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UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said he would work to resolve wars and other violent conflicts in countries such as Syria, South Sudan, Yemen, and Burundi / © UN Photo/Manuel Elias

New UN Secretary-General pledges to help resolve conflicts in Burundi and South Sudan

Antonio Guterres replaced Ban Ki-moon as UN Secretary-General on New Year day.

In his first address to the international community, Guterres, a former prime minister of Portugal, pledged to make 2017 a year to “put peace first.”

The ninth UN chief, 67, said in a message that he would be working to resolve wars and other violent conflicts in countries such as Syria, South Sudan, Yemen, and Burundi.

Guterres said one question weighed heavily on his heart: “how can we help millions of people caught up in conflict, suffering massively in wars with no end in sight.” He added that “civilians are pounded with deadly force, women, children and men are killed and injured, forced from their homes, dispossessed and destitute. And even hospitals and aid convoys are targeted.”

Guterres stressed that “no one wins these wars, everyone loses.”

According to the new UN Secretary-General, “trillions of dollars are spent destroying societies and economies, fueling cycles of mistrust and fear that can last for generations. Whole regions are destabilized and the new threat of global terrorism affects us all.”

“On this New Year’s day I ask all of you to join me in making one shared New Year’s resolution. Let us resolve to put peace first. Let us make the year 2017 a year in which we all – citizens, governments, leaders – strive to overcome our differences,” Guterres said.

“From solidarity and compassion in our daily lives to dialogue and respect across political divides. From ceasefires on the battlefield to compromise at the negotiating table to reach political solutions. Peace must be our goal and our guide,” added Guterres, who was previously the UN high commissioner for refugees, a post he held for a decade.

“And all that we strive for as a human family – the unity and hope, progress and prosperity – depends on peace. But peace depends on us. And I appeal to you all to join me in committing to peace, today and every day. Let us make 2017 a year for peace,” the UN Secretary-General concluded. // Kwame Appiah

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