ABU DHABI, 7th October, 2016 (WAM) — It’s all but signed and sealed that former Portuguese Prime Minister Antonio Guterres will become the next Secretary-General of the United Nations, taking over from Ban Ki-moon when his term expires at the end of the year.

Guterres, the former UN high commissioner for refugees, spent a decade advocating for the desolate and desperate uprooted by natural disasters, politics and sectarian conflicts.

Since the informal polling process began to replace Ban, Guterres has always managed to be the frontrunner and a non-binding vote on Wednesday showed that he had the backing of 13 of the 15 member-nations of the UN Security Council, with two countries abstaining.

The clincher for the socialist politician, who led Portugal for seven years after his 1995 election, was that none of the five permanent members of the UN Security Council the United States, the United Kingdom, Russia, China and France opposed his candidacy, nor chose to exercise a veto. That collective approval all but assures Guterres of the backing of the Security Council and its subsequent recommendation then to the General Assembly of the UN as a whole, said Gulf News in its editorial on Friday.

The former Physics teacher will become the ninth secretary-general and will assume the leadership at a time of unprecedented challenges.

“Given his background in humanitarian relief and refugee support, he will be acutely aware of the need for a comprehensive overhaul of operations and how to ensure that the UN is properly funded. Indeed, its peace-keeping operations, particularly in Africa, are blighted by damning reports on the misbehaviour and criminal activities of those who wear the blue beret and those scandals need to be tackled as a matter of urgency,” it added.

But the UN itself is at a critical juncture in its 70-year history. Given the makeup of the UN Security Council and the veto powers of the permanent five, the UN struggles to be active and relevant in a meaningful way when it comes to crises. In Syria, for example, vetoes exercised by both Russia and China have prevented action against the regime of President Bashar Al Assad over its inhumane treatment of civilians and actions that are tantamount to the execution of war crimes.

Veto issues aside, the composition of the Security Council, with its rotation of nations based on regular elections, perpetuates biasness against regional powers and interests that are relevant based on social, economic and political necessity. Why, for example, should India, with its huge population, not have a permanent seat? Arabs too lack a voice, while South East Asia, Latin and Central America and Australasia are similarly unrepresented, the paper conclded.

WAM/Hazem/Majok