Boutros-Ghali, Boutros (1922–)

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Boutros-Ghali, Boutros

Egyptian politician and diplomat Boutros Boutros-Ghali (also Butrus Butrus Ghali) is best known as the United Nations (UN) secretary general from 1992 to 1996.


Boutros-Ghali was born on 14 November 1922 in Cairo, Egypt, to a family of Coptic Christians. He was the son of a former minister of finance and the grandson of Boutros Pasha Ghali, who served as prime minister from 1908 until he was assassinated in 1910. Boutros-Ghali earned an LL.B. from Cairo University in 1946 and a Ph.D. in international law from the University of Paris in 1949. He was a Fulbright scholar at Columbia University from 1954 to 1955.


Boutros-Ghali started his career as a professor of international law and international relations at Cairo University in 1949, where he also served as chair of the political science department and as head of the Center for Political and Strategic Studies. He was a founder of al-Siyasa al-Dawliyya, which he edited until 1991, and the economic weekly Al-Ahram al-Iqtisadi, which he edited from 1960–1975.

When President Anwar Sadat decided to launch his peace initiative with Israel, Boutros-Ghali was appointed Sadat's minister of state for foreign affairs after Isma'il Fahmi, then foreign minister, resigned in protest to Sadat's peace moves. Boutros-Ghali left his position at Cairo University and accompanied Sadat on his historic trip to Jerusalem in November 1977.

Throughout the negotiations with Israel that eventually led to the Camp David Accords in September 1978 and the subsequent Egyptian-Israeli peace treaty in March 1979, Boutros-Ghali was one of the principal Egyptian negotiators. In 1991 he was appointed deputy prime minister for foreign affairs.

Javier Pérez de Cuéllar decided in 1991 to step down as secretary-general of the UN after two terms. Boutros-Ghali immediately began actively campaigning for the position, something that had never been done before. He was elected on the first ballot. During his term as secretary-general, the UN went through a transition from a world dominated by the U.S.-Soviet rivalry to a more multipolar political environment. This has meant a greater role for the world body in peacekeeping and peacemaking. Boutros-Ghali attempted to expand the mission of the UN to make it more relevant in solving ethnic conflicts and to redefine the use of UN forces in solving inter- and intranational conflicts.


Name: Boutros Boutros-Ghali (also Butrus Butrus Ghali)

Birth: 1922, Cairo, Egypt

Family: Married, wife: Leia Maria (née Nadler)

Nationality: Egyptian

Education: LL.B. (international law), Cairo University, 1946; Ph.D. (international law), University of Paris, 1949


  • 1949: Professor of international law and international relations, Cairo University
  • 1960: Begins editing al-Ahram al-Iqtisadi
  • 1977: Becomes Egyptian foreign minister
  • 1978: Takes part in Israeli-Egyptian negotiations at Camp David
  • 1992: Elected UN secretary-general
  • 1996: Ends term as UN secretary-general
  • 1997: President of La Francophonie
  • 2003: Chairman of the board of South Centre

After he failed to be reelected as UN secretary-general in 1996, Boutros-Ghali was president of La Francophonie, an association of French-speaking nations, from 1997 to 2002. From 2003 to 2006, Boutros-Ghali was chairman of the board of South Centre, a research organization dealing with developing countries. He currently serves as president of the Curatorium Administrative Council of the Hague Academy of International Law.


Boutros-Ghali was the most controversial UN secretary-general since Kurt Waldheim in the 1970s. The UN's transition into its greater role as a peacemaker was not easy, as the difficulties the UN faced in brokering peace in Somalia and the former Yugoslavia demonstrated in the 1990s. Nor was there international consensus on what the role of the UN should be in the post-Cold War world. Moreover there were criticisms over waste and abuse in the UN bureaucracy.

Principal among the critics of both the UN and Boutros-Ghali personally was the United States, which regularly withheld financial contributions. During his tenure as secretary-general, Boutros-Ghali pleaded that without the necessary resources, the UN could not fulfill its historic mission. As a result of American opposition, Boutros-Ghali became the first UN secretary-general not to be reelected to a second term. He was replaced by Kofi Annan.


Despite his many scholarly publications and service as an Egyptian diplomat, Boutros-Ghali largely will be remembered for his one-term tenure as UN secretary-general during a time in which the world was changing into a unipolar world dominated by the United States, which did not appreciate his efforts at bolstering the UN's global diplomatic mission.


Boutros-Ghali, Boutros. Unvanquished: A U.S.-U.N. Saga. New York: Random House, 1999.

                                                Bryan Daves

                           updated by Michael R. Fischbach

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Boutros-Ghali, Boutros (1922–)

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