Secretary-General's Remarks at the General Assembly Session in Memory of Boutros Boutros-Ghali
New York, 18 February 2016
Je remercie l’Assemblée générale d’avoir décidé de rendre hommage à mon éminent prédécesseur, Boutros Boutros-Ghali. Je présente mes sincères condoléances à sa veuve, Mme Leia Boutros-Ghali, aux autres membres de la famille Boutros-Ghali, au peuple égyptien et à tous ceux et celles qui déplorent cette perte.
Boutros Boutros-Ghali had both the fortune and the misfortune to serve as the first post-Cold-War Secretary-General of the United Nations.
While the United Nations was never as paralyzed during the Cold War as many have portrayed, the new dynamic gave the Organization new leeway to act. This brought promise and peril -- and Mr. Boutros-Ghali experienced both.
In his very first month in office, Mr. Boutros-Ghali presided over the first-ever Summit of the Security Council -- a powerful symbol of the will of world leaders to make greater use of the United Nations. “As the new era begins”, Mr. Boutros-Ghali told the assembled leaders, “it calls for both ideas and action to place international life on stronger foundations.”
Mr. Boutros-Ghali was a fount of ideas, building on his long career as a professor of international law. He broke barriers as the first African and Arab Secretary-General of the United Nations, and consistently gave voice to the poorest and least powerful members of the human family. He steered the Organization through a series of world conferences on the environment, population, human rights, women’s rights, social development and the unique challenges faced by the world’s small island developing states. These global gatherings captured the imagination and gave the world exciting new policies, directions and purpose. The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development that is our inspiring new template today owes much to the pioneering intellectual work of the 1990s.
Mr. Boutros-Ghali also oversaw remarkable growth in peacekeeping. His “Agenda for Peace” report made far-reaching proposals for fortifying this flagship UN activity, many of which have since become standard practice -- but many of which also remain unfulfilled. During his time in office, peacekeeping helped Cambodia, El Salvador, Mozambique and other countries emerge from conflict. At the same time, engagements in the Balkans, Somalia and Rwanda highlighted the gap between the needs of a given situation and the material support and political unity required from the Member States, in particular the Security Council. Here, too, the echoes resound and, indeed, haunt us to this very today.
Mr. Boutros-Ghali pursued major restructuring efforts, managerial reforms and other steps that strengthened the United Nations. In his report “An Agenda for Democratization”, he broke new ground in emphasizing the links between peace, development and democracy at the national level -- and in his calls for the democratization of the international system.
Mr. Boutros-Ghali won respect near and far, including as a leading Egyptian diplomat before joining the United Nations and, afterwards, as Secretary-General of La Francophonie. Yet he never attempted to endear himself to everybody. Perhaps he was too direct for some; he might have been too professorial for others; some definitely found him too independent -- a goal that he considered among the highest virtues for any Secretary-General of the United Nations.
I thank my predecessor for his lasting contributions to our work – and I invite all of you to share your thoughts and tributes in a Book of Condolences which has been placed near the Meditation Room just outside this Hall.
At a tumultuous time, Boutros Boutros-Ghali helped the United Nations find its footing in a new global landscape. As we do the same today, let us continue to build on his legacy. May he rest in peace.
Statements on 18 February 2016