The Secretary-General

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From the outset, the secretary-general of the UN has played an important role in helping to settle crises that have troubled nations since the end of World War II. In practice, the role has gone far beyond what might be anticipated from a reading of the terse Charter provisions for the office. Yet the role has been developed precisely through a skillful exploitation of the potentialities inherent in those provisions.

The deliberative organs of the UN are political bodies intended to function as forums where the interests of governments can be represented and reconciled. The secretary-general and the Secretariat embody the other aspect of the UN: the organization is also intended to be a place where people may speak not for the interests of governments or blocs but as impartial third parties. The secretary-general is consistently working in a political medium but doing so as a catalytic agent who, in person or through special missions, observers, and mediators, uses his influence to promote compromise and conciliation.

Under the Charter, the secretary-general has the right to bring to the attention of the Security Council any matter that, in his opinion, might threaten international peace and security. This right goes beyond any power granted the head of an international organization before the founding of the UN. The Charter requires that he submit to the General Assembly an annual report on the work of the organization. In this report, he can state his views and convey his voice to the world's governments. The secretary-general's role has also been considerably enhanced by exploiting the Charter provision that he shall perform "such other functions" as are entrusted to him by the main organizational units of the United Nations.


In 1986, then Secretary-General Pérez de Cuéllar was invited to give the Cyril Foster Lecture at Oxford University. His thoughts on the institution of the secretary-general in an era of international evolution deserve attention.

First, he suggested that a secretary-general must avoid two extremes: "On one side is the Scylla of trying to inflate the role through too liberal a reading of the text [of the Charter]: of succumbing, that is, to vanity and wishful thinking. On the other is the Charybdis of trying to limit the role to only those responsibilities which are explicitly conferred by the Charter and are impossible to escape: that is, succumbing to modesty, to the instinct of self-effacement, and to the desire to avoid controversy. Both are equally damaging to the vitality of the institution. I submit that no secretary-general should give way to either of them."

Pérez de Cuéllar stated that he used the annual report to the General Assembly as a way to initiate action and galvanize efforts in other parts of the UN system. He pointed out that the secretary-general sometimes remains the only channel of communication between parties in conflict, and therefore must be able to improvise in the context of "good offices" missions. A disciple of "quiet diplomacy," Pérez de Cuéllar said that the secretary-general must not only be impartial, but must be perceived to be so. He observed that a secretary-general needs enormous patience; he does not have the option of being frustrated or discouraged. He suggested that the secretary-general must "try to understand the roots of insecurity, the fears and resentments and the legitimate aspirations which inspire a people or a state to take the position they do."

He delineated four priority areas for attention by the world body: (1) disarmament, and particularly, nuclear disarmament;(2) human rights; (3) "the shaming disparity of living standards between those who live in the developed world-the North-and their less fortunate brethren in the developing world-the South"; and (4) the world response to natural and man-made disasters.

In closing, Pérez de Cuéllar set forth his own essential requirements for a secretary-general:

The Secretary-General is constantly subjected to many and diverse pressures. But in the last analysis, his office is a lonely one. He cannot stand idle. Yet helplessness is often his lot. The idealism and hope of which the Charter is a luminous expression have to confront the narrow dictates of national policies. The Secretary-General's efforts must be based on reason but, behind many a government's allegedly logical position, there are myths and silent fears. The voice of the Charter is often drowned by clashes and conflicts between states. If the Secretary-General is to rise above these contradictions in international life, two qualities are essential.

One is faith that humanity can move-and indeed is moving-towards a less irrational, less violent, more compassionate, and more generous international order.

The other essential quality is to feel that he is a citizen of the world. This sounds [like] a cliché, but the Secretary-General would not deserve his mandate if he did not develop a sense of belonging to every nation or culture, reaching out as best he can to the impulse for peace and good that exists in all of them. He is a world citizen because all world problems are his problems; the Charter is his home and his ideology, and its principles are his moral creed.

The role of the secretary-general has varied with the individual and with the time and circumstances. This chapter contains an outline account of the initiatives taken by the seven secretaries-general in various international crises and areas of conflict. Additional discussion of some of the main areas of conflict may be found in the chapter on International Peace and Security.


The first secretary-general, Trygve Lie of Norway, was appointed for a five-year term on 1 February 1946. On 1 November 1950, he was reappointed for three years. He resigned on 10 November 1952 and was succeeded by Dag Hammarskjöld of Sweden on 10 April 1953. On 26 September 1957, Hammarskjöld was appointed for a further five-year term beginning on 10 April 1958. After Hammarskjöld's death in a plane crash in Africa on 17 September 1961, U Thant of Burma was appointed secretary-general on 3 November 1961, to complete the unexpired term. In November 1962, U Thant was appointed secretary-general for a five-year term beginning with his assumption of office on 3 November 1961. On 2 December 1966, his mandate was unanimously renewed for another five years. At the end of his second term, U Thant declined to be considered for a third. In December 1971, the General Assembly appointed Kurt Waldheim of Austria for a five-year term beginning on 1 January 1972. In December 1976, Waldheim was reappointed for a second five-year term, which ended on 31 December 1981. He was succeeded by Javier Pérez de Cuéllar of Peru, who was appointed by the Assembly in December 1981 for a five-year term beginning on 1 January 1982. He was reappointed for a second five-year term beginning on 1 January 1987. In late 1991, Pérez de Cuéllar expressed his wish not to be considered for a third term. On 3 December 1991, the General Assembly appointed Boutros Boutros-Ghali of Egypt to a five-year term beginning on 1 January 1992. On 17 December 1996, Kofi Annan of Ghana was appointed to a five-year term that began on 1 January 1997. Annan was reappointed for another five-year term that began on 1 January 2002.

Trygve Lie

Born in Oslo, Norway, 1896; died in Geilo, Norway, 30 December 1968. Law degree from Oslo University. Active in his country's trade union movement from the age of 15, when he joined the Norwegian Trade Union Youth Organization. At 23, became assistant to the secretary of the Norwegian Labor Party. Legal adviser to the Norwegian Trade Union Federation (1922-35). Elected to the Norwegian Parliament (1935). Minister of justice (1935-39). Minister of trade, industry, shipping, and fishing (1939-40). After the German occupation of Norway in 1940 and until the liberation of Norway in 1945, he was, successively, acting foreign minister and foreign minister of the Norwegian government in exile in London. A prominent anti-Nazi, he rendered many services in the Allied cause during World War II. For example, he was instrumental in preventing the Norwegian merchant marine, one of the world's largest, from falling into German hands. Reelected to Parliament in 1945. Headed the Norwegian delegation to the San Francisco Conference. Secretary-General, 1946-1952.

Dag Hjalmar Agne Carl Hammarskjöld

Born in Jönkönpirg, Sweden, 1905; died in a plane accident while on a peace mission near Ndola, Northern Rhodesia (now Democratic Republic of the Congo), 17 September 1961. Studied at Uppsala and Stockholm universities; Ph.D., Stockholm, 1934. Secretary of Commission on Unemployment (1930-34). Assistant professor of political economy, Stockholm University (1933). Secretary of the Sveriges Riksbank (Bank of Sweden, 1935-36); chairman of the board (1941-45). Undersecretary of state in the Swedish ministry of finance (1936-45). Envoy extraordinary and financial adviser to the ministry of foreign affairs (1946-49). Undersecretary of state (1949). Deputy foreign minister (1951-53). Delegate to the Organization for European Economic Cooperation (OEEC; 1948-53). Vice-chairman of the Executive Committee of the OEEC (1948-49). Swedish delegate to the Commission of Ministers of the Council of Europe (1951-52). Hammarskjöld was a member of the Swedish Academy, which grants the Nobel prizes, and vice-president of the Swedish Tourist and Mountaineers' Association. Secretary-General, 1953-1961.

U Thant

Born in Pantanaw, near Rangoon, Burma (now Myanmar), 1909; died in New York, 25 November 1974. Educated at University College, Rangoon. Started career as teacher of English and modern history at Pantanaw High School; later headmaster. Active in development and modernization of Burma's educational system. Author and free-lance journalist. Books include a work on the League of Nations (1932), Democracy in Schools (1952), and History of Post-War Burma (1961). After Burma's independence, became Burma's press director (1947), director of broadcasting (1948), and secretary in the ministry of information (1949-53). Chief adviser to his government at many international conferences. Member of Burma's delegation to the 1952 General Assembly. In 1957, moved to New York as head of Burma's permanent delegation to the UN. Secretary-General, 1961-1971.

Kurt Waldheim

Born in Sankt Andrä-Wördern, Austria, 21 December 1918. Studied at the Consular Academy of Vienna and took an LL.D. at the University of Vienna. Member of the delegation of Austria in negotiations for Austrian State Treaty, London, Paris, and Moscow (1945-47). First secretary of Austria's legation to France (1948-51). Counselor and head of personnel division, ministry of foreign affairs, Vienna (1951-55). Permanent observer of Austria to the UN (1955-56). Minister, embassy to Canada, Ottawa (1956-58), and ambassador (1958-60). Director-general, political affairs, ministry of foreign affairs, Vienna (1960-64). Ambassador and permanent representative of Austria to the UN (1964-68 and 1970-71). Austrian minister of foreign affairs (1968-70). Unsuccessful candidate for the presidency of Austria in 1971. UN Secretary-General, 1972-1981. Guest Professor of Diplomacy, Georgetown University, Washington, D.C., 1982-84. Author of The Austrian Example, on Austria's foreign policy in 1973; Building the Future Order, in 1980; In the Eye of the Storm, 1985.

In 1986, during his second campaign for the Austrian presidency, information about Waldheim's record as a German Army lieutenant in World War II was reported for the first time in the international press. Despite his previous assertions that he had been wounded at the Russian front in 1941 and then returned to Vienna to study law, it was discovered he had served as a lieutenant in the high command of Army Group E, whose commander, General Alexander Loehr, was later hanged for atrocities. The reports indicated that Waldheim had served in Yugoslavia and Greece, a fact that he had hitherto concealed, at a time when reprisals, deportations, and other war crimes were being carried out by the German Army. In 1987, the US Justice Department, on the basis of an examination of US files and of the records of the War Crimes Commission in the UN archives, placed Waldheim on a watch list, which is used to bar entry to the United States for people linked to war crimes.

An international commission of historians appointed by Waldheim, after his election to the presidency of Austria in 1986, reported in February 1988 that it had found evidence that Waldheim was aware of war crimes during his service in the Balkans and had concealed his record but had found no evidence that he himself had committed any crime. The commission's report created a national crisis in the government of Austria and deeply divided the Austrian people. A national poll showed that, while the majority of people did not wish him to resign (as many prominent intellectuals and politicians were loudly insisting), most indicated that they would not vote for him again. Waldheim himself insisted that the commission cleared him of the charge of committing war crimes.

However, the debate over which countries did (or did not) know the facts about Waldheim's war service before or during his tenure as secretary-general continued to surface in the press periodically. There was general agreement that public knowledge of the real nature of Waldheim's war service would have disqualified him for consideration for the post of secretary-general. In August 1994, Representative Carolyn B. Maloney, Democrat of Manhattan, introduced the War Crimes Disclosure Act, H.R. 4995, with the intention of forcing the Central Intelligence Agency to disclose parts of the Waldheim dossier which it has withheld, citing national security interests.

Waldheim served as president of Austria for one term, from 1986 to 1992. In July 1994, Pope John Paul II, a long-time friend of Waldheim's, awarded him the Knighthood of the Order of Pius "for outstanding service as secretary-general of the United Nations." The honor is awarded to Catholics or non-Catholics for outstanding services to the church or society, and is largely symbolic.

