New UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Tuesday called for a “whole new approach” to prevent war, in his first address to the Security Council since taking office.
Guterres took over from Ban Ki-moon on January 1 with a promise to shake up the world body and boost efforts to tackle global crises, from the carnage in Syria to the bloodshed in South Sudan.
The former Portuguese prime minister and head of the UN refugee agency told a council debate on conflict prevention that too much time and resources were being spent on responding to crises rather than preventing them.
“People are paying too high a price,” he said. “We need a whole new approach.”
The UN chief announced plans to launch an initiative to enhance mediation as part of his commitment to a “surge in diplomacy for peace,” but there were no details.
Guterres is expected to have a more hands-on approach than his predecessor Ban who left most of the mediation efforts to his special envoys.
The new UN chief is confronted with a deeply divided Security Council that has been unable to take decisive action to end the war in Syria, now in its sixth year.
Complicating Guterres’ plan to revitalize UN diplomacy is the question mark hanging over the foreign policy of the new US administration under President-elect Donald Trump.
“Too many prevention opportunities have been lost because member states mistrusted each other’s motives, and because of concerns over national sovereignty,” said Guterres, in a veiled swipe at council powers.
“Today, we need to demonstrate leadership, and strengthen the credibility and authority of the United Nations, by putting peace first,” he said.
Later this week, Guterres will make his first foray abroad as UN chief, heading to Geneva to shore up Cyprus peace talks.
He returns to Geneva next week to meet Chinese President Xi Jinping, whose support for the United Nations has been steadily growing.