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.”


UK hopes to be able to consider lockdown easing in March

UK hopes to be able to consider lockdown easing in March
Updated 22 min 55 sec ago

UK hopes to be able to consider lockdown easing in March

UK hopes to be able to consider lockdown easing in March
  • Prime Minister Boris Johnson has set a target of vaccinating the elderly, including care home residents, the clinically vulnerable and frontline workers

LONDON: Britain’s government hopes it can meet its target for rolling out COVID-19 vaccines and be able to consider easing lockdown restrictions by March, foreign minister Dominic Raab said on Sunday.
The country, which has Europe’s highest COVID-19 death toll, has been under a national lockdown since Jan. 5, when schools were closed for most pupils, non-essential businesses were shut to the public, and people were ordered to work from home where possible.
“What we want to do is get out of this national lockdown as soon as possible,” Raab told Sky News television.
“By early spring, hopefully by March, we’ll be in a position to make those decisions. I think it’s right to say we won’t do it all in one big bang. As we phase out the national lockdown, I think we’ll end up phasing through a tiered approach.”
Prime Minister Boris Johnson has set a target of vaccinating the elderly, including care home residents, the clinically vulnerable and frontline workers — or roughly more than 13 million people — by mid-February.
If all goes smoothly, he has said that England can consider easing lockdown restrictions from that time.
The Sunday Times newspaper said British ministers had reached a deal to approve a three-point plan that could lead to some lockdown restrictions being lifted as soon as early March.
Areas will have restrictions eased once their death rate has fallen, the number of hospital admissions drops and some people aged between 50 and 70 are vaccinated, the newspaper said.
The Sunday Times quoted cabinet ministers as saying they were prepared to resist pressure from health advisers to delay the changes until most people are vaccinated, a process that would take until the summer at least.
“For the first time there are no significant divisions between hawks and doves in the cabinet,” a cabinet source told the newspaper. “Everyone accepted that we need to lock down hard and everyone accepts that we need to open up before everyone is vaccinated.”
A spokesman in Johnson’s office declined to comment on the report.