On February 16, the world lost a veteran diplomat and international law expert, Boutros Boutros Ghali. He died at the age of 93. He was a veteran Egyptian diplomat and first UN Secretary-General representing Africa. He was born on November 14, 1922. His father was the finance minister and grandfather was premier until his assassination in 1910 in Egypt.
Ghali began his academic journey by studying law, economics and received Ph.D in international law from Paris. He began his carrier as the Professor of International Law and International Relations after completion of his formal education. During this period, he wrote numbers of research articles and a dozen of books on foreign policy and burning global issues. He delivered lectures around the world in different languages like Arabic, French and English in political and academic forum. He had the mastery over various languages and capacity of dealing burning issues with diplomatic and academic caliber that later contributed to influence the political and diplomatic circle.
Meanwhile, scholar Ghali became the member of UN commission of International Law that helped him know the role and weaknesses of the UN.
He became the member of the Egyptian Parliament in 1987, and at the time of his appointment as UN head, he had been Deputy Prime Minister for Foreign Affairs of Egypt since May 1991, and had served as Minister of State for Foreign Affairs from October 1977 until 1991.
In January 1992, Ghali was elected as the sixth Secretary- General of the UN as he was one of 14 candidates for the post. It was a period of paradigm shift in global politics with hopes for peace after the cold war complexities and despairs. The shift of balance of power, polarization and burning newer global agendas and threat of terrorism were the major challenges to the world. Collapse of the Soviet Union, end of the cold war and the rising of the unipolar world order dominated by the US had drawn the world politics into a new course.
Soon after assuming the office, as the head of the UN, Ghali reiterated for Post-Cold War internationalism and practiced it; however, partly he achieved success on it. He critically examined the end of the US-Soviet rivalry after cold war and Kuwait crisis. He pledged for an integrated global system promoting peace, common security, economic development, human rights maintaining the multi-lateral cooperation.
At the very beginning, he brought the structural change of the UN and developed the concept of transnational cooperation, Agenda for Peace and Agenda for Development. He was very serious about the near bankruptcy of the UN and US non-payment of huge dues. To cope with such problems, Ghali proposed the global taxes provision as alternative funding source. However, US vehemently opposed it. Then, he faced lack of timely mandate and resources for immediate action in almost all cases during his tenure.
He was the versatile figure having notable identity as a scholar, author and jurist along with his wider identity of diplomat. His main contribution lies on understanding the post-cold war realities and guiding role of UN for peacekeeping process.
It was a tough job for him to settle the raising global issues like identity, ethnic, communal and regional political agendas across the globe appropriately, he did it.
His priority was to broaden the UN role of peace-keeping with streamlining the secretariat and allocating more budget for peace keeping operations. He deployed over 700,000 peace keeping troops for various peace keeping operations during his tenure. Such structural, procedural, functional and agenda setting reforms drew him into controversy. In the issues of Bosnia and Somalia, he stood in different position with US and other western countries and UN military field commanders as well.
However, he continuously went ahead in the agenda of peace in Middle East, Angola, Cambodia and other African countries. In various such regards, the US and other western countries were not digesting Ghali’s action-oriented changes. They were seeing him as a mere representational figure from the third world, representing from 51-African member bloc to the UN. His determination and action oriented projects for peace keeping was highly praised across the globe however, having some controversial legacy in political thinking and way of analyzing the world affairs of the US and some western countries.
It became possible, because he had acquired experiences from various walks of life and areas like human rights, socio-economic development, international humanitarian law, decolonization, issues of ethnic minorities, non-alignment, different developmental activities in Mediterranean region, Afro- Arab cooperation and other several issues raised across the globe.
Meanwhile, he called ever-summit of heads of the State of the Security Council to discuss the burning issues and Ghali was requested to prepare analysis report on the issues with preventive measures. He prepared a report ‘An agenda for Peace’ and gave strategic suggestions.
Due to his proactive initiatives of ‘global mandate’, he extended the traditional narrow parameter of the UN role in global burning issues and developed it as public pulpit. This step, led him towards controversy with Security Council Members (P5). The traditional role of Secretary-General in the UN was similar to company secretary of a particular private company following instruction from the board of directors, Ghali denied such practice. He tried to move ahead with representing the global forum rather following the super power’s instruction. He did his best to make the office and his position of Secretary-General as autonomous and action-oriented.
During his tenure he faced tragedies in Somalia, Rwanda and the former Yugoslavia and resistance with the Clinton administration in US. The ideological divergence and his efforts of collecting over a1.3billion $unpaid due by the US to UN disharmonized relations between Ghali and the US. Later, US labeled him as ‘wrong man in the right post’. Due to this reason, US blocked his candidacy for second term, though Ghali already had denied for second tenure. He became the only UN Secretary-General of serving single tenure in the organization
Such controversy with US, Ghali writes in his memoir, “Unvanquished: A U.S.-U.N. Saga” (1999), that the Americans had told him where not to travel, whom to avoid meeting and what to say and not say in speeches, and also to avoid ruffling President Bill Clinton, whom he regarded as thin-skinned and indecisive, and to stay away from Congress and soft-pedal talk of America’s 1.3 billion$ debt to the United Nations.”
However, such clash with US, Ghali failed to give maximum output, though he tried his best for some reforms and results denying the dictatorship of any danger. He termed US foreign policy as ‘utterly confused”.
Ghali as a realist IR scholar somehow believes in use of coercive forces for resolving the unrest as the last way out therefore, he enlarged the scale of peace keeping troops in various missions. Meanwhile, American troops entered Somalia to feed the starving survivors in domestic clash unfortunately 18 Armey Rangers were slain by warlord forces in 1993 and US withdrew its forces. Following it, other countries remained unwilling to assist UN peace keeping operations. That resulted badly in the UN peace keeping missions.
For the time being, Rwanda deigned into genocidal slaughter and rape in 1994 when 1.17 million people were killed within 100 days. During these days Ghali failed to garner adequate support from the powerful nations. He described it as “my worst failure at the United Nations.”
Nevertheless, he blamed the US, Britain, France and Belgium for paralyzing action by setting impracticable conditions for intervention to take strong action to beef up peacekeepers to stop the massacres there.However, Mr. Clinton apologized America’s inaction later regarding such issues.
Ghali was labeled as the obsessive internationalist from the westerners’ eyes and man of action and reaction from non-westerns’ eyes.After his tenure, he served as secretary general of La Francophonie, an organization of French-speaking countries, since 1997 to 2002.
He then contributed three years as chairman of South Centre, where he contributed a lot for research for developing countries.
On his demise, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon remembered him as “a memorable leader who rendered invaluable services to world peace and international order andformidable experience and intellectual power to the task of piloting the United Nations through one of the most tumultuous and challenging periods in its history, and guiding the Organization of the Francophonie in subsequent years. He will always be remembered for ever due to his peace and development agenda. RSS