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Home » Home, UN NEWS » UN Secretary General clear on multilateralism, against populism, for refugee protection, but careful not to finger point any of P-5

UN Secretary General clear on multilateralism, against populism, for refugee protection, but careful not to finger point any of P-5

Former Secretaries-General Kofi Annan (left) and Ban Ki-moon (right) pay a courtesy call on Secretary-General António Guterres. 13 October 2017 (UN photo by Mark Garten)

Secretary-General António Guterres (front left) and United States President Donald Trump (front right) during the high-level meeting on reform of the United Nations convened by the United States. 18 September 2017 (UN Photo by Mark Garten)

Aung San Suu Kyi in Geneva 2012 (UN Photo Violaine Martin)

 

 

Antonio Guterres UN Secretary General (Photo by Erol Avdovic Webpublicapress)

Antonio Guterres UN Secretary General (Photo by Erol Avdovic Webpublicapress)

By Erol Avdovic (Webpublica) UNITED NATIONS– Where there is no leadership and vision, the people perish – it is a same old saying in many different languages.

“The first responsibility of a leader is to define reality. The last is to say thank you. In between, the leader is a servant,” said Max DePree American writer and businessman from 20thCentury.

At the United Nations leadership always meant – do not confront the Permanent Five  (P 5) of the UN Security Council – USA, China, Russia, United Kingdom, and France. So if you are the UN Secretary General the best-case scenario is that you can become only the superman of political correctness.

The opening for some original rhetoric will come as well, although not many crucial changes will be achieved.

 

Perfect bureaucrat speaks the truth

 

While Antonio Guterres, the current UN chief more and more talk about “multilateralism”, the organization that he leads – the United Nations is still and mostly the property of those great powers. Even for the politician of such heavy political caliber who once was the Prime Minister of Portugal, obviously with enormous professional experience- it’s is not without political risks to point finger at elephants in a room; even when there’s enough reason or evidence for it.

In a way, Mr. Guterres, who on January 1st completed his two of five years (first) mandate as a UN Secretary General is a perfect impersonation of the 19thCentury Bismarck era, in which politics was defined as the “art of possible.”

In a modern 21st Century it also means what you can’t change, you still can talk about.

But you better chose your words and don’t call the names. The perfect bureaucrat is the name of the game.

“There is no doubt in my mind that global challenges require global solutions,” Guterres told journalists at his first 2019 press conference at the UN Headquarters. He talked about challenges – from climate change to migration and terrorism, but also about, as he put it  “the downsides of globalization.”

One would say – nothing new, and even less original from the late Kofi Annan, the seventh UN Secretary General who once said: “Think globally but act locally.”

Former Secretaries-General Kofi Annan (left) and Ban Ki-moon (right) pay a courtesy call on Secretary-General António Guterres. 13 October 2017 (UN photo by Mark Garten)

Former Secretaries-General Kofi Annan (left) and Ban Ki-moon (right) pay a courtesy call on Secretary-General António Guterres. 13 October 2017 (UN Photo by Mark Garten)

Mr. Guterres, who is the ninth Secretary General (since t the establishment of the United Nations on 24th October 1945 in San Francisco) speaks in a different context now. And certainly in a quite different time.

Before facing the press this time, Secretary General briefed the UN General Assembly (UNGA) on the challenges of 2019. He put up front “some” of UN progress in 2018 — “on many fronts, and in many cases against the odds.”

At UNGA he said – multilateralism is in need today more than ever.

“No country can do it alone,” Guterres stressed the same old, but good UN mantra addressing reporters as well.

He also knows well that “simply saying this will not make it happen,” as he confessed to the press. In his words – “words are not enough.”

But of course words matter.

Although the globalization brought significant progress in many areas and corners of the world it did not solve major problems. Inequalities have grown, and brought additional social unfairness, Guterres pointed rightly so. It has happened not only among countries but even more among the people.

“People, sectors, entire regions have been left behind,” he said.

In the meantime, those who rule the world – are deeply involved in populism. It does not bring either political nor economic or social emancipation, which was naively believed – will follow globalism, Guterres talked about.

And he was telling the truth to the power. Journalists like that.

Secretary-General António Guterres (front left) and United States President Donald Trump (front right) during the high-level meeting on reform of the United Nations convened by the United States. 18 September 2017 (UN Photo by Mark Garten)

Secretary-General António Guterres (front left) and United States President Donald Trump (front right) during the high-level meeting on reform of the United Nations convened by the United States.18 September 2017 (UN Photo by Mark Garten)

It even looked he was talking about US President Donald Trump and his new American era. But again, the UN Secretary General didn’t mention any name.

 

 

Then, who is spreading the fear and hate

 

“The best-selling brand in our world today is indeed fear,” Guterres told UN press.

