The UN General Assembly unanimously elected Antonio Guterres to a second term as secretary-general on Friday, giving him another five years at the helm of the 193-member organisation at a time a deeply divided world faces numerous conflicts, the growing impact of climate change, and a pandemic still circling the globe.

Ambassadors in the assembly chamber in New York burst into applause as the assembly president, Volkan Bozkir, announced Guterres’ re-election by “acclamation”, without a vote.

Just before the announcement, Estonia’s UN ambassador, Sven Jurgenson, the current Security Council president, read a resolution adopted by the 15-member council recommending Guterres for a second term.

Under the UN Charter, the General Assembly appoints the secretary-general on the recommendation of the Security Council.

Guterres was the only candidate nominated by a UN member state, his home country Portugal where he previously served as prime minister, and the country’s current president, Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa, was in the assembly chamber to watch the event.

Immediately after his re-election, Guterres took the oath of office and delivered an address urging UN member nations “to do everything we can to overcome current geostrategic divides and dysfunctional power relations”.

Guterres with UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson at the G7 Summit in Cornwall (Adrian Dennis/Pool via AP)

“There are too many asymmetrics and paradoxes,” he said. “They need to be addressed head on.”

Guterres expressed hope that “what we are living through today in terms of mistrust is, I hope, an aberration but it cannot become the norm.”

He pledged to “give it my all to ensure the blossoming of trust between and among nations, large and small, to build bridges and to engage relentlessly in confidence building” and to “seek to inspire hope that we can turn things around, that the impossible is possible”.

Traditionally, candidates for the UN’s top job have been nominated by a UN member state, but that is not a requirement in the UN Charter or in a resolution adopted by the General Assembly in 2015.

That measure made the previously largely secretive selection of the secretary-general more open and transparent, allowing member states for the first time to see basic information about all candidates, including their resumes, and to question them at open sessions.

Guterres, a former UN refugee chief, was elected by the assembly to succeed Ban Ki-moon after a hotly contested and transparent race in October 2016 that initially included 13 candidates: seven women and six men. Guterres took office on Jan 1 2017.

This year, seven individuals submitted applications to be secretary-general without backing from any government including, most recently, former Ecuadorian president, Rosalia Arteaga.

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