Remarks With United Nations Secretary-General-designate Antonio Guterres Before Their Meeting

John Kerry
Secretary of State
The Treaty Room
Washington, DC
November 4, 2016

SECRETARY KERRY: Good morning, everybody. I am extremely pleased to welcome here the new secretary-general of the United Nations, Antonio Guterres, who brings very, very special and important skills to this job at this particular moment in time. He has dedicated a lifetime to public service – former prime minister of Portugal and a commissioner of the UN mission on human – on refugees. And I think everybody in the world knows that there are challenges enough to fill anybody’s basket for a lifetime right now.

So I think the ease with which he was selected to be the new secretary-general really underscores everybody’s confidence in his leadership skills, in his readiness to tackle the difficult issues that we all face of violent extremism, of poverty, of violence, terrorism, of failed states. This is a time where the principles of the United Nations and leadership will be as important as at any time that I can remember. And I think that Antonio is the man for the moment; he’s got big responsibilities, but he’s got energy and skills and experience to bring to the table.

So we have a lot to talk about today with respect to all of these challenges: Afghanistan, the threat of failure of states in Africa, in Central Asia, and elsewhere, Middle East, the challenge of Syria, Yemen, of Libya, Middle East peace process, the flow of weapons, human trafficking, climate change – a major undertaking of the United Nations. So I personally am excited that I have a small overlap of time to be able to work with him, but I know that in whatever I do in the future, I intend to be supportive of the secretary-general and to try to work with him to help solve some of these many problems we face. So I’m really delighted to welcome him here today and I look forward to my conversation with him.

Mr. Secretary-General.

SECRETARY-GENERAL-DESIGNATE GUTERRES: Well, we are all aware that we live in a difficult world. We are all aware that conflicts have multiplied in a dramatic way that people are suffering enormously. And I believe that the cooperation between the United States and United Nations is a key factor in order to improve the present global situation – to bring together sustainable development, human rights, and peace and security and to make sure that the UN has an effective added value in trying to address the most dramatic situations we face today in the world.

During ten years, I was, as a commissioner for refugees, supporting the most vulnerable of the vulnerable. But I discovered that really what matters is not essentially to support the people that are in trouble, but to make sure that we create the conditions for the people not to be in trouble, to stop this flow of refugees, and that means a surge in diplomacy for peace. Secretary Kerry has done a fantastic job in this regard and I would like to be one more piece in the efforts of the international community to make peace prevail.

SECRETARY KERRY: Thank you all very much. Thank you. Well put. Thank you.