Seton Hall Graduate Degree in International Affairs
Seton Hall Graduate Degree in International Affairs

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The UN’s Ninth Secretary-General Takes Office Amid Loud Calls for Change


António Guterres, the new secretary-general of the United Nations, took office on Jan. 1, 2017. His first speech in the Security Council, above, centered on conflict prevention and sustaining peace. RICK BAJORNAS/UN PHOTO

António Guterres, the new United Nations secretary-general, was chosen on merit and takes over the UN during an especially turbulent period and after a decade of low-key leadership and low staff morale. The “first” UN of governments includes the five veto-wielding members of the Security Council (P-5) that are stoking conflict, flouting international humanitarian law, breaching territorial sovereignty and whose publics are turning inward.

The “second” UN of organizations is helping to relieve the plight of tens of millions of people displaced by wars and poverty, but is viewed by many from inside and outside as slothful and disjointed. The need for an effective world organization has never been greater, but current crises and longstanding shortcomings are exposing its weaknesses.

Constant feedback is needed from the “third” UN, in whose name the world body was created. This fourth FUNDS global survey reflects the concerns of the global public and proposes a host of changes for the new secretary-general and his transition team to consider.

The fourth FUNDS biennial global survey of perceptions of the UN was done at the end of 2016. It attracted more than 2,700 respondents from 154 countries. The breakdown by gender was 59/41 male/female. The largest cohort of respondents was from the private sector, followed by academia, UN staff and nongovernmental organizations.

The general tone of the respondents was negative about the operational effectiveness of the UN today, in all but its peace operations. But the survey also sent some clear and constructive messages about the future direction of the world organization. This briefing provides a summary and analysis of key findings. To continue reading the briefing, click here.


We welcome your comments on this article.  What are your thoughts?

Stephen Browne spent more than 30 years working in the UN system and now lectures on the UN. This essay is adapted from his latest book, “Aid and Influence: Patronage, Power and Politics,” published by Routledge in 2022.


Thomas G. Weiss is Presidential Professor of Political Science at the CUNY Graduate Center; Distinguished Fellow at the Chicago Council on Global Affairs; and Eminent Scholar at Korea’s Kyung Hee University. His recent books include “The ‘Third’ United Nations” (with Tatiana Carayannis).

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The UN’s Ninth Secretary-General Takes Office Amid Loud Calls for Change
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Seton Hall Graduate Degree in International Affairs


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