AP Photo
Antonio Guterres, shown here with Somali refugees in 2011 while UN High Commissioner for Refugees, was nominated Oct. 6 by the Security Council to be the next UN Secretary General.

Hospitality marks the next UN chief

The Security Council’s choice for the next UN secretary-general, António Guterres, is someone at the center of a global crisis: refugees. He has witnessed the generosity of host countries and is primed to further the caring of the uprooted.

For 10 years, before the Security Council picked him to be the United Nations secretary-general starting in 2017, António Guterres was the UN high commissioner for refugees. The former Portuguese leader traveled to dozens of countries that had taken in displaced people, often marveling at one thing: the incredible hospitality of the host people, whether in Africa or Asia. His open gratitude toward such generosity helped reinforce an important quality of leadership in him – one the UN may need right now.

Even though the 15-nation Council did not choose a woman as the new UN chief this time around, Mr. Guterres’s experience of caring for refugees will serve the UN well. The global body has been mostly sidelined by the big powers on political and security issues. But not so on the humanitarian issue of uprooted masses. “The global refugee crisis has moved into the center of the international community’s attention,” Guterres said last year.

He should know. During his time as high commissioner from 2005 to 2015, the number of displaced people nearly doubled to more than 65 million, a result of chronic conflicts such as in Syria. Last year, an average of 24 people a day fled because of violence or persecution. Today, 1 out of 113 people is a refugee.

Toward the end of his term as high commissioner, his office tried to explain the world’s hospitality toward refugees. One research paper by the UN High Commissioner of Refugees noted that “religious faith is becoming ever more important in the current environment....” And Guterres said in a speech that each faith instructs its followers on how to deal with strangers. He noted that all major religions have a tradition of granting protection to those in danger. “Humanitarian values are indeed universal, but are being expressed differently in different cultures,” he said.

Is he right?

A survey earlier this year of 27,000 people in 27 countries, conducted for Amnesty International, found 3 in 4 people favor taking in refugees escaping war or persecution. (China ranks highest on the survey.) Two thirds say their governments should be doing more for refugees.

And a new Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll finds 54 percent of Americans say immigration helps the United States more than it hurts. That figure is up from 45 percent a decade ago.

If Guterres serves as UN secretary-general for 10 years, as most of his predecessors have, he might be the right person to rally more countries to help the displaced. He will not only be the UN’s chief diplomat but also the global caretaker of all refugees.

You've read  of  free articles. Subscribe to continue.

Dear Reader,

About a year ago, I happened upon this statement about the Monitor in the Harvard Business Review – under the charming heading of “do things that don’t interest you”:

“Many things that end up” being meaningful, writes social scientist Joseph Grenny, “have come from conference workshops, articles, or online videos that began as a chore and ended with an insight. My work in Kenya, for example, was heavily influenced by a Christian Science Monitor article I had forced myself to read 10 years earlier. Sometimes, we call things ‘boring’ simply because they lie outside the box we are currently in.”

If you were to come up with a punchline to a joke about the Monitor, that would probably be it. We’re seen as being global, fair, insightful, and perhaps a bit too earnest. We’re the bran muffin of journalism.

But you know what? We change lives. And I’m going to argue that we change lives precisely because we force open that too-small box that most human beings think they live in.

The Monitor is a peculiar little publication that’s hard for the world to figure out. We’re run by a church, but we’re not only for church members and we’re not about converting people. We’re known as being fair even as the world becomes as polarized as at any time since the newspaper’s founding in 1908.

We have a mission beyond circulation, we want to bridge divides. We’re about kicking down the door of thought everywhere and saying, “You are bigger and more capable than you realize. And we can prove it.”

If you’re looking for bran muffin journalism, you can subscribe to the Monitor for $15. You’ll get the Monitor Weekly magazine, the Monitor Daily email, and unlimited access to CSMonitor.com.

QR Code to Hospitality marks the next UN chief
Read this article in
QR Code to Subscription page
Start your subscription today