28 February 2019

Secretary-General Marks Sir Brian Urquhart’s 100th Birthday, Hailing Former Official as Stalwart Servant of ‘We the Peoples’

Following is UN Secretary-General António Guterres’ message for the 100th birthday of Sir Brian Urquhart:

I join legions of admirers across the world in wishing Sir Brian Urquhart, the legendary long-time United Nations official, a very happy 100th birthday.

Sir Brian’s imprint on the United Nations has been as profound as that of anyone in the Organization’s history.  As one of the Organization’s earliest employees, he set the standard for the international civil service – principled, dedicated, impartial.

As an aide to Secretary-General Dag Hammarskjöld, he helped to define the UN’s scope of action in addressing armed conflict and other global challenges.  And as a close associate of Ralph Bunche, an illustrious figure in his own right, Sir Brian helped to establish and then propel international peacekeeping into wide-ranging use as a flagship United Nations activity.

Sir Brian’s commitment to peace was forged in part during the Second World War, where he was among the Allied soldiers present shortly after the liberation of the Bergen-Belsen death camp.  Across the decades, in service to several of my predecessors, he was at the centre of formative global events, from the Congo to the Middle East.  He also wrote extensively about international affairs, definitive biographies of Hammarskjöld and Bunche, as well as highly engaging and insightful sketches of major figures with whom he dealt over the years, prepared for the UN website.

With warmth, generosity and encouragement, Sir Brian has been an inspirational figure for United Nations staff and countless young people as they pursued their careers.  His memoir, A Life in Peace and War, should be required reading for all who work for the United Nations and for all who wish to understand the Organization’s work.  Writing in it about the earliest days of his career, Sir Brian noted that “we were all optimists… who believed in the possibility of organizing a peaceful and just world”.

Sir Brian maintained that optimism across his life, shaping the United Nations and history itself.  As we mark this milestone, we are grateful for his brilliant and incomparable contributions as a stalwart servant of “we the peoples”.

For information media. Not an official record.