Anstee, Margaret Joan 1926-

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ANSTEE, Margaret Joan 1926-


Born June 25, 1926, in Essex, England; daughter of Edward Curtis and Anne Adaliza (Mills) Anstee; married (divorced). Education: University of London, B.S. (economics); Newnham College, Cambridge, M.A. (modern and medieval languages). Hobbies and other interests: Writing, gardening, hill-walking, bird-watching, swimming.


Home—The Walled Garden, Knill, Powys LD8 2PR, Wales; c/o PNUD, Casilla 9072, La Paz, Bolivia.


Diplomat and writer. Foreign Office, England, third secretary, 1948-52; United Nations, 1952-93, various positions including numerous assignments with U.N. development program, under-secretary general, beginning 1987, director general of U.N. office in Vienna, Austria, head of Centre for Social Development and Humanitarian Affairs, and coordinator of U.N. drug control programs, 1987-92, special representative of secretary-general in Angola and head of U.N. peacekeeping mission, 1992-93, chairman of expert advisory group to Lessons Learned Unit, U.N. Department Peacekeeping Operations, 1996-2002. Queen's University, Belfast, Ireland, lecturer in Spanish, 1947-48; University of Cambridge, Cambridge, England, Spanish supervisor, 1955-56. Member, board of trustees, Help Age International, 1993-97; member, advisory council on U.N. studies, Yale University, 1994—; patron and board member, British-Angola Forum, 1998—; member, international advisory council, U.N. Intellectual History Project, 1999—; member, Jimmy Carter's International Council for Conflict Prevention, 2001—.


United Nations Association, UK (vice-president).


Commandeur Ouissam Alaouite (Morocco), 1972; named dama, Gran Cruz Condor of the Andes (Bolivia), 1986; Große Goldene Ehrenzeichen am Bande (Austria), 1993; Reves Peace Prize, William and Mary College, 1993; named dame commander, Most Distinguished Order of St. Michael and St. George, 1994; honorable fellow, Newnham College, Cambridge; honorary L.L.D., University of Essex, 1994, and University of Westminster, 1996; Honorary D.Sc., University of London, 1998; Doctor of Law, Cambridge University, 2004.


(Editor, with others) Africa and the World, Oxford University Press (Addis Ababa, Ethiopia), 1970.

Gate of the Sun: A Prospect of Bolivia, Longman (Harlow, England), 1970, published as Bolivia: Gate of the Sun, P. S. Erikson (New York, NY), 1971.

Orphan of the Cold War: The Inside Story of the Collapse of the Angolan Peace Process, 1992-93, St. Martin's Press (New York, NY), 1996.

Never Learn to Type: A Woman at the United Nations, Wiley (Chichester, West Sussex, England), 2003.

Author of numerous articles and chapters in books on U.N. reform, peacekeeping, and economic and social development.


The first female under-secretary general of the United Nations and first woman to lead a U.N. peacekeeping mission in Angola, Margaret Joan Anstee served as a member of that organization in many capacities for over four decades before retiring in 1993. In addition to her years of public service, Anstee is also the author of books on international peacekeeping operations and on Bolivia, where she makes her home part of the year. She has also written a memoir about her extensive career, Never Learn to Type: A Woman at the United Nations.

Anstee explores the country where she has made her part-time home on the shores of Titicaca for many years in Bolivia: Gate of the Sun. Her 1996 work, Orphan of the Cold War: The Inside Story of the Collapse of the Angolan Peace Process, 1992-93, discusses a more serious topic. As William S. K. Reno wrote in Africa Today, the book is "an insider's account of the failure of the 1992 peace accords in Angola." Anstee served in Angola as the senior U.N. representative from 1992 to 1993, commanding the U.N. Angola Verification Mission in its task of verifying the implementation of the peace deal struck between the government of Angola and the rebel faction known as UNITA. Anstee cites the difficulties in the U.N. mission as a budget that was far too small for its peacekeeping job, as well as bad faith on the part of UNITA rebel leader Jonas Savimbi. Also, because the United Nations was not part of the original peace treaty, its subsequent role in the country was never quite clear. Reno went on to note that "overall, Anstee's is a valuable book that shows what a carefully focused case study can contribute to understanding conflict resolution in difficult circumstances." Similarly, Gail M. Gerhart, writing for Foreign Affairs, felt that Orphan of the Cold War is "an important book about the 'dos' and 'don'ts' of U.N. peacekeeping." Gerhart further commented, "Thanks to Anstee's gifts as a raconteur, the book, despite its dismal subject, is a very enjoyable read."

Keith Somerville, writing in World Today, pointed out that even after Anstee finished writing her book in 1995, there was "still no real peace in Angola." Despite this failure on the ground, Somerville praised Anstee's book, noting that it was "fascinating for Africa watchers and those who want a first-hand account of how international/U.N. mediation operations are put together and how diplomacy works on the personal level." Somerville also applauded the author for her dedication to Angola, which "shines through every page, as does her dry and irrepressible humor."

In Never Learn to Type: A Woman at the United Nations, Anstee provides a more personal glimpse at her years in the United Nations and also at her private life, including a failed marriage, subsequent relationships, and the difficulties encountered as a woman making her way through the U.N. hierarchy. The memoir traces Anstee's life from her birth in rural Essex to her scholarship to Cambridge. As Anstee explains, her initial employment with the United Nations was almost accidental; she was hired in the Philippines, where she was attempting to earn money for her fare back to England.

Anstee told CA: "Since my official retirement from the United Nations, I have been active in many fields, working on a voluntary, ad honorem basis. Most of this work has been done for the United Nations in the fields of peacekeeping, peacebuilding, and economic and social development. A major activity is the training of military personnel from many countries in the world for UN peacekeeping missions. The exercises are undertaken under the auspices of the armed forces of the United States, the United Kingdom, NATO, and Scandinavian countries and take place in Latin America, Europe, Africa, and Asia. I have also advised successive governments of Bolivia on issues relating to economic and social development, and the mobilization of donor support and international finance.

"My writing has to be squeezed in between demanding engagements that constantly take me all over the world. I write best in my two isolated retreats: one in Bolivia on the shores of Lake Titicaca, and the other in the Welsh Marshes in the United Kingdom."



Anstee, Margaret Joan, Never Learn to Type: A Woman at the United Nations, Wiley (Chichester, West Sussex, England), 2003.


Africa Today, October-December, 1997, William S. K. Reno, review of Orphan of the Cold War: The Inside Story of the Collapse of the Angolan Peace Process, 1992-93, p. 471.

Foreign Affairs, May-June, 1997, Gail M. Gerhart, review of Orphan of the Cold War, p. 148.

International Journal of African Historical Studies, winter, 1999, W. G. Clarence-Smith, review of Orphan of the Cold War.

Journal of Modern African Studies, June, 1997, Elaine Windrich, review of Orphan of the Cold War, p. 357.

Times Higher Educational Supplement, May 23, 2003, Paul Cornish, review of Never Learn to Type: A Woman at the United Nations, p. 29.

Times Literary Supplement, September 5, 1997, Alex Vines, review of Orphan of the Cold War.

World Today, December, 1996, Keith Somerville, review of Orphan of the Cold War, p. 323.

ONLINE, (July 5, 2004), "Margaret Joan Anstee."


Nine Lives (film documentary), British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC), 2002.