Javier Pérez de Cuéllar

Born in Lima, Peru, 19 January 1920. Graduated from the law school of Catholic University, Lima (1943). Joined Peruvian ministry of foreign affairs (1940) and the diplomatic service (1944). Served as secretary at Peruvian embassies in France, the United Kingdom, Bolivia, and Brazil. Returned to Lima (1961) as director of legal and personnel departments, ministry of foreign affairs. Served as ambassador to Venezuela, USSR, Poland, and Switzerland. Member of Peruvian delegation to the 1st General Assembly (1946) and of delegations to the 25th through 30th sessions (1970-75). Permanent representative of Peru to the UN (1971-75). Served as UN secretary-general's special representative in Cyprus (1975-77); UN undersecretary-general for special political affairs (1979-81); and secretary-general's personal representative in Afghanistan (1981). After resigning from the UN, he returned to the ministry of foreign affairs and voluntarily separated from the service of his government on 7 October 1981. UN Secretary-General, 1982-1991. In 1992 UNESCO named him chairman of its World Commission on Culture and Development. The lawyer and career diplomat retired in the late 1990s. He is a former professor of diplomatic law at the Academia de Guerra Aérea del Peru. Author of Manual de derecho diplomático (Manual of International Law), 1964.

Boutros Boutros-Ghali

Born in Cairo, Egypt, 14 November 1922. Graduated from Cairo University in 1946 with a Bachelor of Law. Received his Ph.D. in international law in 1949 from Paris University. From 1949-77 he was Professor of International Law and International Relations and head of the Department of Political Science at Cairo University. Boutros-Ghali was a Fulbright Research Scholar at Columbia University in 1954-55. He served as director of the Centre of Research of The Hague Academy of International Law from 1963-1964, and was a visiting professor at the Faculty of Law of Paris University from 1967-68. In 1977 he became Egypt's Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, and was present at the Camp David Summit Conference during the negotiations that led to the Camp David accords between Egypt and Israel in 1978. He continued as Minister of State for Foreign Affairs until 1991, when he became Deputy Prime Minister of Foreign Affairs. He became a member of the Egyptian parliament in 1987 and was part of the secretariat of the National Democratic Party since 1980. From 1980-92 he was a member of the Central Committee and Political Bureau of the Arab Socialist Union. From 1970-91 he was a member of the UN's International Law Commission. His professional affiliations include membership in the Institute of International Law, the International Institute of Human Rights, the African Society of Political Studies and the Académie des Sciences Morales et Politiques (Académie Française, Paris). He founded the publication Al Ahram Iktisadi and was its editor from 1960 to 1975. Boutros-Ghali has authored more than 30 books and over 100 articles on international affairs, international law, foreign policy, diplomacy, human rights, and economic and social development. UN Secretary-General, 1992-1996.

Kofi Annan

Born in Kumasi, Ghana, on 8 April 1938. Studied at the University of Science and Technology in Kumasi, Ghana, and in 1961 completed his undergraduate work in economics at Macalester College in St. Paul, Minnesota. During 1961-62, he undertook graduate studies in economics at the Institut universitaire des hautes études internationales in Geneva. Having worked with the UN for over 30 years in various capacities, he is considered the first Secretary-General to rise from within the organization. His first assignment with the United Nations was in 1962 as an Administrative Officer and Budget Officer at the World Health Organization (WHO) in Geneva. As a Sloan Fellow in 1971-72 at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, he received a Master of Science in Management. He returned to Ghana from 1974 to 1976 and was the Managing Director of the Ghana Tourist Development Company, serving on both its board and on the Ghana Tourist Control Board. In the UN, he held the position of Deputy Director of Administration and Head of Personnel in the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees during 1980-83, Director of the Budget in the Office of Financial Services during 1984-87, and then as Assistant Secretary-General in the Office of Human Resources Management and Security Coordinator for the UN system during 1987-90. From 1990 to 1992 he served as Assistant Secretary-General for Program Planning, Budget and Finance and Controller of the UN. After the invasion of Kuwait by Iraq in 1990, he was sent to Iraq to facilitate the repatriation of over 900 international staff, and became engaged in negotiations for the release of Western hostages. He also helped bring attention to the situation of the 500,000 Asians stranded in Kuwait and Iraq. He also headed the UN team that negotiated the possible sale of Iraqi oil to buy humanitarian aid. In 1992 he was appointed Assistant Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, and became Under-Secretary-General in the same department in March 1993. He also served as a Special Representative of the Secretary-General to the former Yugoslavia and as Special Envoy to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) during the transitional period that followed the signing of the Dayton Peace Agreement. Began term as UN Secretary-General, January 1997, and was reappointed on 29 June 2001 for a second term beginning on 1 January 2002.


Trygve Lie had not yet been in office three months when he took the initiative of advising the Security Council on the Secretariat's interpretation of the Charter. The Council was considering its first case, the Iranian complaint against the USSR. The secretary-general delivered a legal opinion that differed sharply from that of the Security Council. The Council did not accept his interpretation, but it upheld his right to present his views. After setting this precedent, Lie submitted legal opinions on other matters.

During Lie's first term as secretary-general, East-West tension charged the UN atmosphere. As the world situation became increasingly threatening, the political role of the secretary-general expanded. Lie took definite stands on three issues, each of which earned him the dislike of some permanent members of the Security Council. The issues were Chinese representation, a plan for the general settlement of the cold war, and UN military action in the Korean War.

Chinese Representation.

By the end of 1949, a number of states, including the USSR and the United Kingdom-permanent members of the Security Council-had recognized the mainland government, the People's Republic of China. In January 1950, the USSR representatives, having failed to obtain the seating of the representatives of the People's Republic, began boycotting UN meetings at which China was represented by delegates of the Republic of China, based on Taiwan. In private meetings with delegations, Lie tried to solve the impasse. He adduced various reasons, including a ruling of the International Court of Justice, for the thesis that nonrecognition of a government by other governments should not determine its representation in the UN.

Trygve Lie's Twenty-Year Peace Plan.

Lie developed an extraordinary initiative during the first half of 1950. In a letter to the Security Council dated 6 June 1950, approximately two weeks before the outbreak of the Korean War, he said: "I felt it my duty to suggest a fresh start to be made towards eventual peaceful solution of outstanding problems." In his Twenty-Year Program for Achieving Peace Through the United Nations, Lie proposed new international machinery to control atomic energy and check the competitive production of armaments and also proposed the establishment of a UN force to prevent or stop localized outbreaks of violence.

Armed with these proposals and other memoranda, including the one on Chinese representation, Lie journeyed first to Washington, then to London, to Paris, and finally to Moscow. He held conversations not only with foreign ministers and high-ranking diplomats but also with US president Harry S Truman, British Prime Minister Clement Attlee, French President Vincent Auriol, and Soviet Premier Joseph Stalin. Lie's reception was cordial in Moscow, warm in Paris, and friendly in London, but cool in Washington.

The international picture changed abruptly, however, with the outbreak of the Korean War. The attitude of a number of governments toward Lie changed dramatically as well.

The Korean War.

An outstanding example of a secretary-general taking a stand on an issue was Lie's intervention in the emergency meeting of the Security Council on 24 June 1950. He unequivocally labeled the North Korean forces aggressors because they had crossed the 38th parallel, declared that the conflict constituted a threat to international peace, and urged that the Security Council had a "clear duty" to act. After the Council (in the absence of the Soviet delegate) had set in motion military sanctions against North Korea, Lie endorsed this course of action and rallied support from member governments for UN military action in Korea. These moves brought him into sharp conflict with the USSR, which accused him of "slavish obedience to Western imperialism" and to the "aggression" that, in the Soviet view, the United States had committed in Korea.

As the Korean conflict grew more ominous with the intervention of the People's Republic of China, Lie played an active role in getting cease-fire negotiations underway in the field. At the same time, he fully identified himself with military intervention in Korea on behalf of the UN.

Extension of Lie's Term as Secretary-General.

Lie's first term as secretary-general was to expire on 31 January 1951. In the Security Council, the USSR vetoed a resolution recommending him for a second term and subsequently announced that it would accept anyone other than Lie who was acceptable to the other members of the Council. The United States announced that it would veto anyone but Lie. The Council was unable to recommend a candidate for the office of secretary-general to the General Assembly, a situation unforeseen in the Charter. A resolution in the Assembly to extend Lie's term by three years, beginning on 1 February 1951, was carried by 46 votes to 5, with 8 abstentions. The negative votes were cast by the Soviet bloc.

The USSR maintained normal relations with Lie until the expiration of his original term on 31 January 1951. Thereafter, it stood by its previous announcement that the extension of the term was illegal and that it would "not consider him as secretary-general." By the fall of 1951, however, its nonrecognition policy toward Lie subsided. However, other complications were facing Lie, and on 10 November 1952, he tendered his resignation to the General Assembly.


Hammarskjöld's activities in the political field were more numerous and far-reaching than Lie's had been. Both the General Assembly and the Security Council repeatedly relied on his initiative and advice and entrusted important tasks to him.

The 1954 General Assembly set a precedent when it asked the secretary-general to seek the release of 11 US fliers held prisoner by mainland China. The Assembly resolution left the course of action entirely to his judgment. After various preparations, Hammarskjöld flew to Peking (now Beijing) for personal negotiations with that government, and the 11 fliers were released. This success greatly increased the readiness of the Assembly to rely on the secretary-general as a troubleshooter.

The Suez Crisis.

Grave responsibilities were entrusted to the secretary-general by the General Assembly in connection with the establishment and operation of the UN Emergency Force (UNEF). On 4 November 1956, at the height of the crisis resulting from British, French, and Israeli intervention in Egypt, the secretary-general was requested to submit a plan within 48 hours for the establishment of a force "to secure and supervise the cessation of hostilities." The Assembly approved his plan and, at his suggestion, appointed Major-General E. L. M. Burns, Chief of Staff of the UN Truce Supervision Organization, as the chief of UNEF. The Assembly authorized the secretary-general to take appropriate measures to carry out his plan, and an advisory committee of seven UN members was appointed to assist him. Hammarskjöld flew to Egypt to arrange for the Egyptian government's consent for UNEF to be stationed and to operate in Egyptian territory. He was given the task of arranging with Egypt, France, Israel, and the United Kingdom the implementation of the cease-fire and an end to the dispatch of troops and arms into the area and was authorized to issue regulations and instructions for the effective functioning of UNEF.

Hammarskjöld's Views on Developing the Role of Secretary-General.

Even before the Middle East crisis of 1956, Hammarskjöld had pointed to the need for the secretary-general to assume a new role in world affairs. On his reelection to a second term, Hammarskjöld told the General Assembly that he considered it to be the duty of the secretary-general, guided by the Charter and by the decisions of the main UN organs, to use his office and the machinery of the organization to the full extent permitted by practical circumstances. But he then declared: "I believe it is in keeping with the philosophy of the Charter that the secretary-general be expected to act also without such guidance, should this appear to him necessary in order to help in filling a vacuum that may appear in the systems which the Charter and traditional diplomacy provide for the safeguarding of peace and security." (Italics added.) In other words, inaction or a stalemate either at the UN or outside of it may be justification for the secretary-general to act on his own.

