New York – Former Portuguese Prime Minister Antonio Guterres is set to start a five-year term as U.N. secretary general in January as the U.N. General Assembly unanimously appointed him on Thursday as Ban Ki-moon’s successor.
The 193-member assembly passed a resolution by consensus to officially approve a recommendation from the 15-member U.N. Security Council, which had previously moved to appoint Guterres.
Guterres, 67, will replace Ban Ki-moon, 72, of South Korea. Ban will step down at the end of 2016 after serving two five-year terms. Guterres was Portugal’s prime minister from 1995 to 2002 and U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees from 2005 to 2015.
Peter Thomson, president of the U.N. General Assembly, praised the transparent selection process that led to the election of Guterres.
Addressing the General Assembly on Thursday, Guterres pledged to act as an “honest broker” and said he would take a humble approach in trying to deal with global issues, placing human dignity at the core of his work.
“Diversity can bring us together, not drive us apart,” Guterres, quoted by Reuters, told the General Assembly.
Guterres was born in Lisbon in 1949. He studied engineering and physics at the Instituto Superior Tecnico, before going into academia after graduating in 1971.
In 1995, three years after being elected the Socialist Party’s secretary-general, he was voted in as prime minister, a position he held until 2002.
Guterres, who is fluent in Portuguese, English, Spanish and French, turned his attention to the world of international diplomacy, and became the U.N.’s high commissioner for refugees in 2005.
He has two children from his marriage to his first wife, who passed away in 1998. He remarried in 2001.