António Guterres, the ninth Secretary-General of the United Nations, embodies that ideal, making human dignity a cornerstone of his work leading the United Nations as it faces some of the most pressing challenges confronting the world today. Guterres recently came to The New School to deliver an address, “Women and Power,” discussing how gender inequality and discrimination against women and girls hurts us all. His remarks were followed by a Q&A session with ABC News journalist Juju Chang, who also fielded questions from the audience.
Guterres was honored to be recognized by The New School, a university he described as “a special place.” He added, “I am an engineer by training, and physics has been the biggest intellectual passion of my life. But I reserve my greatest admiration for artists, philosophers, social scientists, and those who explain the world and make it more beautiful.”
In his speech, Guterres recognized the privileges he has received as a male born in western Europe. Still, he said, “My childhood under a military dictatorship in Portugal opened my eyes to injustice and oppression. Throughout my political career, as prime minister and as the leader of the United Nations refugee agency, I have always felt compelled to fight for justice, equality, and human rights.” He has brought that energy to his work at the UN and reached his goal of achieving gender parity in its senior leadership — made up of 90 women and 90 men — a year ahead of his target date.
Guterres sees a connection between gender inequality and some of the world’s most acute problems — conflict and violence, the climate crisis, the need for inclusive economies, the digital divide, inequality in political representation. Although these issues may seem intractable, he’s encouraged by the energy and new models of leadership young people are bringing to efforts to address these crises. “I am grateful to young people — Generation Z, including many of you here in this room — who are working for climate action and gender equality while recognizing the reality of nonbinary identities and solutions. Macho posturing will not save our planet.”