Thus, in 1958, Hammarskjöld took an active hand in the Jordan-Lebanon crisis. After a resolution for stronger UN action failed to carry in the Security Council, he announced that he would nevertheless strengthen UN action in Lebanon and "accept the consequences" if members of the Security Council were to disapprove; none did. In the fall of 1959, the USSR made it known that it did not favor a visit by the secretary-general to Laos and, in particular, the assignment of a special temporary "UN ambassador" there. Yet Hammarskjöld did go to Laos to orient himself on the situation in that corner of Southeast Asia, and he assigned a high UN official as the head of a special mission to Laos. In March 1959, Hammarskjöld sent a special representative to help Thailand and Cambodia settle a border dispute. He acted at their invitation without specific authorization by the Security Council or the General Assembly. The dispute was settled.

In his report to the 1959 Assembly, he said: "The main significance of the evolution of the Office of the Secretary-General lies in the fact that it has provided means for smooth and fast action of special value in situations in which prior public debate on a proposed course of action might increase the difficulties or in which members may prove hesitant."

The Congo Crisis.

By far the greatest responsibilities Hammarskjöld had to shoulder were in connection with the UN Operation in the Congo (now Zaire).

On 12 and 13 July 1960, respectively, President Joseph Kasavubu and Premier Patrice Lumumba of the newly independent Congo each cabled the secretary-general, asking for UN military assistance because of the arrival of Belgian troops and the impending secession of Katanga. At Hammarskjöld's request, the Security Council met on the night of 13 July. He gave his full support to the Congo's appeal and recommended that the Council authorize him to "take the necessary steps" to set up a UN military assistance force for the Congo, in consultation with the Congolese government and on the basis of the experience gained in connection with the UNEF in the Middle East. The Security Council so decided.

Since the Congo operation thus initiated was of much greater dimensions than the UNEF operation, the responsibilities imposed upon the secretary-general were correspondingly heavier, for, although the Security Council and the General Assembly guided Hammarskjöld, he himself had to make extraordinarily difficult decisions almost daily, often on highly explosive matters that arose as a result of serious rift s within the Congolese government and many other factors.

Various member governments, including the USSR and certain African and Western countries, criticized Hammarskjöld for some actions that the UN took or failed to take in the Congo. At times, he had to face the possibility that some country that had contributed military contingents to the UN force would withdraw them.

When it became known in February 1961 that Lumumba, who had been deposed by Kasavubu early in September 1960 and later detained by the Léopoldville authorities, had been handed over by them to the Katanga authorities and subsequently murdered, Hammarskjöld declared that the UN was not to blame for the "revolting crime." However, several delegates claimed that he should have taken stronger measures to protect Lumumba.

The "Troika " Proposal.

The USSR had asked for Hammarskjöld's dismissal long before the assassination of Lumumba. Premier Khrushchev, as head of the Soviet delegation to the 1960 General Assembly, accused Hammarskjöld of lacking impartiality and of violating instructions of the Security Council in his conduct of the UN operation in the Congo. He also proposed a basic change in the very institution of the secretary-general, arguing that since the secretary-general had become "the interpreter and executor of decisions of the General Assembly and the Security Council," this one-man office should be replaced by a "collective executive organ consisting of three persons, each of whom would represent a certain group of states"namely, the West, the socialist states, and the neutralist countries; the institution of a "troika," he declared, would guarantee that the UN executive organ would not act to the detriment of any of these groups of states.

Hammarskjöld rejected the accusations against his impartiality, declared that he would not resign unless the member states for which the organization was of decisive importance or the uncommitted nations wished him to do so, and received an ovation from the overwhelming majority of the delegations. He also stated that to replace the one-man secretary-general by a three-man body would greatly alter the character and limit the scope of the UN.

Outside the Soviet bloc there had been little support for the "troika" proposal, but some "subtroika" proposals were advanced. Hammarskjöld in turn suggested that his five top aides, including a US and a Soviet citizen, advise the secretary-general on political problems. Discussions of the question were interrupted by his death.

Death of Dag Hammarskjöld.

Because of dangerous developments in the Congo, Hammarskjöld flew there in September 1961. On the night of 17 September, the plane carrying him from Léopoldville to a meeting with the Katanga secessionist leader at Ndola, Northern Rhodesia, crashed in a wooded area about 16 km (10 mi) west of Ndola airport. Hammarskjöld and all 15 UN civilian and military personnel traveling with him, including the crew, were killed. The exact cause of the tragedy has not been determined. An investigation commission appointed by the General Assembly reported several possibilities: inadequate technical and security preparations for the flight, an attack on the plane from the air or the ground, sabotage, or human failure by the pilot.


U Thant's approach to his office was different from that of Hammarskjöld, whose dynamic conception of the secretary-general's political role had aroused such opposition in the Soviet bloc. Thant did not take the same initiatives as his predecessor, but he consistently sought to use the prestige of his office to help settle disputes. Moreover, both the General Assembly and the Security Council assigned him to mediate extremely delicate situations. In his annual reports, he put forth proposals on basic issues, such as disarmament and economic and social cooperation and many of his suggestions were adopted.

An early example of a successful initiative taken by U Thant was in connection with the long-standing dispute between Indonesia and the Netherlands over the status of West Irian. The territory, formerly known as West New Guinea, had belonged to the Dutch East Indies, and Indonesia now claimed it as its own. In December 1961, fighting broke out between Dutch and Indonesian troops. Appealing to both governments to seek a peaceful solution, the secretary-general helped them arrive at a settlement. That settlement, moreover, brought new responsibilities to the office of the secretary-general: for the first time in UN history, a non-self-governing territory was, for a limited period, administered directly by the world organization.

The Cyprus Operation.

Intercommunal clashes broke out in Cyprus on Christmas Eve 1963 and were followed by the withdrawal of the Turkish Cypriots into their enclaves, leaving the central government wholly under Greek Cypriot control. A "peace-making force" established under British command was unable to put an end to the fighting, and a conference on Cyprus held in London in January 1964 ended in disagreement. In the face of the danger of broader hostilities in the area, the Security Council on 4 March 1964 decided unanimously to authorize U Thant to establish a UN Peacekeeping Force in Cyprus (UNFICYP), with a limited three-month mandate to prevent the recurrence of fighting, to help maintain law and order, and to aid in the return to normal conditions. The force was to be financed on the basis of voluntary contributions. The Council also asked the secretary-general to appoint a mediator to seek a peaceful settlement of the Cyprus problem. The report of U Thant's mediator, Galo Plaza Lasso, was transmitted to the Security Council in March 1965 but was rejected by Turkey. Plaza resigned in December 1965, and the function of mediator lapsed.

Another crisis occurred in November 1967, but threatened military intervention by Turkey was averted, largely as a result of US opposition. Negotiations conducted by Cyrus Vance for the United States and José Rolz-Bennett on behalf of the secretary-general led to a settlement. Intercommunal talks were begun in June 1968, through the good offices of the secretary-general, as part of the settlement. The talks bogged down, but U Thant proposed a formula for their reactivation under the auspices of his special representative, B. F. Osorio-Tafall, and they were resumed in 1972, after Thant had left office.

The India-Pakistan War of 1965 and Conflict of 1971.

Hostilities between India and Pakistan broke out in Kashmir in early August 1965 and soon spread along the entire length of the international border from the Lahore area to the sea. At the behest of the Security Council, whose calls on 4 and 6 September for a cease-fire had gone unheeded, U Thant visited the subcontinent from 9 to 15 September. In his report to the Council, the secretary-general proposed certain procedures, including a possible meeting between President Ayub of Pakistan and Prime Minister Shastri of India, to resolve the problem and restore the peace.

The Council, on 20 September, demanded a cease-fire and authorized the secretary-general to provide the necessary assistance to ensure supervision of the cease-fire and withdrawal of all armed personnel. For this purpose, U Thant strengthened the existing UN Military Observer Group in India and Pakistan (UNMOGIP), stationed in Kashmir, and established the UN India-Pakistan Observation Mission (UNIPOM) to supervise the cease-fire and withdrawal of troops along the border outside Kashmir.

At a meeting organized by Soviet Premier Kosygin in January 1966 in Tashkent, USSR, the leaders of India and Pakistan agreed on the withdrawal of all troops; this withdrawal was successfully implemented under the supervision of the two UN military observer missions in the area. UNIPOM was disbanded in March 1966, having completed its work.

Following the outbreak of civil strife in East Pakistan in March 1971 and the deterioration of the situation in the subcontinent that summer, U Thant offered his good offices to India and Pakistan and kept the Security Council informed under the broad terms of Article 99 of the Charter. When overt warfare broke out in December, the Security Council appealed to all parties to spare the lives of innocent civilians. Pursuant to a decision by the Council, U Thant appointed a special representative to lend his good offices for the solution of humanitarian problems after the cease-fire of 18 December 1971, which was followed by the independence of Bangladesh.

U Thant's Stand on the Vietnam War.

Throughout his tenure, U Thant was deeply concerned with the question of Vietnam. By tacit consent, the question was never formally debated in the General Assembly and only cursorily touched upon in the Security Council. Until the opening of the Paris peace talks in 1968, the secretary-general was unremitting in his efforts to persuade the parties in the conflict to initiate negotiations on their own. In 1966, he put forward a three-stage proposal to create the conditions necessary for discussion, but it was ignored by the United States.

After the Paris talks began, U Thant deliberately refrained from making any public statements on Vietnam "in order to avoid creating unnecessary difficulties" for the parties. He broke this silence only once, on 5 May 1970, when he expressed his deep concern "regarding the recent involvement of Cambodia in the war."

U Thant's Second Term.

U Thant's second term of office was dominated by the protracted Middle East crisis that arose in the aftermath of the Six-Day War in 1967. His quick action in removing UNEF troops from the Suez area at the request of the United Arab Republic just before that war began occasioned much criticism and some misunderstanding.

Of the two other major political conflicts during the period 1967-70, the civil war in Nigeria and the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia on 20 August 1968, only the latter was debated at the UN. The political aspects of the Nigerian situation were never raised in either the General Assembly or the Security Council out of deference to the African countries themselves, whose main objective was to keep external intervention to a minimum. However, as the troops of the Federal Republic of Nigeria began to penetrate more deeply into the eastern region (which had announced its secession from Nigeria and proclaimed itself an independent state under the name of Biafra), the various humanitarian organs of the UN became increasingly concerned about the plight of the people there. Accordingly, in August 1968, the secretary-general took the initiative of sending a personal representative to Nigeria to help facilitate the distribution of food and medicine.

At the request of its six Western members, the Security Council decided to debate the situation in Czechoslovakia, despite the protests of the USSR. On 23 August 1968, 10 members voted for a resolution condemning the Soviet action, which the USSR vetoed. Another resolution, requesting the secretary-general to send a representative to Prague to seek the release of imprisoned Czechoslovak leaders, was not put to a vote. In view-as one UN text puts it-of the "agreement reached on the substance of the problem during the Soviet-Czechoslovak talks held in Moscow from August 23 to 26," no further action was taken by the Council. However, it is worth noting that U Thant was among the first world figures to denounce the invasion publicly. At a press briefing on 21 August at UN headquarters, he expressed unequivocal dismay, characterizing the invasion as "yet another serious blow to the concepts of international order and morality which form the basis of the Charter of the United Nations and a grave setback to the East-West détente which seemed to be re-emerging in recent months."

