Antonio Guterres acclaimed as UN secretary general

The UN General Assembly has elected Antonio Guterres as the next secretary-general of the United Nations, a post he will take over on Jan. 1 at a time of global turmoil.

Former UN high commissioner for refugees will replace Ban Ki-moon starting Jan. 1

Portugal's Antonio Guterres speaks to the media during a news conference at the UN's European headquarters in Geneva in December 2015. (Salvatore Di Nolfi/Keystone/Associated Press)

The UN General Assembly elected Antonio Guterres on Thursday as the next secretary general of the United Nations, a post he will take over on Jan. 1 at a time of global turmoil.

The 193 UN member states elected Guterres, a former Portuguese prime minister, by acclamation.

Assembly president Peter Thompson introduced the resolution to elect Guterres, said members wanted it adopted by acclamation, and banged his gavel in approval as diplomats broke into applause.

Guterres "embodies the highest standards of competence, integrity and leadership," Thompson said.

The 67-year-old Guterres, who served as the UN refugee chief for 10 years until last December, was nominated by acclamation by the Security Council last week after its sixth informal poll. He topped all six polls, which included a total of 13 candidates — seven women and six men.

Trudeau congratulates

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau issued a statement congratulating Guterres on the appointment.

"Mr. Guterres takes on one of the most challenging jobs in the world," Trudeau said. "Canada will be there to help him and the UN make the world a better place for its 7.5 billion inhabitants."

Guterres's selection disappointed many who had campaigned for the first woman or the first representative from an Eastern European country to lead the world body, but diplomats stressed they were voting for the best candidate regardless of other criteria.

Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, who will leave the job on Dec. 31 after his second five-year term ends, referred to Guterres's decade as UN High Commissioner for Human Rights. Ban told the assembly that Guterres is "best known where it counts most, on the front lines of armed conflict and humanitarian suffering."

9th secretary general

In addition to "deep and solid political experience" including two terms as Portugal's prime minister, Ban said, "his political instincts are those of the United Nations — co-operation for the common good and shared responsibility for people and the planet."

Guterres will be the ninth secretary general in the organization's 71-year history.

"He'll take over on the first of January at a crucial time for the UN, when it is facing huge challenges on peace and security but also on international development and human rights. And the world needs a strong United Nations and he is the best possible leader to build on the work of his predecessors to provide that leadership," said Britain's UN ambassador, Matthew Rycroft.

The secretary general manages a staff of 44,000 people in addition to more than 100,000 peacekeepers. The position's responsibilities include dealing with issues such as human rights, refugees and climate change as well as fund raising for the world body's various campaigns.