Get to know: The United Nations Secretary-General and his role

With the release of the UN’s latest climate report this week, today we’re looking at the United Nations Secretary-General, António Guterres. 

Prime Minister

Prior to the UN, Guterres was a politician in his home country of Portugal as part of the Socialist Party. Guterres held a variety of positions from the beginning of his political career in 1974, eventually working his way up to Prime Minister. He served as Portugal’s Prime Minister between 1995 and 2002.

United Nations 

After his time as Prime Minister, Guterres moved to international diplomacy, becoming the UN’s High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in 2005. During his time in this role, he specifically focused on attempting to get the world’s richest nations to do more for those in areas of conflict and disaster.  

Guterres’ role as Secretary-General 

It has previously been described as the “most impossible job in the world” and “the world’s moderator”. According to the UN, the role of the Secretary-General is equal parts diplomat and advocate, civil servant and CEO. The role serves as “chief administrative officer” of the organisation. Although, many powers within the role are up to interpretation to the individual appointed. Depending on the individual, sometimes the Secretary-General takes a more activist approach, while others have been more administrative. On Guterres’ first day in the role in 2017, he pledged to work towards peace, saying “let us resolve to put peace first”.  

Other day-to-day tasks include: 

  • Attending sessions of UN bodies
  • Consultations with world leaders 
  • Prevents international disputes from arising, escalating or spreading 

In June this year, Guterres was reappointed as Secretary-General for a second term. 

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