WALDHEIM, 1972-1981

Two overriding concerns shaped Waldheim's secretary-general-ship: concern for the preservation of the peace and concern for the evolution of world economic arrangements that would effect a more equitable distribution of the world's wealth. Two other issues were also of special concern to Waldheim: the financial position of the UN and terrorism. The financial position of the UN had been rendered precarious by the practice of some member states, including the USSR, France, and the United States, of withholding or threatening to withhold their share of UN funds for activities that they questioned. When Waldheim took office, the crisis had become an emergency, and he dealt with it vigorously throughout his tenure. In September 1972, he placed the question of terrorism on the agenda of the General Assembly against the wishes of many member states. It was the first time a secretary-general had ever placed a substantive item on the Assembly's agenda.


In 1972, on his own authority, Waldheim undertook a number of missions on behalf of peace. Visiting Cyprus, he temporarily calmed the Turkish community's concern over reported arms shipments to the Greek-dominated government. He visited the island again in 1973 in pursuit of reconciliation. After the hostilities in 1974, he was able to bring Greek and Turkish leaders together for negotiations, and he presided over the Geneva talks regarding Cyprus.

Waldheim's efforts to conciliate in the Vietnam War were rebuffed by both sides in 1972. He then tried, without success, to end the war through action by the Security Council. He visited the two Yemens to try to mediate a border dispute in 1972, and in the same year, he tried to mediate between India and Pakistan.

In the long-standing Arab-Israeli dispute, Waldheim made many efforts toward a satisfactory settlement and organized the UN Emergency Force as a buffer between the armies of Egypt and Israel at the request of the Security Council in October 1973.

Striving for a New International Economic Order.

The sixth special session of the Assembly, in the spring of 1974, and the seventh special session, in September 1975, resulted in a number of decisions and proposals for bridging the gap between the rich and the poor nations and building a "new international economic order." The seventh special session was, in Waldheim's words, "a major event, even a turning point, in the history of the United Nations and showed a new and highly promising capacity of the organization to achieve practical results through consensus and through negotiation."

Financial Status of the UN.

Waldheim acted both to reduce the costs of running the UN and to bring in contributions from member nations.

The US contribution to the UN, historically the highest single assessment, by the early 1970s stood at 31.5% of the budget. In October 1973, the US Congress reduced the US share to 25% of the UN budget; 116 other nations also had their contributions reduced by the UN. The difference was made up by increasing the assessments of Japan, China, and 10 other members and by admitting to membership the two Germanys. Waldheim helped to bring these changes about, fostering the notion that any country paying more than 25% of the UN's expenses could wield excessive influence.


Incidents of terrorism increased in the early 1970s. In September 1972, during the XXth Olympiad in Munich, 11 Israeli athletes were killed by Palestinians of the Black September group. Waldheim expressed himself strongly about the event and put the question of terrorism on the agenda of the 1972 General Assembly. A number of Arab and African countries took exception to his initiative, arguing that attention should be focused on the causes of terrorism. Although the Assembly had earlier condemned aerial hijacking, the resolution that it adopted on terrorism did not condemn the practice but called for a study of its causes. After OPEC officials were attacked by terrorists in 1975, the sentiment for more ample UN action against terrorism grew among third-world countries.

Waldheim's Second Term.

Waldheim entered his second term of office in January 1977 with few illusions about the United Nations. To some extent, he wrote, it was still in search of its identity and its true role: "It tends to react rather than foresee, to deal with the effects of a crisis rather than anticipate and forestall that crisis." The history of the UN since its founding, he wrote, "has essentially been the story of the search for a working balance between national sovereignty and national interests on the one hand and international order and the long-term interests of the world community on the other." He said he was not discouraged, however, and he urged governmentsparticularly the major powersto turn away from the age-old struggle for spheres of influence and to honor and respect their obligations and responsibilities under the Charter.

In 1978, Waldheim called for an effort to improve and streamline the workings of the UN, beginning with the General Assembly, the agenda of which should be reviewed, he said, and items of lesser interest removed. He noted that the Assembly had grown in three decades from a body of 50 members with an agenda of 20 items to a gathering of some 150 members and an agenda of more than 130 items.

Waldheim traveled extensively in East Asia in early 1979 and again in 1980 to get a firsthand view of developments in that area, particularly Indo-China, where, in the aftermath of the Vietnam war, there was an exodus of refugees, by land and sea, from that country. With the tide of these and other refugees from Laos and Kampuchea rising daily, Waldheim convened a meeting in Geneva in June 1979 to help alleviate the problem.

In May 1979, pursuing a "good offices" mission in Cyprus, Waldheim convened a high-level meeting calling for a resumption of intercommunal talks. The talks were subsequently resumed but broke down shortly thereafter. Waldheim again exerted his best efforts beginning in late 1979, as did the UN itself, in search of solutions to unexpected crises touched off by the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan and the taking of US diplomatic personnel as hostages in Iran. From the outset, his efforts were directed at freeing the hostages and settling relations between Iran and the United States, and, for this purpose, he went to Tehran himself, as did a UN commission of inquiry. Waldheim noted that the war between Iran and Iraq, which began in September 1980, had resisted all efforts, both within and outside the UN, at finding a peaceful solution. He offered his own good offices for this purpose and appointed Olof Palme, former Swedish prime minister, as his special representative. In regard to the Afghanistan crisis, he appointed Javier Pérez de Cuéllar of Peru as his personal representative.


Secretary-General Pérez de Cuéllar presided over the United Nations during one of the most remarkable decades in the political history of the world. During his tenure, the stalemate imposed on the United Nations by the rivalries of the Cold War came to an end. The political map of Europe, which had remained stable for more than 40 years since the end of WWII, was completely redrawn when the Soviet Union collapsed in 1989. East and West Germany were united and the Berlin Wall was reduced to rubble. Historic achievements in bilateral arms control and disarmament negotiations lowered the level of confrontation between the West and the East for the first time since the dawn of the nuclear era. A new atmosphere of consensus enabled the Security Council to begin providing the kind of leadership envisioned for it by the founders of the organization, as enshrined in the UN Charter. Long-standing political problems in Namibia, Cambodia, and Latin America were resolved with success by United Nations peacekeeping missions, and the evolution of the organization's activities in helping organize and monitor free and fair elections in new democracies began. The winds of change were also blowing strongly in South Africa, where the apartheid system was beginning to crumble after more than 30 years of condemnation by the United Nations.

The story of Pérez de Cuéllar's 10-year term as secretary-general straddles this historic evolution of the world scene at the fin de si écle. Upon leaving office in December 1991, in his report on the work of the United Nations, he set forth his own feelings about his experience as secretary-general:

"Peace has won victories on several fronts. New vistas are opening for States to work together in a manner they did not do before. The earlier posture of aloofness and reserve towards the Organization has been replaced by more ardent participation in its endeavors. An era of law and justice may not be around the corner but the United Nations has defined the direction. Today there are far more solid grounds for hope than there are reasons for frustration and fear. The hope arises both from the enduring relevance of the philosophy of the Charter and from the vastly strengthened credentials of the Organization. My credo is anchored in that philosophy and it will remain so. With its return from the doldrums, and with its role no longer peripheral, the United Nations has come nearer to the vision of its Charter. Everyone who contributed to the process is entitled to a measure of exultation and I, for my part, to a feeling of fulfillment. I profoundly appreciate the confidence placed in me through this testing phase of international affairs. I close on that note of faith and gratitude."

The situation had been very different when Pérez de Cuéllar first took office, in 1982. In his first report to the General Assembly, in September 1982, on the work of the organization, Pérez de Cuéllar commented on the inability of the UN to play an effective and decisive role in its capacity to keep the peace and serve as a forum for negotiations. The Falkland Islands crisis and the invasion of Lebanon by Israel, both major events of 1982, were clear examples of the failure of the international community, and its organization, to use the mechanisms of diplomacy to prevent international conflict. Countries seemed unwilling or reluctant to use the United Nations' peacekeeping mechanisms to help them resolve their difficulties without resorting to violence. Time after time, he said, "we have seen the Organization set aside or rebuffed, for this reason or for that, in situations in which it should and could have played an important and constructive role." He saw this trend as dangerous for the world community and for the future and criticized the tendency of governments to resort to confrontation, violence, and even war in pursuit of what were perceived as vital interests.

Another clear indication of the organization's lack of stature was the crippling budgetary problems caused by some member states' continuing practice of withholding part or all of their assessed contributions, placing the work of the entire organization in a constant state of uncertainty. Clearly, at the beginning of his term, the United Nations stood in need of a rebirth.

The Middle East

The Iran-Iraq War.

In regard to the prolonged war between Iran and Iraq, which had started in 1980 and taken an enormous toll in human lives, Pérez de Cuéllar considered it to be his overriding responsibility under the Charter not only to seek an end to the conflict but also, until that goal was achieved, to try, under international humanitarian rules, to mitigate its effects in such areas as attacks on civilian population centers, use of chemical weapons, treatment of prisoners of war, and safety of navigation and civil aviation. On four occasions between 1984 and 1986, he dispatched specialists to investigate charges of the use of chemical weapons, initially against Iranian forces but later injuring Iranian civilians and Iraqi forces as well. In 1984 and 1985, two UN teams investigated allegations of violations of promises by the two countries to cease deliberate attacks on purely civilian population centers, and in January 1985, the secretary-general dispatched a fact-finding mission to Iran and Iraq to investigate the treatment of prisoners of war and civilian detainees. He himself visited Tehran and Baghdad in April 1985 to discuss proposals he had drawn up to initiate movement toward a comprehensive settlement of the war, and he continued to search for new approaches to this goal.

In July 1987, the Security Council unanimously adopted a resolution (598/1987) asking the secretary-general to send UN observers to verify and supervise a cease-fire between Iran and Iraq and withdrawal to internationally recognized boundaries. Pérez de Cuéllar was also asked by the Council to explore the question of entrusting to an impartial body the task of inquiring into responsibility for the conflict. Subsequent discussions with the two governments in their capitals reaffirmed his conviction that his good offices could be used to facilitate the restoration of peace and stability in the region. On 20 August 1988, the fighting stopped and UN military observers took up the challenge of monitoring compliance with the cease-fire. The secretary-general and his representative continued a "good offices" mission to build confidence and lay the basis for a lasting peace in the region.

The Gulf War.

In August 1990, Iraq invaded Kuwait with 100,000 troops and took complete control of the small, under-defended country within 48-hours. In the four months following the invasion the Security Council responded with historic speed and unanimity. It passed 12 resolutions condemning the invasion, invoking Chapter VII of the Charter to impose economic sanctions on Iraq, and addressing aid to refugees and Iraq's taking of hostages. Pérez de Cuéllar remarked in his 1990 annual report that the council "has established that such actions, which are in direct contravention of the principles of the Charter and international law, cannot be committed with impunity." On 29 November 1990, after three weeks of debate, the Security Council passed Resolution 678 "authorizing Member States cooperating with the Government of Kuwait, unless Iraq on or before January 15, 1991, fully implements the foregoing resolutions, to use all necessary means to implement Security Council Resolution 660 and all subsequent relevant resolutions to restore international peace and security in the area."

With the phrase "all necessary means," a new chapter in the history of the UN began. A 680,000-strong multi-national military force, led by 410,000 United States troops, was authorized by this resolution to impose the Security Council's will upon Iraq and restore the national sovereignty of Kuwait. On 16 January 1991, the allies began a six-week aerial bombardment of Iraq and Kuwait in preparation for a land attack on Kuwait. On 25 February, the ground attack began. Twelve days later the allied forces had decisively defeated Iraq's army of occupation, decimating it and pushing surviving units back into Iraq. Iraqi casualties were estimated in the hundreds of thousands. The United States lost 309 lives, some in pre-combat incidents. On 6 April, Iraq's parliament officially accepted the terms of Resolution 687, which it characterized as "unjust."

