The first Secretary-General of the United Nations, Trygve Lie, famously described his role as ‘the most impossible job in the world’. These words are likely to resonate with António Guterres, who has taken over the reins of the UN during one of the most trying periods it has yet had to confront.
Concerns over poverty and inequality, climate change, humanitarian crises in Syria, Yemen and beyond, terrorism, global economic uncertainty and heightened tensions between Russia and the West are all exacerbated by recurring gridlock within the Security Council. The crucial first 1,000 days of the Sustainable Development Goals agenda are well underway. As urgent matters pile up in the new Secretary General’s inbox, UN’s ability to respond to the myriad challenges of the current times is increasingly questioned.
What should be the priorities for the new Secretary-General? Which issues is he likely to champion, and what might thwart him in his mission? How will the Guterres era differ from that of his long-serving predecessor? What are the expectations from the developing nations? And what changes must he make within the UN system in order to achieve results – or is it broken beyond repair?