Global Policy Forum

Secretary General Boutros Boutros-Ghali's


UN Secretary General
Boutros Boutros Ghali
Picture Credit: OECD

UN Secretary General Boutros Boutros-Ghali undertook a number of reforms at the beginning of his term in 1992, including reorganizing the Secretariat. Many of his structural reforms were concessions to Washington and to influential conservative think-tanks such as the Heritage Foundation. Boutros-Ghali's reorganization notably eliminated the Center on Transnational Corporations, a pioneering office that most companies disliked but many NGOs admired for its excellent research into Transnational Corporations (TNCs) and its proposals for a TNC "code of conduct." On the more positive side, Boutros Ghali made important reform proposals in two major reports to the General Assembly -- titled "An Agenda for Peace" and "An Agenda for Development." These reports showed the Secretary General's innovative thinking and they continued to influence reforms over the following decade in such areas as peacekeeping. Boutros-Ghali was most radical in his approach to UN finance. In the face of US non-payment of its dues, and near-bankruptcy of the organization, the Secretary General proposed global taxes as a new funding source. But Washington reacted with fierce objections and shortly thereafter vetoed his candidacy for a second term.

Also See GPF's Pages on:
UN Reform Initiatives | Peacekeeping | UN Finance | Transnational Corporations | Global Taxes | The Secretary General

Highly Recommended ArticleAn Agenda for Development (May 6, 1994)
Secretary Boutros Boutros-Ghali describes the nature and scope of UN development efforts and proposes ideas for reform.

Highly Recommended ArticleAn Agenda for Peace (June 17, 1992)
Secretary General Boutros Boutros-Ghali emphasizes preventive diplomacy and proposes strengthening UN peacemaking and peacekeeping. The report is considered innovative but short on strategies for implementation. Supplement to an Agenda for Peace (January 3, 1995) A followup report that develops the ideas of the first and proposes further reforms.

An Agenda for Peace Ten Years On (February 3, 2002)
United Nations Association of the United Kingdom (UNA-UK) presents an overview of Secretary General Boutros Boutros-Ghali's Agenda for Peace and its 1995 Supplement. It analyses the reports' contributions on arms control, disarmament and post-conflict peace building. UNA-UK points to the member states' waning enthusiasm as a main obstacle to implementing Boutros-Ghali's reform recommendations. UNA-UK suggests the outcomes of conflicts in Somalia, Bosnia and Rwanda might have turned out differently with sustained support for the Agenda.

Why Washington Wants Rid of Mr Boutros-Ghali (November 1996)
This article examines Washington's opposition to UN Secretary General Boutros Boutros-Ghali's re-election. US government members labeled the Secretary General "a dangerous subversive" trying to increase the powers of the UN and turn the world body into a supranational state. Boutros-Ghali regarded post-Cold War international relations as an opportunity to strengthen the UN and called for extensive reform of the organization. (Le Monde diplomatique)

Globalopolies (May 18, 1992)
In 1991, Secretary General Boutros-Ghali approved the US selection of a new Under Secretary General for management, following a "promise" that the US would repay the dues it owed the UN. Washington appointed Richard Thornburgh, who shortly after terminated the UN Center for Transnational Corporations (CTC). At the time, the CTC was working on a framework of regulations that would limit transnational corporations' control of world markets. Shutting it down ensured that the world economy was safe for Washington's "industrial sponsors," the many large transnational corporations with bases in the US, and annual sales of $2.7 trillion. (The Nation)

Why the Right Loves the UN (April 19, 1992)
In the early 1990s, a network of Washington backed right-wing organizations consistently attacked the UN, viewing it as a "forum for world Bolshevism and anti-Americanism." But Secretary General Boutros Boutros-Ghali's appointments of several US officials to influential positions within the UN pleased the conservative groups. Meanwhile, others feared that the US was carving the UN "into the shape the American right wants." The author argues that Boutros-Ghali was trapped between needing US support and not conceding the "soul" of the UN to the far right. (The Nation)

"Slanted US Agenda Transforms UN" (April 1992)
Global Policy Forum's James A. Paul argues that Secretary General Boutros Boutros-Ghali's reform proposals pushed the UN towards a more conservative agenda. Boutros-Ghali's decision to merge five development bodies ended global approaches to economic problems and limited research programs and intergovernmental coordination. Paul argues that Boutros-Ghali's tenure facilitated a shift in power from the General Assembly, with a large representation of poorer countries, to the Security Council, composed of the richest and most powerful nations. (In These Times)

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