Resolution 687 had established a 200-kilometer-long demilitarized zone along the Iraq-Kuwait border, extending 10 kilometers into Iraq and five kilometers into Kuwait, to be patrolled by the UN Iraq-Kuwait Observer Mission (UNIKOM). The secretary-general reported that UNIKOM's 1,400 troops from 36 countries had been fully deployed on 9 May 1991.

In his 1991 report on the work of the organization, Pérez de Cuéllar pointed out that the experience of the Gulf action, moving as it did into areas undefined by the charter, suggested the need for "collective reflection on questions relating to the future use of the powers vested in the Security Council under Chapter VII. In order to preclude controversy, these questions should include the mechanisms required for the Council to satisfy itself that the rule of proportionality in the employment of armed force is observed and the rules of humanitarian law applicable in armed conflicts are complied with." He also warned that the use of Chapter VII measure should not be "overextended," since the imposition of mandatory economic sanctions necessarily created hardships for third-party nations (nations not party to the conflict, but who have important economic partnerships with the sanctioned state).

The Arab-Israeli Conflict.

In mid-1982, Israeli forces moved into Lebanese territory, bypassing the UN Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL). In August of that year, at the request of Lebanon and with the authorization of the Security Council, Pérez de Cuéllar deployed military observers to monitor the violence in and around Beirut. He also put forward proposals for expanding the role of UNIFIL-deploying the force, with elements of the Lebanese army and internal security forces, in areas vacated by Israeli forces as they withdrew from Lebanon, and working out arrangements to ensure that southern Lebanon became a zone of peace under the sovereignty and authority of the Lebanese government. These proposals were not accepted by Israel.

Pérez de Cuéllar also attempted to pursue the long-standing goal of convening a peace conference on the Middle East, holding numerous consultations with the parties involved. In December 1987, the diplomatic stalemate was shaken by a massive Palestinian uprising, the intifadah, in the Israeli-occupied territories that forced the Palestine National Council (the PLO's parliament in exile) to formally recognize Israel. However, the Israeli government declined to reciprocate. Yasser Arafat, the head of the PLO, was asked to address an emergency session of the Security Council, which had to be held in Geneva, since it was feared the United States would deny him an entry-visa. At that session, the United States vetoed the dispatch of a UN mission to the occupied territories to monitor the treatment of Palestinians by Israeli security forces.

In 1990 and 1991, the United States took the lead in trying to reconvene a peace conference. In October 1991, US Secretary of State James Baker made history by convening in Madrid the first-ever direct negotiations between all parties to the conflict. A key group interested in the talks were the former Palestinians, who since 1967 had been residing in territories under the control of Israelis and were represented by the PLO. Since the Israelis had insisted on their exclusion from the Madrid talks, little progress was made. In December 1991, the General Assembly repealed its Resolution 3379 (1975) which had equated Zionism with racism. This was only the second time in the history of the UN that the General Assembly had voted to rescind a resolution.


The secretary-general and his personal representative, Diego Cordovez, acting as mediator, were continuously involved, until early 1988, in discussions and consultations aimed at negotiating a settlement of the situation in Afghanistan that had been brought about by Soviet military intervention in that country in late 1979 and had affected neighboring countries, particularly Pakistan, to which many Afghan refugees had fled. The negotiations revolved around four points: agreement on noninterference and nonintervention; the voluntary return of refugees; international guarantees on the settlement, to be given by the United States and the USSR; and the withdrawal of foreign troops.

The General Assembly supported these efforts and appealed to all states and national and international organizations to extend humanitarian relief assistance to alleviate the hardships of the Afghan refugees, in coordination with the UN high commissioner for refugees.

The negotiation efforts met with success in early April 1988, when agreement was reached on a treaty under which the USSR would withdraw its 115,000 troops from Afghanistan, Pakistan and Afghanistan would cease all interference in each other's internal affairs, Afghan refugees would be given a safe return to their country, and Afghanistan would become a neutral and nonaligned state guaranteed by the USSR and the United States. A small UN military observer team (UNGOMAP) was to be sent to Afghanistan to monitor compliance with the treaty, which was signed in Geneva on 14 April by Afghanistan, Pakistan, the USSR, and the United States. The USSR withdrew its troops in February 1989, however fighting continued, and rebel forces continued to receive aid from the United States and Pakistan. The USSR, for its part, continued to prop up the Marxist government in Kabul. UNGOMAP's mandate ran out in March 1990 and the secretary-general replaced it with a smaller high-level Office of the Secretary-General in Afghanistan and Pakistan, funded out of the UN's regular budget. This office's purpose was to advise the secretary-general on the military and political situation in order to assist him in finding a settlement.

Central America

In Central America, Pérez de Cuéllar and the secretary-general of the Organization of American States extended, in November 1985, a joint offer of services to the five Central American countries concernedCosta Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, and Nicaraguaas well as to those of the Contadora Group, bringing to their attention the resources that the two organizations could provide, separately and together, to facilitate resolution of the region's problems and complement the Contadora process. The two leaders visited the area in January 1986 in an effort to reactivate the negotiating process. Pérez de Cuéllar welcomed the proposal of President Oscar Arias Sánchez of Costa Rica for a peace plan, put forward in February 1987 and agreed to that August in Guatemala City by the five Central American countries. He agreed to serve as a member of the International Committee for Verification and Follow-up created by the Guatemala agreement and offered to extend any additional assistance that would be appropriate under the UN Charter.

As a result of this initiative, the countries concerned joined in a framework agreement, Esquipulas II, which gave the UN a mandate to verify the commitments made by the parties to each other. In 1989, the secretary-general established the UN Observer Mission (ONUVEN) to supervise the electoral process in Nicaragua. It was the first time the UN had been directly involved in electoral supervision. The UN Observer Group in Central America (ONUCA) was charged with overseeing the demobilization of the Contra guerrillas in Nicaragua. In December 1989, the secretary-general brought together the five Central American presidents in order to resume a dialogue between the government of El Salvador and the FMLN guerrillas. By July 1990, the San José Human Rights Accord was concluded, in which the government of El Salvador agreed to have its compliance monitored by a UN mission (UN Observer Mission in El Salvador-ONUSAL). After 20 months of negotiations, on his very last day in office, Pérez de Cuéllar witnessed the signing of a cease-fire agreement in the 12-year civil war in El Salvador, on 31 December 1991.

The success of the United Nations in monitoring the elections in Nicaragua encouraged Haiti to request the organization to monitor its elections in December 1990. The General Assembly granted the request, and created the UN Observer Group for Verification of Elections in Haiti, known by its French acronym, ONUVEH. Jean-Bertrand Aristide was elected president in elections declared by the United Nations to be free and fair. However, in September 1991, President Aristide was overthrown by a military coup, creating an intransigent problem for Pérez de Cuéllar's successor.


Hostilities between Cambodia (at that time Kampuchea) and Vietnam had broken out in 1978. The United Nations became deeply involved in a humanitarian mission to assist refugees in the conflict along the border of Thailand and Cambodia. In January 1989, the revitalized Security Council began to take a more active role in the 11-year-old civil war. The secretary-general's special representative, Under Secretary Rafeeuddin Ahmed, played an essential role in the negotiating the framework for a settlement leading to a specific blueprint for the restoration of peace. In August 1989 the Paris Conference on Cambodia was convened, but was suspended within a month. Meetings in New York and Paris in 1990 finally secured the agreement of all the parties to the framework agreement developed by the Security Council. The agreement was signed on 23 October 1991, and two more UN missions were created: the UN Transitional Authority in Cambodia (UNTAC), and the UN Advance Mission in Cambodia (UNAMIC). The scale and cost of the mandate for these missions was unprecedented. It included repatriation of refugees from the Thai border camps, cantonment of all military forces and demobilization of 70% of these troops, registration of voters, supervision of elections for a Constituent Assembly, and supervision of the process of drafting and ratifying a new constitution.


The change in the players on the world stage led to the resolution of this long-standing issue, nearly twenty-five years after the General Assembly first denounced South Africa's attempted annexation of South West Africa (now Namibia), and a dozen years after the Security Council laid out the settlement plan for its independence. The Security Council's resolution 435 of 1978 had called for a cease-fire in Namibia, the abolition of apartheid laws, the withdrawal of South Africa from Namibia, the election of a constituent assembly, and the establishment of the United Nations Transitional Assistance Group (UNTAG) to oversee free and fair elections. However, the presence of Cuban troops in Namibia in support of the liberation movement, the South West Africa Peoples' Organization (SWAPO), created another stalemate between East and West. In 1988, the change in the political climate between the two superpowers produced an agreement that led to the withdrawal of the Cuban troops and the implementation of UNTAG. The transition began in April 1989 and 97% of the registered voters participated in elections in November. On 21 March 1990, Namibia became an independent state, with SWAPO leader Sam Nujoma as its president. UNTAG withdrew from Namibia in March 1990. As Pérez de Cuéllar reported in 1990, "UNTAG turned out to be something far more than its somewhat pedestrian name implied. It established the workability of democratic procedures even in a terrain which at first looked most unpromising. It also proved the executive ability of the United Nations in successfully managing a complex operation which brought together 8,000 men and women from more than 100 nations."


The dramatic events that led to the dismantling of the apartheid system and the birth of a new South African nation are chronicled in the chapter on International Peace and Security. However, it was during Pérez de Cuéllar's tenure as secretary-general that the General Assembly held its 16th Special Session (12-14 December 1989) devoted to the question of apartheid. On 11 February 1990, South African President F. W. de Klerk released Nelson Mandela after 27 years of imprisonment. In response to the assembly's Resolution S-16/1, the secretary-general sent a high-level mission to South Africa in June 1990 to investigate the progress that had been made toward dismantling apartheid. By the end of his tenure, the process of change that would bear fruit in 1994, was firmly established.

Other Major Developments

Besides the problems of international peace and security listed above, the secretary-general's reports to the General Assembly made it clear he observed a growing appreciation in the international community of the need for cooperative action on a number of problems that transcend country borders and defy the ability of states to solve them independently. The recognition of the HIV/AIDS pandemic, its link to the plague of drug abuse and drug trafficking, and the concomitant links to international terrorism and organized crime all urgently required the attention of the world organization.

It was in the final years of Pérez de Cuéllar's tenure that the stage was set for what he called a new evolution in global society, in which humankind would make international covenants, not only between individuals and nations, but also between human-kind and the environment: the 1987 Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer came into force in 1989; the Basel Convention on the Control of Transboundary Movements of Hazardous Wastes and Their Disposal was adopted in March 1989; the Second World Climate Conference was held in late 1990; and in February 1991, the first negotiations by the International Negotiating Committee on a framework convention on climate change began. Those negotiations would lead to the historic UN Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED), held in Rio de Janeiro in 1992 and dubbed the "Earth Summit." It was during the final years of the 1980s that an entirely new concept for the UN's work was developed: sustainable development.


Secretary-General Boutros Boutros-Ghali took office in an air of general euphoria over the accomplishments of the United Nations in the post-Cold War era. However, his first two years in office witnessed the proliferation of intractable and appalling regional conflicts in Haiti, Somalia, the former Yugoslavia and Rwanda, among others. The multiplicity and savagery of these conflicts cast a pall on the much hoped-for "new world order" which the end of the Cold War had inspired.

