Diplomats “watching” Guterres to see who gets what in way of UN’s top jobs

With the former Portuguese prime minister who describes himself as an “honest broker” unanimously appointed as the 9th secretary general of the United Nations, focus now is on who António Guterres appoints to senior positions.

Reuters news agency reports that diplomats are “watching” amid speculation that “China would like to see one of its nationals to head peacekeeping and that Russia is keen to lead political affairs”.

Right now, says Reuters, a “French man runs peacekeeping, an American man leads political affairs and a British man is in charge of humanitarian affairs”.

But it is clear, a source told the news service, that China is “making a significant challenge for the Department of Peacekeeping” – and when asked earlier this month if Russia was interested in any top jobs, the country’s UN ambassador Vitaly Churkin told reporters: “We do believe that Russia should be properly represented in the Secretariat”.

He did not specify in which post, says Reuters, but added: “We are not the only ones who are expressing the interest in various positions”.

Comments like these throw new light on the much-publicised last-minute attempt, purportedly led by Russia, to field an 11th hour candidate in the tortuous voting process, through which Guterres eventually sailed victorious (click here).

But a Senior UN Security Council source has stressed that “several people” have since “insisted that Guterres did not do any deals to win Russia” and is the kind of person who “will pick a strong team around him”, based “on merit”.

Officially appointed to his new role yesterday (Thursday) by the 193-member UN general assembly, Guterres said he would take a “humble approach” in trying to deal with global issues, with human dignity at the core of his work.

He will be taking over from current UN secretary general Ban ki-Moon on January 1, 2017.

In celebration of yesterday’s official acclamation, the illuminated flags of Portugal and the United Nations were hung outside the presidential palace in Belém from sundown to midnight.

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