UNCA (United Nations Correspondent’s Association) annual dinner made his humorous remarks – that only Jesus can help him, now knowing what he knos – after his first year on the top of the UN.

 

Very serious joke

 

He joked, he has recently met Jesus Christ in the New York Central Park where

António Guterres, new Secretary-General of the United Nations, in his office on his first day at work. 03 January 2017 United Nations, New York (UN photo by Mark Garten)

António Guterres, new Secretary-General of the United Nations, in his office on his first day at work.
03 January 2017 United Nations, New York (UN photo by Mark Garten)

he likes to walk and contemplate about world affairs. And, they both “cried together” realizing how the global mess looks unsolvable, with the UN trying to help solve it.

“It was a metaphorical speech,” his chief spokesperson Stephane Dujarric later emphasized, when I asked him about it. And he explained answering to another correspondent, about Mr. Guterres “Jesus Christ remarks” the speech was not prepared, “in fact he wound up not using notes.”

“He spoke off the cuff,” Mr. Dujarric insisted about his boss, adding, maybe we should not call Guterres’ speech at the UN correspondents’ dinner the “Jesus Christ remarks.”

However, those who heard that very speech agree – the first man of the United Nations sounded very disappointed in it. And, he suggested not too much can be moved forward in particularly in promoting of the UN reform agenda. Although clearly humorous and satirical UNCA dinner remarks of Mr. Guterres has shown the certain degree of helplessness and a mood of getting slowly used to UN perennial routine.

 

A different game

 

Not so spiritual, even on Christmas Day itself was once again a crystal clear US Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley who said America will not joke about funding the World Organization.

On December 24th Ambassador Haley announced the United Nations agreed on a budget for the 2018-2019 fiscal year and that the United States negotiated a significant reduction of over $285 million off the 2016-2017 final budget.

Calling less US dollars in UN funding “a cost savings,” the US claimed the move – reduced the “UN’s bloated management and support functions, bolstered support for key US priorities throughout the world, and instilled more discipline and accountability throughout the UN system.”

The announcement came only a few days after the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) overwhelmingly rejected the Trump administration’s decision to recognize the Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.

Antonio Guterres UN Secretary General meets US ambassador Nikki Haley at the UN (January 27 UN photo by Eskinder Debebe)

Antonio Guterres UN Secretary General meets US ambassador Nikki Haley at the UN (January 27 – 2017 UN photo by Eskinder Debebe)

At the extraordinary UNGA Session on December 21st – Ambassador Haley said  “the United States will remember this day in which it was singled out for attack in the General Assembly for the very act of exercising our right as a sovereign nation.”

She has announced the US would consider the possibility of less investing in a Organization (UN) that is biased and unjust towards Israel.

The consideration quickly turned into action. In the near future the United States will pay less for the United Nations.

“The inefficiency and overspending of the United Nations are well known. We will no longer let the generosity of the American people be taken advantage of or remain unchecked,” Ambassador Haley pronounced on the Christmas Eve.

She said this “historic reduction in spending – in addition to many other moves toward a more efficient and accountable UN – is a big step in the right direction.”

 

Mission impossible

 

Ambassador Haley was also not a first US envoy to publicly refer to the UN reforms.

Those who understand it all so far used various terms or simply call it downward, but also fatally engrossed, even neglected, and surely never completed as a serious change; some times almost turned into nonsense.

But the chief spokesman for the UN Mr. Dujarric called UN reform agenda a transparent and “ongoing process” since the UN Secretary General is in fact “involving the (UN) member states very closely, briefing them regularly and often.”

He was responding to a Webpublicapress inquiry weather Mr. Guterres will do more on that – as many say most important UN front. Dujarric said the Secretary General pushed through the reforms on three stands: “management reform, peace and security architecture and development system.”

“He very much hopes that all that his efforts will come to fruition to really

Stephane Dujarric answering the question to the reporter (UN photo file WPP)

Stephane Dujarric answering the question to the reporter (UN photo file WPP)

construct what will be a UN that is a bit more fit for purpose, that is able to deliver the services and to serve the people it needs to serve.”

But does Mr. Guterres think that the reforms  can be done and some of them finished in his first term, I asked Mr. Dujarric:

Well, if he didn’t believe it, he wouldn’t push for it and wouldn’t spend as much time on it as he has,” re responded.

 

Unity or Consensus

 

For sure, only words will not be enough. From this 2018, many of the Secretary General’s messages obviously will be measured on the filigree scale. Less reforms – less money, at least – less US dollars.

“While we are pleased with the results of this year’s budget negotiations, you can be sure we’ll continue to look at ways to increase the UN’s efficiency‎ while protecting our interests,” said Ambassador Haley.

Yet there are 193 flags at the United Nations with that many member states particular interests.

Beside, the UN Secretary General called for unity at the very beginning of 2018. He said he is a true believer — the world, although in a mess can make a turn and become more safe and secure.

He sounded even optimistic this time: “We can settle conflicts, overcome hatred and defend shared values.”

He only didn’t say how?

But, to the fairness to UN Secretary General he used the right words. Mr. Guterres urged world leaders to stay united, since “we can only do that together” and because – “the unity is the path.”

António Guterres, United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, addresses a press conference at the conclusion of the Refugee Agency’s annual Executive Committee session. 09 October 2015 (UN photo by Jean-Marc Ferré)

António Guterres, then United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, addresses a press conference at the conclusion of the Refugee Agency’s annual Executive Committee session.09 October 2015 (UN photo by Jean-Marc Ferré)

He even offered a motto for that unity and called it “the New Year’s resolution”.

“Narrow the gaps. Bridge the divides. Rebuild trust by bringing people together around common goals,” he still appealed while issuing the red alert on World’s affair in 2018.

But, we all now by now that “together” and “unity” at the United Nations doesn’t always mean Consensus.

“A consensus means that everyone agrees to say collectively what no one believes individually”, said once Aba Eban former Israeli Foreign Minister and Ambassador to the United Nations.

Some fifty years latter – there is still not agreement at the UN on weather the consensus means uniting in words or action.

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