António Guterres swears in as the new Secretary-General of the United Nations

The former Portuguese prime minister will replace Ban Ki-moon on the first of January and become the ninth United Nations Secretary-General. He will place development at the center of the organization’s work and hopes to be the leader of the changes the UN needs.

Guterres, a former Socialist prime minister of Portugal and the head of the United Nations refugee agency for 10 years, focused his speech mainly on the importance of preventing conflict. He also said he would make the United Nations more “nimble” and “efficient” and promised a deep management reform for the following years.

Most UN diplomats affirm Guterres’ greatest challenge will certainly be dealing with the Trump administration. In his speech on Monday he indicated he would be “gentle”, at least for now.

The truth is that he is now under pressure to recruit women to his administration. Many diplomats had been campaigning for a woman to lead the international organization for the first time in 70 years, and Mr. Guterres has assured gender parity in his leadership.

Moreover, the General Assembly made an emotive tribute to Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, who leaves the office at the end of December after leading the United Nations for the past 10 years.

UN troops failed to protect civilians in South Sudan

Last Tuesday a report was issued into the performance of the United Nations peacekeeping mission in South Sudan, where in July government soldiers went on a killing, raping and looting in the capital, Juba. UN troops failed to respond to the attacks in the Terrain Hotel, which included sexual violence by armed South Sudanese soldiers against civilians. Five United Nations staff members and more than a dozen other humanitarian workers were killed.

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon appointed a group of independent investigators so as to give light to UN troops’ intervention in the country. The report concluded that there has been “a lack of leadership on the part of key senior Mission personnel” which definitely culminated “in a chaotic and ineffective response to the violence.”

The investigation has found that the peacekeeping force, formed by troops from China, Ethiopia, Nepal and India, did not operate under a unified command. In fact, it received opposing orders, and the Chinese military abandoned its posts at least two times. Moreover, it has been discovered that rescuers never appeared even though several calls were done to the mission’s headquarters. Consequently, most of the victims were rescued by a private security company the following day.

A month after the attacks in Juba and as a consequence of the ineffective intervention of UN soldiers, the UN Security Council commanded thousands of additional troops in order to reinforce the South Sudan peacekeeping missions.