Soon after Boutros-Ghali's inauguration, in January 1992, the Security Council met in its first-ever summit session, at which the heads of states of all the members of the council convened in New York, in person. On 31 January 1992, they requested that the secretary-general submit to the Security Council "an analysis and recommendations on ways of strengthening and making more efficient within the framework and provisions of the Charter the capacity of the United Nations for preventive diplomacy, for peacemaking and for peacekeeping." Boutros-Ghali's An Agenda for Peace set forth an analysis of the world organization's new situation at a time of global transition with respect to international peace and security. This document is more fully explained in the chapter on International Peace and Security.

In May 1994, Boutros-Ghali responded to a 1992 request of the General Assembly to submit a similar report on development under the agenda item "Development and International Economic Cooperation." He declared that development was not only a fundamental human right, but also the most secure basis for peace. Although the UN had accomplished remarkable achievements in many areas, it was undeniable that after decades of efforts to assist the developing world, the poorest nations were falling even further behind, strangled by debt and social upheaval. Boutros-Ghali said that, although concerns had been expressed that the United Nations put greater emphasis on peacekeeping than development, the numbers of staff and the regular budgetary allocations did not support this fear. He posited that development could not proceed without a fundamental basis in peace, and went on to describe the ideal evolution of a peacekeeping/humanitarian aid operation into a situation of sustainable development.

Boutros-Ghali further maintained that protection of the environment was another fundamental concept for development. "In the developing world, ecological pressure threatens to undermine long-term development. Among many countries in transition, decades of disregard for the environment have left large areas poisoned and unable to sustain economic activity in the long term. Among the wealthiest nations, consumption patterns are depleting world resources in ways that jeopardize the future of world development," observed Boutros-Ghali. The concept of "sustainable development," as elaborated by UNCED in 1992, had to be strengthened as a guiding principle of development. Social justice and democracy were posited as the other pillars of a successfully developing country.


Elected in UN-supervised elections in December 1990 and deposed by a military coup in September 1991, Haiti's President Jean-Bertrand Aristide turned to the United Nations and the Organization of American States for assistance. In its Resolution 46/7 (September 1991), the General Assembly strongly condemned the "attempted illegal replacement of the Constitutional President of Haiti" and demanded that President Aristide be restored to power. It requested that the secretary-general cooperate with the Organization of American States (OAS) to restore the legally elected government in Haiti. A trade embargo and a halt to bilateral assistance were imposed on the illegal government, but there was little progress in negotiations. In December 1992, the secretary-general appointed Dante Caputo as Special Envoy for Haiti. The OAS also endorsed Caputo in January 1993. In its Resolution 47/20B (20 April 1993), the General Assembly mandated a joint UN/OAS International Civilian Mission to Haiti (known by its French acronym, MICIVIH) to be deployed throughout Haiti to report on the human rights situation there. On 16 June 1993, the Security Council imposed sanctions on Haiti. In July, talks were held on Governors Island, New York, and an agreement reached on specific measures relating to the return of President Aristide. In August 1993, the Security Council passed a resolution (862/1993) approving the dispatch of an advance team to prepare the way for the UN Mission in Haiti (UNMIH) which would supervise the transition. On 25 August 1993, the Haitian parliament ratified President Aristide's appointment of Robert Malval as prime minister-delegate during the transition period, as provided by the Governors Island Agreement. The Security Council then suspended the sanctions against Haiti.

On 27 September, the Security Council approved the deployment of UNMIH. However, on 11 October, armed civilians (known as "attachés") prevented the mission from debarking upon its arrival in Haiti. The attachés were known to be terrorizing the population through assassinations, attacks on the offices of the prime minister, and a general strike against UNMIH. It was also reported that police had facilitated, and in some cases participated in, these actions.

It became apparent that the military government was reneging on its promises under the Governors Island Agreement. On 13 October 1993, the Security Council reimposed its oil and arms embargo. That same month, most of the personnel of MICIVIH were evacuated, leaving a small administrative team to report on the alarming violence and violations of human rights being perpetuated, particularly against supporters of President Aristide.

In May 1994, the Security Council imposed expanded sanctions on Haiti, including a ban on commercial air travel. On 31 August 1994, the Security Council, in its resolution 940 (1994), authorized the use of a multinational force similar to the one used to repel Iraq from Kuwait. Specifically, the Security Council authorized UN members to: "form a multinational force under unified command and control and, in this framework, to use all necessary means to facilitate the departure from Haiti of the military leadership, consistent with the Governors Island Agreement, the prompt return of the legitimately elected President and the restoration of the legitimate authorities of the Government of Haiti, and to establish and maintain a secure and stable environment that will permit implementation of the Governors Island Agreement, on the understanding that the cost of implementing this temporary operation will be borne by the participating Member States." By the same resolution, the Security Council approved the eventual deployment of the 6,000-strong UNMIH force to assist with the restoration of democracy in Haiti.

The multinational force succeeded in landing in Haiti without significant bloodshed, pursuant to a last-minute negotiation headed by former United States President Jimmy Carter at the request of then President Bill Clinton. By October 1994 President Aristide was able to safely return to Haiti. On 16 November 1995 the Security Council commended UNMIH on the substantial progress it had made towards fulfilling its mandate as set out in Resolution 940 in 1994. After a phased reduction of the military and civilian police personnel, 4,000 military and 300 civilian police remained in the mission area by February 1996.


The downfall of Somalia's President Siad Barre in January 1991 resulted in a power struggle and clan warfare in many parts of Somalia. In November 1991, the fighting intensified causing widespread death and destruction, and forcing hundreds of thousands of civilians to flee their homes. Almost 4.5 million people in Somaliaover half the estimated populationwere threatened by severe malnutrition. It was estimated that as many as 300,000 people had died since November and at least 1.5 million were at immediate risk. The United Nations had instituted humanitarian operations in Somalia, but due to the deteriorating situation, it had been obliged to withdraw its personnel from the country.

In early 1992, Under Secretary-General for Political Affairs, James O. C. Jonah led a team to Somalia for talks aimed at bringing about a cessation of hostilities and securing access by the international relief community to civilians caught in the conflict. During that visit, unanimous support was expressed by all faction leaders for a United Nations role in bringing about national reconciliation. On 23 January 1992, the Security Council (Resolution 733/1992) urged all parties to cease hostilities, called for an embargo on military equipment, and requested the secretary-general to contact all parties involved in the conflict. In February, the secretary-general obtained the agreement of the two main factions in Mogadishu to an immediate cease-fire and on 3 March 1992, Interim President Ali Mahdi and General Mohamed Farah Aidid signed an "Agreement on the Implementation of a Cease-fire." The agreement also included acceptance of a United Nations security component for convoys of humanitarian assistance and deployment of 20 military observers on each side of Mogadishu to monitor the cease-fire.

On 24 April 1992, the Security Council adopted resolution 751 (1992) and established a UN Operation in Somalia (UNOSOM). The total strength of UNOSOM was eventually established at 4,219 troops to protect the representatives of the six main UN organizations at work in Somalia coordinating humanitarian efforts (FAO, UNDP, UNICEF, UNHCR, WFP and WHO). In addition, more than 30 non-governmental organizations were working in Somalia as "implementing partners" of the UN. However, in October the security situation deteriorated, as some factions refused to agree to the deployment of UN troops to assure delivery of humanitarian aid to people in great need. According to some estimates, as many as 3,000 persons a day were dying of starvation, while warehouses remained stocked with food supplied by the humanitarian agencies. On 3 December 1992, the Security Council unanimously adopted Resolution 794 (1992) authorizing the use of "all necessary means to establish as soon as possible a secure environment for humanitarian relief operations in Somalia." A Unified Task Force (UNITAF), led by United States troops, was deployed in Mogadishu on 9 December 1992.

On 3 March 1993, the secretary-general recommended the Security Council establish a new force, UNOSOM II, to take over from UNITAF, which had deployed approximately 37,000 troops in southern and central Somalia. The secretary-general appointed Admiral Jonathan T. Howe (Ret.) of the United States as his new Special Representative for Somalia to oversee the transition from UNITAF to UNOSOM II. A Conference on National Reconciliation in Somalia was convened on 15 March 1993 in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. It was attended by the leaders of 15 Somali political movements and representatives of regional organizations. After two weeks of intensive negotiations, the 15 Somali leaders signed an Agreement for disarmament and security, rehabilitation and reconstruction, restoration of property and settlement of disputes, and transitional mechanisms.

UNOSOM II took over from UNITAF on 4 May 1993, and proceeded to fulfill its mandate to disarm the Somali factions who were terrorizing the people and obstructing humanitarian activities. This provoked the hostility of a few clan leaders. On 5 June, 25 Pakistani soldiers were killed, 10 were missing and 54 were wounded in a series of ambushes and armed attacks against UNOSOM II troops throughout Mogadishu. The Security Council reaffirmed that the secretary-general was authorized to take all necessary measures against those responsible for armed attacks, and on 12 June 1993, UNOSOM II initiated decisive military action in south Mogadishu.

On 3 October 1993, United States Rangers, deployed in support of UNOSOM II, but not under UN command, launched an operation in south Mogadishu aimed at capturing a number of key aides of General Aidid who were suspected of complicity in the 5 June attack, as well as subsequent attacks on UN personnel and facilities. Two US helicopters were shot down by Somali militiamen using automatic weapons and rocket-propelled grenades. While evacuating the detainees, the Rangers came under concentrated fire, and 18 US soldiers were killed and 75 wounded. The bodies of the US soldiers were subjected to humiliating treatment. Following these events, the United States both reinforced its Quick Reaction Force in Somalia and announced its intention to withdraw its forces from Somalia by 31 March 1994.

On 9 October 1993, General Aidid's faction declared a unilateral cessation of hostilities against UNOSOM II, but the situation remained tense. It was reported that the major factions were rearming in anticipation of renewed fighting. UNOSOM II's mandate to force the factions to disarm was unenforceable.

The leaders of the two main Somali factions signed a Declaration of National Reconciliation on 24 March, committing themselves to repudiate any form of violence. A National Reconciliation Conference was scheduled for 15 May 1994; however, this conference was postponed. By March 1995, UNOSOM II withdrew from Somalia. In August 1995 a wide range of

Somali factions held consultations at Nairobi, Kenya and agreed to work out a common political platform and to start a process of national reconciliation. General Aidid rejected the calls for national reconciliation, and intense fighting broke out against the militia of Ali Mahdi. Aidid's forces occupied Baidoa and Hoddur, and a stalemate between faction leaders continued into 1996.

The Former Yugoslavia

In June 1991, the Republics of Croatia and Slovenia declared themselves independent from Yugoslavia. Fighting broke out when Serbs living in Croatia, supported by the Yugoslavian Army, opposed this move. European Community efforts to end hostilities were unsuccessful. On 25 September 1992, the United Nations Security Council unanimously adopted resolution 713 (1991) calling on all states to implement an arms embargo to Yugoslavia. Then Secretary-General Pérez de Cuéllar appointed former US Secretary of State Cyrus Vance as his personal envoy for Yugoslavia. Vance undertook several missions to Yugoslavia and discussed with the parties the feasibility of deploying a UN peacekeeping operation. An unconditional cease-fire was signed on 2 January 1992, and the Security Council approved the dispatch of a group of 50 military liaison officers to Yugoslavia to use their good offices to promote maintenance of the cease-fire. However, some political groups in Yugoslavia objected to the UN plan for a peacekeeping mission. Nevertheless, on 21 February 1992, the Security Council established the United Nations Protection Force (UNPROFOR) as an interim arrangement to create conditions of peace and security required for the negotiation of an overall settlement of the Yugoslav crisis.