People can become “easy targets for nationalists, populists and all those who profit from fear.” He talked a “click” driven media motivated with interests rather than with the common morality.

History also lessons should not be abandoned since history tends to repeat itself

“Let’s never forget the lessons of the 1930s,” he warned.

“Hate speech and hate crimes are direct threats to human rights, to sustainable development and to peace and security.”

Mr. Guterres announced that he directed his Special Adviser for the prevention of genocide, Adama Dieng of Senegal – to assemble a UN team, define and response with the “system-wide strategy” and a global plan of action against the hate speech and hate crimes – without any delay.

 

Selling fear and finding tools to stop it

 

The challenge for the worldwide governments and the United Nations is “to show that we care”. UN, in particular, has “to mobilize solutions that respond to people’s fears and anxieties with answers, concrete answers,” Guterres explained.

Thus, UN faces a challenge to use the real tools to stop those whose actions are threats to the World Order that maintain peace and tends to bring benefits to all, not only to the few.

That’s why the United Nations will act in three areas, Guterres said talking about his 2019 agenda: Fair globalization and the 2030 Agenda, showing the UN added value, as one of the Paris Climate Agreement, agreed in Katowice, Poland — as a “vital tool” in fighting climate change. There is also a Global Compact for migration and refugees which was, as Mr. Guterres pointed, “adopted despite a huge misinformation campaign.”

In addition, the “diplomacy for peace” will be employed in war zones with Yemen in the focus of UN; it will stay on top of the agenda, despite the recognized difficulties of its implementation.

How to rebuild the trust in UN

 

But it is easier to say than to do it. After all, the confidence to UN is not higher than during Guterres’ predecessor, mostly cheerful and energetic, certainly not less charismatic Korean in the helm of UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon.

Guterres knows that – “many people still see the UN as cumbersome and bureaucratic.”

Answering the questions of UN-based journalists in New York, on all of the

UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres at the press-conference with his chief spokesman Stephane Dujarric, September 2018 UN HQ New York (Photo Erol Avdovic - Webpublica)

UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres at the press-conference with his chief spokesman Stephane Dujarric, September 2018 UN HQ New York (Photo Erol Avdovic – Webpublica)

current challenges as he put it in order, current UN chief rarely proposed a specific action. But he was clearly advocating all those issues from the right principle.

He obviously knows what has to be done, but he can’t do it without P-5. Let’s face it — the multilateralism carry less specific weight when they have not come from America, China or Russia.

Despite good wishes of every UN Secretary General, the United Nations have not yet adopted key reforms such as the transformation of the Security Council, as this is actually opposed by the P-5.

It has become a taboo topic for every Secretary General. Recognizing reality Guterres thinks it should be left to UN General Assembly where 193 member states have to agree or find a consensus. It’s not a very likely option.

At the same time, the world can’t wait too long and needs decisive and brave leaders who would talk to the power, rather than missing in action.

 

Will US be missed in Davos

 

Answering the question on the decision by the US to cancel the entire trip delegation to Davos (World Economic and Social Forum in Switzerland), Guterres first reaction was somehow expected.

I have no comments.” He only added he believes the “discussions in the forum will be extremely rich.”

Even without the US, which is considered a major player in a global arena?

 

And what about US Dollars

 

Yet, speaking on the UN financial situation and what impact is the United States’ “failure to pay” its total dues of the peacekeeping budget, Guterres was more clear – answering to the Associated Press.

He said UN will present to the General Assembly “a detailed report of that situation” with suggestions on how to address this problem.

Recently the US decided to pay (only) 25 percent of the peacekeeping budget although assessed contribution for the United States is 28 percent.

The problem is that UN cannot successfully solve this by simply reducing the expenditure in 3 percent for peacekeeping.

Guterres said it is a “problem of a gap – of a gap” that, in the last few years and as of today accounts for around $ 600 million.

He said this gap “is being funded and would be funded, incrementally, by troop-contributing countries and police-contributing countries”, although most of them are the poorest countries in UN.

Antonio Guterres UN Secretary General meets US ambassador Nikki Haley at the UN (January 27 - 2017; she has departed the position on January 1 - 2019. (UN Photo by Eskinder Debebe)

Antonio Guterres UN Secretary General meets US ambassador Nikki Haley at the UN (January 27 – 2017; she has departed the position on January 1 – 2019. (UN Photo by Eskinder Debebe)

“So, it’s totally unacceptable from the moral point of view and totally unsustainable to keep this situation forever,” Guterres said talking precisely and clearly to Washington from New York.

