Nelson Mandela Foundation

Profile: United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres

António Guterres, the ninth Secretary-General of the United Nations (UN), has had a long and varied career in public service rooted in one overarching imperative: to promote human dignity for all. 

From working as a volunteer in the poor neighbourhoods of Lisbon where he was born, representing his constituency in the Portuguese parliament and his years as Portugal’s Prime Minister, to his service as UN High Commissioner for Refugees, Guterres has sought to ease suffering, protect the vulnerable and ensure human rights for all. 

These priorities remain at the core of his efforts today as UN Secretary-General. Since  taking office in January 2017, he has worked to promote peace, combat hatred and harness ambition in fighting the global climate emergency and achieving the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals.  

Guterres has also recognised the need for the UN to be more innovative and effective, and has set in motion wide-ranging reforms to use new technology and to enhance agility, transparency and accountability.  He is also working to make the organisation more equal, including through gender parity – with major milestones met well ahead of schedule – and improved geographical representation.    

Guterres describes himself as a proud multilateralist, but he stresses that “international cooperation cannot be taken for granted”. “We must prove its value by addressing the real problems people face.” 

Guterres was born in Lisbon in 1949 and graduated from the Instituto Superior Técnico with a degree in engineering. He is fluent in Portuguese, English, French and Spanish. He is married to Catarina de Almeida Vaz Pinto, Lisbon’s deputy mayor for culture, and has two children, a stepson and three grandchildren.