On 30 April 1992, the secretary-general deployed 40 military observers to the Mostar region of Bosnia and Herzegovina in response to the deteriorating security situation there. However, fighting between Bosnian Muslims and Croats on one side, and Bosnian Serbs on the other, intensified. UNPROFOR, which had established its headquarters in Sarajevo, the capital, was obliged to relocate to Zagreb, the capital of Croatia.

A situation tragically similar to that in Somalia quickly developed. UN humanitarian convoys could not reach civilians trapped in the conflict. The Security Council, in its resolution 770 (1992) once again invoked Chapter VII of the Charter and called on states to "take nationally or through regional agencies or arrangements all measures necessary" to facilitate the delivery of humanitarian assistance to Sarajevo and other parts of Bosnia and Herzegovina. The situation continued to deteriorate and the Security Council declared a "no-fly zone" to prevent the bombing of Sarajevo and other villages. On 13 March 1993 three unidentified aircraft dropped bombs on two villages, the first time that the "no-fly zone" had been violated since its declaration. On 31 March the Security Council extended its ban on flights, and authorized NATO to enforce the no-fly zone. Between the establishment of the no-fly zone and April 1994, 1,620 violations of the ban on flights over Bosnian airspace were registered. On 28 February 1994, NATO fighters in the airspace of Bosnia and Herzegovina shot down four of six jets which had defied the international ban on military flights and ignored two warnings.

On 27 April 1994, the Security Council increased the strength of UNPROFOR to 33,891. Negotiations for a resolution of the crisis in the former Yugoslavia continued in July 1994.

The General Framework Agreement for Peace in Bosnia and Herzegovina (The Dayton Agreement)

Following a mortar attack on Sarajevo's Makale commercial district on 28 August 1995, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) conducted air strikes against Bosnian Serb positions near Sarajevo. The air strikes were authorized by the United Nations Peace Forces, and deterred any further attacks on safe areas. By October 1995, a country-wide cease-fire was in place, arranged by a delegation from the United States. The cease-fire included civilian provisions, such as humane treatment of detained persons, freedom of movement, and the right of displaced persons to return to their homes.

On 21 November 1995, a series of agreements to restore peace in Bosnia and Herzegovina concluded in Dayton, Ohio. The General Framework Agreement for Peace in Bosnia and Herzegovina (known as the Dayton Agreement) was initialed by the governments of the Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina, the Republic of Croatia, and the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. During the talks, several non-NATO countries, such as the Russian Federation, agreed to participate in the implementation of the Bosnian peace plan. The United Nations was not officially represented during the talks.

The economic sanctions against the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia and the Bosnian Serb party were suspended following the signing of the Dayton Agreement. In his 1996 annual report, Secretary-General Boutros Boutros-Ghali indicated that "the value of sanctions as a means of conflict resolution was amply demonstrated in the former Yugoslavia, where the conclusion of peace accords has been facilitated by the effective implementation of a sanctions regime."

After the signing of the Dayton Agreement, it seemed possible to solve the problem of repatriation for the estimated two million Bosnian refugees and displaced persons. The UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) was designated as the agency in charge of planning and carrying out the repatriation of the Bosnians who wanted to return. However, by June 1996, only 70,000-80,000 refugees and internally displaced persons had returned to their homes.


The UN Transitional Authority in Cambodia (UNTAC) successfully undertook its mission to conduct elections and repatriate more than 360,000 refugees. Its 21,000 military, police, and civilian personnel were fully deployed by mid-1992. Elections were held in May 1993, and 96% of the eligible population, nearly 4.7 million people, registered to vote. Despite concerns about disruption by the National Army of Democratic Kampuchea, which had withdrawn from the process, a six-week election campaign in which 20 political parties took part was successfully held. On 10 June, the secretary-general's special representative declared his view that the elections had been free and fair. The newly elected Constituent Assembly held its inaugural meeting on 4 June 1993 to begin its task of drafting and adopting a new constitution. The four Cambodian political parties that won seats in the election agreed to join in an interim administration for the remainder of the transitional period. UNTAC's mandate terminated in November 1993. A small Military Liaison Team remained in the country for six months as observers. The liaison team's mandate expired on 15 May 1994, and they were replaced by three military officers assisting the secretary-general's special representative in Cambodia.


Secretary-General Kofi Annan came to power at a time of differences between the UN and the US government concerning financial matters. At the end of 1996, the United States was us$ 376.8 million in arrears, but the government was reluctant to pay the debt because of the belief that the UN had not been thrift y with its budget. The United States held the position that the UN should be reduced in size, but Annan took a strong stand against further budget and staff cuts. Nevertheless, Annan took action to reform the UN. In 1998, the organization announced it stood "poised, finally, to undertake sweeping structural change." The then 185 member states gave strong backing to a plan to overhaul the organization, making it more efficient and responsive to the world scene in the post-cold war era. The secretary-general was credited with mobilizing the General Assembly behind the "ambitious program" while member states were lauded for not allowing individual concerns to "override their common recognition that strategic changes were essential to ensure the relevance and vibrancy of the organization in meeting current global challenges." Reforms included consolidation of some offices and revisions to the charter to allow for further streamlining.

The Annan-led reform efforts helped strengthen relations between the UN and its headquarters host country, the United States, which by the time the reorganization was announced was more than us$ 1 billion in arrears to the international body. President Clinton praised the reform and issued strong statements of support for the new secretary-general. Further, the US president promised to work out a plan with Congress to pay the nation's debt to the UN. Faced with losing its vote and influence in the organization (at the end of 1999), the United States later made good on the promise, which, combined with initiatives to ensure zero-rowth budgets, relieved the international body's long-standing financial crisis.

However, relations between the United States and the UN were strained over US military action (including the Clinton administration's attacks on suspected terrorist bases in Afghanistan in August 1998, and US-British bombings of Iraqi targets in May 2000) and inaction: Faced with wars on several fronts in Africa, in mid-May 2000, Kofi Annan said that the UN peacekeeping efforts needed the kind of military help that the United States was un-willing to provide. The United States had offered only to transport troops from other countries to confront the crisis in Sierra Leone, where hundreds of UN peacekeepers were being held hostage.

Indeed, Sierra Leone was one of four peacekeeping missions added in 1999 alone. The others were in Kosovo, East Timor, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo (formerly Zaire). In a press statement about the emerging situation in Africa, Annan called for a "new style of peacekeeping force for a different age." The secretary-general described it as one needing "rapid-reaction contingents" who would be on-call from countries with well-trained and well-equipped troops, ready to move fast to pave the way for peacekeeping forces. He also cited the need for better intelligence and more intelligence sharing, admitting the UN was "completely sleeping on the issue of intelligence." While world health, the environment, the status of women, and nuclear nonproliferation were the emphasis of the UN's program at the turn of the 21st century, the peacekeeping initiatives continued to take center stage-posing formidable hurdles for the UN leadership.

The Global Compact.

In an address to the World Economic Forum on 31 January 1999, Kofi Annan proposed an international initiative called the "Global Compact," that would bring companies together with UN agencies, labor, non-governmental organizations and other actors to pursue good corporate citizenship or responsibility. The focus of the initiative is to allow companies to develop and promote "values-based management," rooted in internationally accepted principles. The Global Compact was launched at a meeting in New York on 26 July 2000, which brought together senior executives from about 50 major corporations and the leaders of labor, human rights, environment, and development organizations. Hundreds of companies and organizations have participated in the initiative, and the private-sector participants represent virtually all industry sectors on every continent. The Global Compact is supported by four UN agencies: the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP); the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR); the International Labour Organization (ILO); and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).

Millennium Declaration.

In September 2000, at the UN Millennium Summit, world leaders, led by the secretary-general, agreed to set a timetable for achieving eight major goals by 2015. The first is to eradicate extreme poverty and hunger, by reducing by half the proportion of people living on less than one dollar a day, and by reducing by half the proportion of people who suffer from hunger. The second goal is to ensure that all boys and girls complete a full course of primary education. The third goal is to promote gender equality and empower women, by eliminating gender disparity in primary and secondary education. The fourth goal is to reduce the child mortality rate by 2/3 for children under five. The fift h goal is to reduce by 3/4 the maternal mortality ratio. The sixth goal is to stop and reduce the spread of HIV/AIDS, and to stop and reverse the incidence of malaria and other major diseases. The seventh goal is to ensure the sustainability of the environment, by reducing the loss of environmental resources, by reducing by half the proportion of people without sustainable access to safe drinking water, and to achieve significant improvement in the lives of at least 100 million slum dwellers, by 2020. The eighth and final goal is to develop a global partnership for development, by first developing a rule-based and non-discriminatory open trading and financial system; by addressing the least developed countries' special needs, including tariff- and quota-free access for their exports, enhanced debt-relief for heavily indebted poor countries, the cancellation of bilateral debt, and more generous assistance for countries committed to poverty reduction; by addressing the special needs of landlocked and small island developing states; by developing decent and productive work for youth; by providing access to affordable essential drugs in developing countries, in cooperation with pharmaceutical companies; and by making available, with the cooperation of the private sector, the benefits of new technologies, especially information and communications technologies. Kofi Annan's report on the project was entitled "We the Peoples: The Role of the United Nations in the 21st Century."

In 2005, the Secretary-General issued a report to be presented at the 60th session of the General Assembly, called "In Larger Freedom: Towards Development, Security, and Human Rights for All." World leaders came together to review progress made on the Millennium Development Goals since 2000. "In Larger Freedom" focused on the following issues: 1) Freedom from want, which includes strategies for reducing extreme poverty; financing for development; focusing on the Doha round of trade negotiations, by which member states are to provide duty-free and quota-free access for all exports from Least Developed Countries; and debt relief. 2) Freedom from fear, which includes preventing catastrophic terrorism; progress on disarmament and non-proliferation, including biological, chemical, and nuclear weapons; reducing the prevalence and risk of war; and arriving at principles to be used in deciding the use of force. 3) Freedom to live in dignity, including respect for the rule of law; strengthening the office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights; and creating a Democracy Fund to provide assistance to countries seeking to establish or strengthen democracy. 4) Strengthening the United Nations, including the General Assembly, the Security Council, the Economic and Social Council, the Secretariat, and a proposed Human Rights Council.

With regard to section three (Freedom to Live in Dignity) of "In Larger Freedom," under the rule of law, the Secretary-General introduced a concept called the "responsibility to protect" as a basis for collective action against genocide, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity. The doctrine of the "responsibility to protect" is in fact a restatement of international law: the world community has the right to take military action in the case of national authorities manifestly failing to protect their populations from genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing, and crimes against humanity. It is a recognition that states do not have the right to do whatever they wish within their own borders. Therefore, the hitherto inviolable principle of absolute national sovereignty becomes compromised by the doctrine of humanitarian intervention.

In addition to the "responsibility to protect" doctrine, other efforts toward UN reform arrived at during the 2005 world summit included the creation of a Peacebuilding Commission to supervise the reconstruction of countries after wars; the replacement of the discredited UN Commission on Human Rights by a more forceful Human Rights Council; and reform of the Security Council. Reform of the Security Council hinged on calls to enlarge its membership. Three different proposals were floated over the summer prior to the September 2005 summit. One from the African Union would have added 11 seats to the 15-member Council-six permanent ones, including two for Africa with veto power, and five rotating ones. A second measure, from a group of mid-tier countries including Italy and Pakistan, called for a 25-member Council with 10 new rotating seats. The most heavily-promoted plan came from the so-called "Group of Four"Brazil, Germany, India, and Japan. This plan posited a 25-member Council with three new members that would have two-year rotating terms and six permanent seats for the four sponsors, along with two unnamed African states. Enlargement of the Security Council did not take place as expected, however, due to later surfacing of national rivalries, regional divisions, and great power objections to reform.

