Guterres seeks to breathe new life into UN

Guterres seeks to breathe new life into UN
Antonio Guterres addresses a news conference in Geneva in this file photo. (Reuters)
Updated 31 December 2016

Guterres seeks to breathe new life into UN

Guterres seeks to breathe new life into UN

THE UNITED NATIONS: Antonio Guterres assumes the reins of the United Nations on Sunday hoping to breathe new life into the world body.
The Portuguese former prime minister, 67, will become the first onetime head of government to lead the UN, succeeding South Korea’s Ban Ki-moon for a five-year term.
His unanimous election has energized UN diplomats who see him as a skilled politician who may be able to overcome the divisions crippling the United Nations.
One Western ambassador regretted only that a woman wasn’t picked to take the post for the first time, adding with a smile that “except for the gender, he is perfect.”
Guterres faces a monumental task grappling with complex crises in Syria, South Sudan, Yemen, Burundi, North Korea and elsewhere — overseeing a clunky entrenched bureaucracy and a bitterly divided Security Council that will leave him little room to maneuver.
Donald Trump’s arrival in the White House on Jan. 20 likely will further complicate his task.
Guterres has acknowledged that “the secretary general is not the leader of the world,” but rather that his work depends on the goodwill of the world’s great powers.
After two terms under Ban, widely criticized for lacking initiative and charisma, some diplomats are banking on a change of style and personality to revitalize the UN.
An engineer by training and a practicing Catholic, Guterres fought for migrants’ rights as the UN High Commissioner for Refugees from June 2005 to December 2015.
He served as prime minister of Portugal from 1995 to 2002, anchoring his country to the European Union and working to raise living standards.
He has laid out three priorities for change: Working for peace, supporting sustainable development and improving internal UN management.
One issue looms above the others, however.
“My deepest regret on leaving office is the continuing nightmare in Syria,” Ban recently declared.
The UN has looked on helplessly as the Syrian Army laid siege to the fighters' stronghold of Aleppo, the country’s second city, backed by Russia and Iran.
Their sole concession to the UN was to allow a small handful of observers to follow the evacuation of thousands of civilians.
“Too little, too late,” one diplomat said.
Guterres inherits the portfolio with Moscow and Ankara spearheading a nationwide cease-fire effort.
Ban has already gone through two Syria mediators — Kofi Annan and Lakhdar Brahimi, who both resigned — before appointing Staffan de Mistura, who has appeared exasperated over the UN’s powerlessness over the conflict.
The same helplessness and at times disunity has marked the UN’s response to the civil war that ravaged South Sudan for three years. A US initiative to impose an arms embargo failed, winning only seven votes from the 15 countries that sit on the Security Council.
The approximately 13,000 peacekeepers deployed in the country have been criticized for failing to protect the civilians crowding UN bases.
Elsewhere on the continent, accusations of rape have permanently tarnished the reputation of UN peacekeepers in the Central African Republic.
Guterres has acknowledged the criticism, saying “it is time for the United Nations to recognize its shortcomings and to reform the way it works.”
“The United Nations needs to be nimble, efficient and effective.”


’Get out Bolsonaro!’ say ex-supporters in Brazil as COVID-19, vaccines weigh

’Get out Bolsonaro!’ say ex-supporters in Brazil as COVID-19, vaccines weigh
Updated 48 min 11 sec ago

’Get out Bolsonaro!’ say ex-supporters in Brazil as COVID-19, vaccines weigh

’Get out Bolsonaro!’ say ex-supporters in Brazil as COVID-19, vaccines weigh
RIO DE JANEIRO: Meggy Fernandes voted for Jair Bolsonaro in Brazil’s 2018 presidential election, attracted by the far-right former army captain’s promise to shake up a hidebound political establishment mired in endless graft scandals.
But after watching him jettison his anti-corruption pledges, strike pacts with the politicians he vowed to shun, and, most importantly, botch Brazil’s coronavirus response, Fernandes, 66, now says she was wrong to place her faith in Bolsonaro.
“I’m so revolted by my vote,” she said in a supermarket carpark in Rio de Janeiro, at an unusual pro-impeachment rally convened by right-wing groups. “Bolsonaro is overseeing a terrible government. He’s doing a disservice to the nation. His handling of the pandemic is completely wrong.”
Despite repeatedly denying the severity of the pandemic and overseeing a response that has blighted Brazil with the world’s second highest number of COVID-19 fatalities after the United States, Bolsonaro ended 2020 riding high in the polls, buoyed by a generous coronavirus support package.
January has been less kind, however. The welfare program is now over, leaving many poor Brazilians stranded as a second wave gathers steam. Others have been irked by the federal government’s slow and patchy vaccine rollout, and Bolsonaro’s personal pledge not to take any COVID-19 shot.
A recent surge in cases in the northern city of Manaus, which was one of the first places badly hit by the virus during the first wave, has proved to be another stain on the president’s coronavirus response. The city, deep in the Amazon rainforest, ran out of oxygen last week, leaving hospitals reliant on black-market cylinders, or tanks imported from Bolsonaro’s longtime foe Venezuela.
Support for Bolsonaro has fallen by the largest amount since the beginning of his government in 2019, a Datafolha poll on Friday showed. His administration was rated as bad or terrible by 40% of respondents, compared with 32% in early-December. Just under a third of respondents rated Bolsonaro’s government as good or excellent, versus 37% in the previous poll.
In Brasilia, though, Bolsonaro seems to be on steadier ground. A majority of Brazilians reject him being impeached, a second Datafolha poll on Friday found. It showed that 53% of respondents are against Congress opening impeachment proceedings, up from 50% in a previous survey. Those favoring impeachment fell to 43% from 46%.
Bolsonaro-backed candidates are also expected to win control of Congress next month. His growing willingness to discuss political horse-trading has helped him secure a base of center-right lawmakers who could scotch any chances of impeachment.
But it is exactly those partnerships that brought out a smattering of protesters to a scorching parking lot in Rio’s Barra da Tijuca neighborhood on Sunday.
Convened by Vem Pra Rua and Movimento Brasil Livre, two right-wing groups whose nationwide protests in 2016 helped precipitate the impeachment and later removal of former leftist President Dilma Rousseff, Sunday’s protests were full of disgusted former Bolsonaro supporters. Similar events took place in Sao Paulo and Brasilia, with left-wing pro-impeachment protests across Brazil on Saturday.
Although turnout in Rio was thin, if the numbers swell in the months ahead, it may pose a problem for the president ahead of 2022, when he is certain to seek re-election.
Like others at the protest, Patricia Resende, a 57-year-old civil servant, said Bolsonaro was unlikely to be impeached.
She said many of her friends who voted for Bolsonaro still liked him. But Resende said she had come to “take a stand” against what she described as his “electoral swindle.”
“He has been a coronavirus denier,” she said. “He didn’t try to buy enough vaccines for a population of more than 200 million people.”
As the crowd assembled, Fernandes picked up the microphone and gave an impassioned speech about Bolsonaro’s handling of the pandemic and her disappointment of his presidency.
“’Long live Bolsonaro!’” she exclaimed as she finished, before realizing her error, blushing and quickly correcting herself. “Sorry, I meant ‘Get out Bolsonaro!”