Yesterday, the United Nations Security Council selected Mr. Antonio Guterres as the next UN Secretary-General. Throughout the straw-poll process and in my blog of June 30th, I have held out hope that the UN Security Council would elect a Secretary-General representing humanity.
The world, once again, faces existential challenges, just as it did over 70 years ago. The United Nations, created to meet those challenges, has yet to attain its full potential. Our very principles for peaceful co-existence are being torn apart by xenophobia, sectarianism, racism, and intolerance, all while we face a multitude of threats to the planet, such as climate change and a widening gap between the haves and the have-nots. International peace and security, and the universality of human rights, remain elusive. An unprecedented number of refugees and internally displaced populations are forced to flee their homes. Again and again, we ask ourselves: "where is our humanity?"
The United Nations is a value-based organization. Universal values lie at the heart our humanity, and their realization hinges on action, or "implementation, implementation, implementation," as Mr. Guterres stressed in his Vision Statement. Today, the gap between universal values and principles as enshrined in the UN Charter and international law and the reality on the ground remains wider than ever.
Numerous attempts have been made to come to grips with our compelling experience and purpose as we struggle with wars, violence, injustice and inequity. At the organizational, political and diplomatic level, countless thousands of documents have been produced to improve processes, design structural changes, articulate reforms and make the oft-repeated appeal for "political will." However, restructuring our offices and business-processes can only complement, but not substitute, reconstructing an organizational culture and attitudes.
The values and principles of the United Nations - by virtue of being values and principles - also require a deep-seated seated humanity to drive and inspire change. This kind of value-based humanity must be consistently displayed by the leadership, so as to lead and inspire a whole organization.
Humanity is not an intellectual notion. It is a spiritual experience. It entails a capacity to experience compassion for the people we serve. It means moral courage and integrity. It means humility. It entails connecting the dots, building consensus and getting the rest of humanity on board - steadfastly, passionately and, at times, quietly - towards our shared values. As the High Commissioner for Refugees, and as a candidate for the United Nations Secretary-General, Mr. Guterres has consistently displayed these traits.
Indeed, Mr. Guterres brings with him a unique knowledge and understanding of the United Nations and its challenges. He also comes with the kind of maturity and depth that the UN needs. "He is a deeply spiritual person, a humanitarian and humanist," as Jose Ramos-Horta, Nobel Peace Prize Laureate with a solid experience of the United Nations, notes in his Huffington World Post article http://www.huffingtonpost.com/jose-ramoshorta/un-hard-won-transparency_b_12270064.html.
Today, the UN Security Council has chosen a Secretary-General representing humanity. To quote Mr. Guterres eloquent conclusion in his Vision Statement, "values are, indeed, the defining argument and vital strength...." and "the success of the UN and the international community lies in our common commitment to our common values.../...an expression of our common humanity."
Without making a comparison to the legendary UN Secretary-General, Dag Hammarskjold just yet, there is hope that Mr. Guterres may not be far from also becoming a similar personification of the United Nations principles and vision. _______________________ Yasmine Sherif is a lawyer and UN veteran with over 25 years of international experience, and the author of The Case for Humanity: An Extraordinary Session, with foreword by José Ramos-Horta. The Case for Humanity is available at the UN Bookshop in New York, select bookstores and on amazon.com http://bit.ly/case4humanity