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Home / Press Release / U.N. Security Council Elects Former High Commissioner on Refugees as Secretary-General
October 06, 2016

U.N. Security Council Elects Former High Commissioner on Refugees as Secretary-General

Washington, D.C.—Human Rights First today welcomed the U.N. Security Council vote to elect former prime minister of Portugal António Guterres as the next Secretary-General of the United Nations. Guterres served from 2005-2015 as the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), overseeing the agency’s work to address the plight of refugees and displaced people.

“The complex challenges we face in the world today underscore the need for nations to work together—and for experienced and principled leadership at the United Nations. We welcome the selection of Mr. Guterres as the next Secretary-General,” said Human Rights First’s president and CEO Elisa Massimino. “His deep commitment to the ideals of human dignity and his experience in galvanizing the world community to address the needs of those displaced by persecution and conflict are exactly what the U.N.needs to respond to today’s global challenges.” 

The world is facing the largest refugee crisis since World War II, with over 65 million people worldwide displaced by conflict and persecution.  Over 4.7 million Syrians have fled their country to seek refuge from violence and persecution, and many more are displaced within Syria in need of humanitarian assistance. As Europe struggles to respond to the refugee crisis at its doorstep, extremist groups have been emboldened to inhibit policymaking, sow fear and societal divisions, and create permissive conditions for violent hate crimes to occur.

Human Rights First notes that these humanitarian crises increasingly expose the willingness of powerful states—including permanent members of the U.N. Security Council—to violate international law in pursuit of political and strategic objectives with impunity. Additionally, governments around the world are systematically restricting the activities of independent human rights activists in violation of international law, weakening implementation and accountability mechanisms for human rights standards developed through the United Nations over decades and thereby endangering international peace and security.

“We hope that Mr. Guterres will usher in a new multilateral effort to reaffirm the primacy of universal human rights principles, and set in motion ambitious new initiatives to address the root causes of the world’s greatest human rights problems and humanitarian crises,” added Massimino.

For more information or to speak with Massimino, contact Mary Elizabeth Margolis at margolisme@humanrightsfirst.org or 212-845-5269.