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Remarks Prior to a Meeting With Secretary-General-Designate António Manuel de Oliveira Guterres of the United Nations

December 02, 2016

President Obama. It is a great pleasure for me to be able to welcome the Secretary-General-designate Guterres to the Oval Office. He will be assuming a post that obviously has enormous influence and impact around the world. The good news is that he has an extraordinary reputation as someone who has led multilateral organizations at the highest level and has done so in ways that everybody recognizes he's extraordinarily effective.

Most recently his work with the U.N. High Commission on Refugees has been applauded for its effectiveness, its efficiency, and his ability to really concretely help people who are in extraordinary need. And the fact that, I think, all of us were pleasantly surprised by how quickly a consensus was achieved around Mr. Guterres's designation signifies the respect in which he's held all around the world.

From the perspective of the United States, the U.N. is a critical partner in almost everything that we do. It is a linchpin of the post-World War II order, and through Democratic and Republican administrations, our partnership with the United Nations has allowed us to help resolve conflicts, to provide development assistance where it's sorely needed, to tackle big transnational challenges like refugee flows or, more recently, like climate change. And at a time when those challenges are mounting and there's great uncertainty around the world, having an effective partner in the United Nations Secretary-General will be critically important.

So this meeting gives us an opportunity to share our ideas about where the Secretary-General-designate intends to take the U.N. and how the United States can work effectively with him.

I've emphasized to the current Secretary-General, Ban Ki-moon, how important the United States considers the U.N. but also how important it is, we believe, to make sure that the U.N. operates efficiently, that money is well spent, that we're doing everything we can to initiate the kinds of effective management practices that Mr. Guterres is known for, so that when we all have to be pinching pennies and being concerned about the needs around the world outstripping our resources, that the work we do in the U.N. is effective, concrete; that it's not just a forum for talking, but it's also a forum for doing.

And I have great confidence that our soon-to-be Secretary-General will be able to be an extraordinarily effective leader of that organization. And the United States looks forward to working with him.

So, congratulations and good luck.

Secretary-General-designate Guterres. Well, thank you very much, Mr. President. My visit also is to express my total commitment to work closely with the United States, with the present administration, also with the next administration.

We live in a dangerous world. We are all aware of that. We have seen a multiplication of conflicts. Old conflicts seem never to die. And it's true, the international community has lost a lot of its capacity to prevent and resolve conflicts. On the other hand, globalization that has been an extremely important driver of economic growth, the reduction of poverty in many parts of the world has also left people behind. And this has been the cause of unrest and instability in many parts of the world.

And the human rights agenda that is so dear to us all, we also see many difficulties in relation to it, when national sovereignty sometimes tends to make it difficult for human rights to be effective and to be promoted.

Now, in all these areas, I believe that the leadership of United States is absolutely crucial. And in all these areas, I believe that we need a U.N. that is more effective, more cost effective, more able to serve the people with a very strong reform-minded approach. And the U.S. has always been a driver for reforming the U.N., and I'm deeply committed to pursue that objective to make sure that the U.N. can be a positive partner in the efforts that the U.S. is leading—[inaudible].

President Obama. Thank you again. Congratulations. Thank you, everybody.

NOTE: The President spoke at 11:13 a.m. in the Oval Office at the White House.

Barack Obama, Remarks Prior to a Meeting With Secretary-General-Designate António Manuel de Oliveira Guterres of the United Nations Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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