Nobel Peace Prize.

On 10 December 2001, the secretary-general and the United Nations received the Nobel Peace Prize. In conferring the Prize, the Nobel Committee said Mr. Annan "had been pre-eminent in bringing new life to the Organization." The Committee noted the secretary-general's attention to peace and security, and his regard for human rights. It also praised his work in combating HIV/AIDS and international terrorism, and his efficient handling of the UN's modest resources. The Committee also stated that Mr. Annan "has made clear that sovereignty can not be a shield behind which member states conceal their violations."

Peace and Security


The secretary-general was supportive of Nigeria's peaceful transition from military rule under General Sani Abacha to a democratic government in 1999. President Olusegun Obasanjo was elected president of Nigeria in February 1999 as the first civilian leader in 15 years.

East Timor.

On 25 October 1999, the UN established UNTAET, the United Nations Transitional Administration in East Timor, following an independence referendum voted upon by the people of East Timor. Ninety-eight percent of East Timorese voted for independence. UNTAET was established to administer the territory, to exercise legislative and executive authority during the period of transition to independence and to support the move to self-government. Violence led by militias in favor of integration with Indonesia, with the support of Indonesian security forces, had erupted in East Timor following the independence vote; many East Timorese were killed, and as many as 500,000 were displaced from their homes. The secretary-general and the Security Council undertook strong diplomatic efforts to halt the violence. A large-scale humanitarian relief effort was launched by UN agencies. With Security Council Resolution 1272, UNTAET was established as a peacekeeping operation to administer the territory in its transition to independence. When East Timor became an independent state on 20 May 2002, UNTAET's mandate expired, and a successor mission, known as the United Nations Mission of Support in East Timor (UNMISET), was installed to support East Timorese authorities in the post-independence era, while undertaking the gradual withdrawal of UN forces.

Middle East.

On 24 May 2000, Israel withdrew its forces from Lebanon and redeployed them south of the international border, or the "blue line" designated by the UN as separating the two countries. This line was fixed in 1923 by colonial France and Great Britain, and is the one UN cartographers have drawn as the border. The secretary-general issued a report on 16 June concluding that Israel had fulfilled its obligations under Security Council Resolution 425 regarding withdrawal. The border was controlled by Hezbollah guerrillas, however, who did not surrender their arms. According to Resolution 425, the U.N. would take action to fill the vacuum created following the withdrawal of Israeli forces, and deploy appropriate armed forces to restore effective authority in the area. UNIFIL forces (United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon), in place since 1978, were reconfigured periodically, and the UNIFIL mandate has been extended every six months.

After Israel's withdrawal from Lebanon, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak and PLO leader Yasser Arafat met in July 2000 at the U.S. presidential retreat at Camp David, Maryland, with the guidance of President Bill Clinton, to discuss peace. For two weeks the leaders attempted to come up with acceptable solutions to questions such as the status of Jerusalem, the right of return of Palestinian refugees, security, Israeli settlements in the occupied territories, and borders. No agreement was reached, and the talks failed. On 28 September, Ariel Sharon, leader of the Likud Party, toured the al-Aqsa/Temple Mount complex in Jerusalem, one of the holiest sites to both Jews and Muslims. Sharon's critics saw it as a highly provocative move. Palestinian demonstrations followed, and developed into what became known as the al-Aqsa intifada.

The conflict escalated over the course of 2001, with an increasing number of Palestinian suicide bombings directed at Israeli civilians, and harsh reprisals by Israel. In the early months of 2002, the situation came to a head. Israel reoccupied major parts of the West Bank held by the Palestinian Authority, surrounded Yasser Arafat's compound in Gaza, and eventually attacked it. In March 2002, Secretary-General Kofi Annan criticized Israel for its actions, and sent a letter to Ariel Sharon (who had become Israeli Prime Minister in February 2001), stating that Israeli forces had been waging what appeared to be an all-out conventional war on Palestinian civilians. "Judging by the means and methods employed by the [Israeli Defense Forces]-F-16 fighter bombers, helicopter and naval gunships, missiles and bombs of heavy tonnage-the fighting has come to resemble all out conventional warfare," Annan wrote Sharon. "Israel is fully entitled to defend itself against terror," Annan wrote. "But this right does not discharge it of its obligation to respect the fundamental principles and rules of international humanitarian law and the law of armed conflict with respect to the treatment and protection of civilians in occupied territories."

In June 2002, US President George Bush called for the creation of an independent Palestinian state living side by side with Israel. This call formed the basis for what became known as the "Road Map", a peace plan proposed by the so-called "Quartet": the UN, the EU, the United States, and Russia. In exchange for statehood, under the road map the Palestinians would renounce terrorism and make democratic reforms. For its part, Israel would accept the emergence of a Palestinian government, and end settlement activity in the West Bank and Gaza as the terrorist threat dissipated. On 1 July 2003, Sharon and Palestinian Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas held a ceremonial opening to peace talks. As a symbolic end of a long era, Yasser Arafat died on 11 November 2004. In February 2005, the leaders of Israel, the Palestinian Authority, Jordan, and Egypt pledged their continuing support for the road map. In a move widely endorsed around the world, in August 2005, Sharon's planned withdrawal of Israeli settlements from the Gaza Strip began, and the process was completed by September 2005. Sharon suffered a massive stroke in January 2006, and was declared "permanently incapacitated" in April 2006 by the Israeli cabinet, which formally ended Sharon's term as prime minister.

Following a Hamas victory in the January 2006 Palestinian elections, the Quartet announced that future aid to the Palestinians would be tied to three principles: that Hamas renounce violence, that it recognize Israel's right to exist, and that it express clear support for the Middle East peace process, as outlined in the 1993 Oslo Accords. Hamas leaders rejected these demands as unfair.


Since the expulsion of UN weapons inspectors (the UN Monitoring and Verification Mission or UNMOVIC) from Iraq in November 1998, the status of Iraq's development programs, facilities for, and stocks of weapons of mass destruction (WMD) were unknown. Following the lead of the United States, which was determined to see Iraq either removed of its potential chemical, biological, and nuclear weapons programs, or to see a regime change in Iraq, the UN Security Council adopted Resolution 1441 on 8 November 2002, deciding Iraq was in material breach of its obligations under previous relevant Security Council resolutions concerning disarmament. Iraq was to comply with its disarmament obligations, and to set up an enhanced inspections regime to operate in the country, allowing unimpeded access to UNMOVIC and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to its weapons facilities. Any interference by Iraq to comply with the weapons inspections, or false reports of stockpiles and programs that it might make, would cause the Security Council to convene immediately to "consider" the situation. Secretary-General Annan, in praising the unanimous resolution, stated: "I urge President Saddam Hussein to comply fully with the Council's demands, for the sake of his people, regional security and world order."

Efforts to diplomatically resolve the Iraq crisis ended in failure, and on 19 March 2003 the United States launched air strikes against Baghdad, beginning the Iraq War. Within three weeks Iraqi forces had been defeated, and President Bush declared "major combat operations" had been completed on 1 May 2003. However, on 19 August 2003 a truck bomb exploded outside the UN headquarters in Baghdad. The top UN envoy in Iraq, Brazilian Sergio Vieira de Mello, was killed during the explosion, along with more than 20 others. Kofi Annan said the UN would not be distracted by what he called a senseless and brutal act, but also expressed disappointment that the US-led military forces had failed to create a secure environment for the UN's work. The fighting in Iraq escalated over the years with the rise of an Iraqi insurgency, and, later, intense sectarian violence. On 16 September 2004, Annan, speaking about the US-led invasion, said, "I have indicated it was not in conformity with the UN charter. From our point of view, from the charter point of view, it was illegal."

The UN's "oil-for-food" program, established in 1995 with Resolution 986, allowed Iraq to sell oil to finance the purchase of humanitarian goods, in order to ease comprehensive sanctions imposed by the UN in 1990 (Resolution 661) following Iraq's invasion of Kuwait. The $64 billion "oil-for-food" program was in operation from 1996 to 2003, when it was phased out after war intervened and oil exports under the program ended. It was the largest, most complex, and most ambitious humanitarian relief effort in the history of the UN. But the program was manipulated by Saddam Hussein, and it generated illicit profits, causing it to become the subject of intense criticism. In April 2004, an independent inquiry committee, led by Paul A. Volcker, former chairman of the US Federal Reserve, was charged by the Secretary-General and the Security Council with the task of thoroughly reviewing the management of the program. The investigation concluded in September 2005 that Annan failed to curb corruption and mismanagement at the UN, but it did not find evidence to support charges that he improperly influenced the oil-for-food program. The committee found that Annan failed to look more thoroughly into the activities of his son, Kojo Annan, to see if his working for a company that received an oil-for-food contract posed a conflict of interest for his father. It also found that the amount of Hussein's profits from kickbacks and surcharges connected to the program amounted to $1.8 billion, while smuggling amounted to $10.99 billion. The general conclusion of the 847-page report was that the UN is inefficient, over-politicized, corrupt, and in need of immediate repair. The day after the report was issued, Kofi Annan took personal responsibility for the management failures indicated in the report, and urged adoption of fundamental changes in the way the UN is administered.


Beginning in February 2003, a conflict in the western Darfur region of the Sudan erupted. After the 2002 ceasefire agreement between the Sudan People's Liberation Movement (SPLM) and the Sudanese government to bring an end to the 19-year old civil war between North and South, non-Arab rebels in Darfur claimed the government in Khartoum was neglecting the region. An Arab "Janjaweed" militia, recruited from local tribes and armed by the Sudanese government, combated non-Arab groups and committed systematic killings and rapes of African villagers in the region: hundreds of thousands of refugees fled to neighboring Chad. In September 2004, US Secretary of State Colin Powell described the killings as genocide. The UN described the conflict as one of the world's worst humanitarian crises, but stopped short of calling it genocide. By 2005, some 2 million people were living in refugee camps, and at least 180,000 people were estimated to have died as a result of the conflict.


In the wake of the terrorist attacks carried out by Osama bin Laden and his al-Qaeda network on the United States on 11 September 2001, the UN Security Council established a Counter Terrorism Committee (CTC) pursuant to its Resolution adopted 28 September concerning counter-terrorism. Resolution 1373 called upon states to prevent and suppress the financing of terrorist acts; to refrain from providing any support to entities or persons involved in terrorist acts; to deny safe haven to those who finance, plan, support, or commit terrorist acts; to bring those individuals or entities to justice; and to exchange information on the actions or movements of terrorists or terrorist networks. Subsequent Security Council resolutions were adopted regarding threats to international peace and security caused by terrorist acts. In November 2002, in speaking with President George Bush, the secretary-general stated: "[E]very region and people of every faith have also been victims of terrorists. This is a scourge that affects all of us, regardless of region or religion. And we need to stand together to defeat terrorism. And this is where the work of the United Nations and effective implementation of this Resolution 1373 is absolutely crucial. We need to work to deprive terrorists of the opportunities by not giving them haven, by not giving them financial and logistical support. And I think the counterterrorism committee of the Security Council is doing a good job in trying to make sure we all work together on it."

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