The senior diplomat was awaiting the outcome of the American elections before deciding on a second term.
United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres told the five permanent members of the Security Council on Sunday that he wanted to stay for a second term, according to two diplomats familiar with the matter.
Guterres, a former Portuguese prime minister, is expected to officially brief the president of the United Nations General Assembly soon, the diplomats said, speaking on condition of anonymity as the decision had not yet been made public.
Guterres, 71, took office in January 2017 for a five-year term that ends at the end of that year. Diplomats say Guterres, who managed to avoid Donald Trump’s anger by refraining from criticizing the US president in public, was waiting for the November election results before making a decision.
A spokesperson for Guterres did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Under Trump, the United States has repeatedly clashed with the UN and its organizations, leaving the World Health Organization and angering Security Council members in their efforts to kill what remains of the Iranian multinational nuclear deal. President-elect Joe Biden has pledged to reverse the “go-it-alone” approach by returning to the WHO, seeking to repair the deal with Iran and join the Paris climate accord.
Guterres has made climate change his flagship theme, pushing countries to step up their commitments to reduce carbon emissions. Biden’s administration has signaled the climate will be a top priority and his choice for UN Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield is a seasoned diplomat with experience on four continents.
The most recent UN chiefs have served two terms, and diplomats expected the so-called P5 – Russia, the United States, the United Kingdom, China and France – to back his candidacy upon re-election. Guterres, who has at times been criticized for failing to call on world powers for human rights abuses, has had to go through a turbulent period at the UN as Trump turns away from the global body while China was becoming more and more assertive.
The process for selecting a UN chief has been called opaque, with the five permanent members exerting disproportionate influence over those selected, although the 2016 election was the first to be made more open. Critics also called on the UN to finally appoint its first female chief.
Writing on behalf of a group of 25 countries, Costa Rica and Denmark in December called on the UN to ensure that the “forthcoming selection process” meets “minimum standards of transparency”.