The UN General Assembly on Thursday formally appointed Antonio Guterres as the new secretary-general of the United Nations, replacing Ban Ki-moon.
The 193 member states adopted by acclamation a resolution appointing the former prime minister of Portugal for a five-year term beginning January 1.
Guterres won unanimous support from the UN Security Council during a vote last week that capped the most transparent campaign ever held at the United Nations for the top post.
The 67-year-old polyglot campaigned on a pledge to promote human rights and enact reforms within the UN system, seen as clunky and too slow to respond to unfolding disasters.
The socialist politician, who also served as UN refugee chief for a decade, is expected to play a more prominent role as the world’s diplomat-in-chief than Ban, the South Korean former foreign minister who will step down after two five-year terms.
Guterres repeatedly warned that millions of refugees fleeing conflict in Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere would turn to Europe if nations such as Turkey and Jordan did not receive more help to cope with their refugee populations.
“When people say they cannot receive Syrian refugees because they are Muslims, those that say it are supporting terrorist organisations and allowing them to be much more effective in recruiting people,” he said in December just before he stepped down as UN refugee chief.
Born in Lisbon on April 30, 1949, Guterres joined Portugal’s Socialist Party following the country’s 1974 “Carnation Revolution” which put an end to nearly five decades of dictatorship.
His appointment as secretary-general comes at a time of global anxiety over the ongoing war in Syria, the refugee crisis and raging conflicts in South Sudan and Yemen.
The Security Council is deadlocked over Syria after two draft resolutions were defeated in separate votes over the weekend, one of which was vetoed by Damascus ally Russia.