António Guterres: A man of clarity

Nabil Fahmy
Monday 15 Apr 2024

Despite the Security Council's deadlock, UN Secretary-General António Guterres has persistently and urgently called for a ceasefire in Gaza, visiting the Rafah crossing twice to shed light on the situation and issue warnings.


While I once criticized him harshly in the past, today I write with objectivity and candour to give credit where it is due. I express my respect and admiration for the courage demonstrated by the secretary-general regarding the Gaza situation.

Throughout my diplomatic and political career, I have been deeply engaged in monitoring international developments, firmly believing in the United Nations system, its charter, and its institutions established in the aftermath of World War II to prevent major conflicts.

I am convinced that multilateral relations and arrangements are more equitable than bilateral ones, providing a balanced platform for medium and small states and adhering to a framework of general rules and laws that partially address imbalances favouring wealthier states in bilateral dealings.

I have always recognized that the effectiveness of multilateral institutions is affected by the state of relations between nations. However, I disagree fundamentally with those who view tensions as justifications for the slowdown or obstruction of multi-party organizations. Instead, I see them as opportunities for these institutions to prove their relevance and necessity.

I firmly believe that the heads of multilateral organizations have a significant responsibility to uphold the organizations’ goals, particularly in challenging times. These leaders must possess the courage and wisdom to address events and take action, even before consulting with members if necessary.

I remember closely following the work of Guterres in his previous roles within the organization. During his first election campaign, he underlined his interest in activating the political role of the United Nations in conflict resolution as well as his commitment to developing a more just international system, positions that strongly resonated with me.

With Guterres's election, I hoped to see him emulate the leadership of his predecessors, such as Trygve Lie and Dag Hammarskjöld, in steering the organization towards achieving its goals and ensuring member compliance with its rules and practices.

From this perspective, I have always believed that the ability and courage to take initiative are crucial qualities for those in such positions. While I previously criticized Secretary-General Guterres for his focus on humanitarian and social issues over political matters during his first term, today, I commend his clear stance and bold statements regarding the Gaza situation.

Despite facing unfounded criticisms and intense pressure from various quarters, Guterres remained steadfast in demanding an immediate ceasefire in Gaza. He highlighted the severe suffering of Palestinians and emphasized that humanitarian disasters violate international humanitarian law. His repeated calls for a ceasefire, even in the face of Security Council deadlock, demonstrate his unwavering commitment to the cause.

In conclusion, I applaud and thank Secretary-General Guterres for his principled stance and commend him as a role model for global leadership.

*The writer is a former Egyptian minister of foreign affairs (2013-2014).
** The article is published with authorization from Independent Arabia

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