 

Hot spot areas – Yemen and Syria

 

On Yemen, the current most catastrophic hot spot area not only in the Middle East but in a broader region, where UN has been accused of biased approach, the Secretary general said he “can guarantee” that all UN people working in Yemen “has no agenda but the Yemeni people and peace in Yemen.”

And on Syria where civil war is on since 2011, Guterres was clear as well: UN wants to pursue “three principles solution”. First the territorial integrity second – to recognize “legitimate security concerns of Turkey.” And, third – to pursue democracy and “recognize a diversity of the population of the Syrian Arab Republic and to allow for a voice to be given to the different components of that population.”

He made it clear UN have not “any plan for any deployment” in Syria for now.

 

Jamal Khashoggi  and UN shortcomings  

 

But, Mr. Guterres has his ups and downs when it comes to the most current world affairs.  Such is the case murdered Saudi journalist Jamal Khasoggi. He is, in fact, largely criticized for lack of action on this issue.

Even after three months since the gruesome killing and some UN member states and civil society clear outcry for UN investigation, Secretary General is not very much responsive.

Answering whether he finds the trial of those accused in Saudi Arabia is credible and sufficient, and will he launch any UN investigation – Guterres offered a confusing position saying he has “not right to launch an investigation.”

Prince Mohammed bin Salman Al Saud, Crown Prince of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. 27 March 2018 United Nations, New York (UN Photo/Eskinder Debebe)

Prince Mohammed bin Salman Al Saud, Crown Prince of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.27 March 2018 United Nations, New York (UN Photo Eskinder Debebe)

“A Secretary‑General as such cannot launch a criminal investigation,” he said answering to the Turkish journalist at the UN.

“I can do it with a mandate from the Security Council if the Security Council recognizes there is a threat to peace and security and, in some less clear circumstances, the General Assembly.”

Guterres also said, “no formal criminal investigation was requested” addressed to him by any UN member state so far.

But this is not the best example of multilateralism, once there is a call for a moral leadership for UN Secretary General to act in the capacity of the world’s human rights champion.

Cynics would say it is harder to point criticism to rich countries, than to those from the poor Third World.

And does he encourage Turkey to submit the request for UN investigation of Jamal Khasoggi’s murder?

“I’m not in a position to encourage member States,” he said. He added, “it depends on decisions of the Human Rights Council.”

 

And then – North Korea

 

On easing sanctions at the UN Security Council against North Korea (DPRK) including restarting humanitarian aid, and also pushing this process of denuclearisation, Guterres said aid should be separated from political objectives.

“We should never refuse humanitarian aid to any country in the world in any circumstance for the people of that country if the humanitarian aid can be distributed to the people of that country,” the UN Secretary General said.

“We believe it’s high time to make sure that the negotiations between the United States and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea start again seriously and that a roadmap is clearly defined for the denuclearisation of the Korean Peninsula,” he added in a political tune.

 

Lost connection with Aung San Suu Kyi

 

Aung San Suu Kyi in Geneva 2012 (UN Photo Violaine Martin)

Aung San Suu Kyi in Geneva 2012 (UN Photo Violaine Martin)

And when it was the last time he spoke to Aung San Suu Kyi leader of Myanmar, and sometimes ago global political star also at the UN?

“Well, this is already some time that we spoke for the last time,” Guterres responded.

“I feel an enormous frustration with the lack of progress in relation to Myanmar and with the suffering of the (Rohingya) people.”

He said he can not forget the people living in Bangladesh are still in “extremely difficult circumstances.” UN insists “the conditions to be created for them to be willing to go back,” he said.

 

China and their Muslims

 

On question of more than million Uyghurs (Muslim minority) in China after UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet, asked access to see Uyghurs in “re‑education camps” – and Beijing willing to allow UN to inspect but with some conditions attached, Guterres acknowledged the dialogue between High Commissioner and the People’s Republic of China.

“I am not in a position to give any details at the present moment. And probably, if I would be talking about it, I would make it more difficult for it to succeed. I hope that those discussions will be successful,” he said.

 

When in doubt – take no action

 

Mr. Guterres confessed he is “not a supporter of having initiatives just to be in the newspapers.”

“I think initiatives need to be taken when they are useful,” he summed up his practical political philosophy, sticking somewhat with the other side of the public discourse.

On the other hand, diplomacy has always been somehow secretive and even mysterious.

Needless to say – historically, the focus of Portuguese diplomacy has always

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. 3 January 2017 United Nations, New York (UN Photo by Mark Garten)

been to preserve its independence, but also the political stability in an inner circle.

It is a mentality in which the Secretary General successfully resides in these principles.

It is a mentality in which this UN Secretary General successfully resides following these important principles.

He is not to blame that World has not yet agreed on what is more important: security or democracy? Freedom or security.

 

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