The Professional Career of António Guterres by Sezen ÖZKALP


Hello, dear readers! Through this article of mine, you will be learning more about the career and lifetime of the current Secretary-General of the United Nations, António Guterres.

Who is António Guterres?

António Guterres has been assigned as the ninth Secretary-General of the United Nations for a five-year term of office on 1st of January, 2017 and he remains on duty ever since.

A Brief Biography of António Guterres

António Manuel de Oliveira Guterres was born in Lisbon, the capital city of Portugal, on April 30, 1949. Mr Guterres graduated from the Instituto Superior Técnico with a degree in engineering. He can fluently speak Portuguese, French, English and Spanish. He is married to Catarina de Almeida Vaz Pinto who is the Deputy Mayor for Culture of Lisbon and has two children, a stepson and three grandchildren. 

From 1971 to 1975, he was a professor at Instituto Superior Técnico where he had graduated from. While he was working as a professor in 1974 he also served as the ministerial assistant of Mario Soares, a socialist who later became the prime minister and president of Portugal. 

Between 1976-1983 and 1985-1995 he served as a parliament member of Portugal. Mr Guterres was a member of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe and president of its Commission for Demography, Migrations and Refugees between 1981 and 1983. 

Furthermore, he co-founded the Portuguese Refugee Council in 1991 and has been elected as the Secretary-General of the Socialist Party of Portugal in 1992.  António Guterres took part as the Vice President in the “Socialist International” which is a global organization of social democratic, socialist and labour parties starting in 1992 until 1999. 

In October 1995, his career as the Prime Minister of Portugal began and came to an end in 2002. While he was the Prime Minister, he was immensely working on resolving the crisis in East Timor. Moreover, he was the President of the Socialist International between 1999 and 2005. 

Mr Guterres served as the President of the European Council in 2000 and as the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees between 2005 and 2015. His work as the High Commissioner gave him the chance to witness what the most vulnerable people are going through and lots of humanitarian crises. António Guterres took office as the Secretary-General of the United Nations on 1st of January, 2017.

How Did Mr Guterres Manage To Become The Secretary-General Of The United Nations?

It may seem interesting that a man with a degree of engineering became the top diplomat of the world. Even though Mr Guterres had graduated as an engineer, the political changes in his country encouraged him to head towards a political career. Portugal was led by dictatorship for years but the dictator António de Oliveira Salazar was eventually toppled.

Following the novelty in the country, Portugal began its transition to democracy and Mr Guterres became more active and involved in politics as a result of the alteration.

As mentioned above, Mr Guterres has a very glorious political and diplomatic career in both his country and the global field. As a matter, of course, all his work led him to be the Secretary-General of the UN. However, the most significant one is probably his career as a UNHCR High Commissioner in my view, because UNHRC is one of the world’s most humanitarian organizations and it is already a UN sub-body. 

Furthermore, in order to become the Secretary-General of the United Nations, Mr Guterres needed the trust of Member States since they are choosing the Secretary-General with a vote. In the end, it is something very remarkable and hard to become the Secretary-General of the UN. So how can someone manage to be the Secretary-General? One of the main reasons why Mr Guterres is chosen is his political and diplomatic career as I have mentioned earlier. And the other one I believe is his point of view as a whole and towards global issues. His belief in the values of peace, justice, human dignity, tolerance and solidarity have played an important role, as he places key importance on alleviating the suffering of the vulnerable, particularly refugees and those in conflict zones. For example, Mr Guterres believes that political issues should have a priority because they are the main steps to solve all other humanitarian problems. Also when Mr Guterres was elected he said “I believe this process means that the true winner today is the credibility of the UN. And it also made very clear to me that, as Secretary-General, having been chosen by all Member States, I must be at the service of them all equally and with no agenda but the one enshrined in the UN Charter.”

Duties and Responsibilities of Mr Guterres As A Secretary-General

The UN describes its Secretary-General asEqual parts diplomat and advocate, civil servant and CEO, the Secretary-General is a symbol of United Nations ideals and a spokesman for the interests of the world’s peoples, in particular, the poor and vulnerable among them.” while the UN Charter identifies the Secretary-General as “’ chief administrative’ office of the Organization, who shall act in that capacity and perform “such other functions as are entrusted” to him or her by the Security Council, General Assembly, Economic and Social Council and other United Nations organs.” 

The Secretary-General is further empowered with the permission to “bring to the attention of the Security Council any matter which in his opinion may threaten the maintenance of international peace and security”. 

The Secretary-General must uphold the values and the moral authority of the United Nations and speak and act for peace at the time while also they have to take careful account of the concerns of the Member States. Some examples from the daily work of the Secretary-General is to participate in the sessions of the UN bodies, have meetings with world leaders and government officials and worldwide travel in order to maintain communication with people, Member States etc. and keep being informed about international affairs. 

Another duty of the Secretary-General is to issue annual reports outlining the activities, future priorities and goals of the United Nations. Moreover, the Secretary-General is the chairman of the United Nations System Chief Executives Board for Coordination (CEB), which brings together the Executive Heads of all UN funds, programs and specialized agencies twice a year. 

A very important role of the Secretary-General is the use of “good offices” which is defined as “steps taken publicly and in private, drawing upon his independence, impartiality and integrity, to prevent international disputes from arising, escalating or spreading”. 


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Written by Sezen Özkalp

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