Boutros Ghali - New UN Secretary General

Economic Review, January 1992 | Go to article overview

Boutros Ghali - New UN Secretary General


Boutros Ghali (69) formally took over as the sixth Secretary-General of the United Nations on January 1, 1992 and pledged to create a new momentum for peace-making and above all defend human rights and democracy all over the world. Ghali of Egypt is the first Secretary-General from the African continent. A key player in Egypt's signing a peace treaty with Israel, he has been praised for his keen intellect and is expected to maintain the pro-Western, pro-American policies of his predecessor.

Ghali is considered to be one of the few men of international stature capable of breathing new life and vigour into the United Nations and bringing the organisation into the forefront of world affairs. Brilliant and versatile, Ghali has made international affairs a life-long career. Since 1964 when he went to study in Paris Ghali has been involved in world politics, developing along the years a specific vision of the role countries should play in the international community.

Born into a well known political family of the Egyptian bourgeoisie-the son of a Pasha and nephew of a Prime Minister Ghali seemed destined for an illustrious life. When he was young, he was interested in lots of things, he practiced all kinds of sports - horse riding, fencing, duck hunting. He got a pilot's license. According to him he was a bad student and an uncontrollable child. That soon changed when he arrived in Paris and was confronted with a foreign world, a new language and a totally different work ethic. This period abroad marked his entry into the complex world of international affairs, in which he has since excelled, meeting challenges with brio and infinite dexterity, and earning a reputation as one of the world's most astute diplomats. He arrived in Paris with a degree in law from Cairo University and immersed himself in his studies. In three years he earned as many diplomas, plus a doctorate in international law. He returned to Egypt to work as professor of international and diplomatic law at the political science department of Cairo University. On the side he launched several publications in Arabic, English and French that focused on international affairs and the Arab World

The next turning point in his career was a period of teaching at New York's Columbia University where he went as a Fullbright fellow. There he says he appreciated teaching methods based on dialogue and seminars, which was quite different from what he had experienced in England or France. While in the US, Ghali wrote two of his most important studies, on what were topical subjects in 1954-55: Yemen and the League of Arab States. Back in Egypt, the tireless Ghali, who is married but has no children, forged ahead with several projects. He helped set up the faculty of Economic and Political Science as part of the Law Faculty where he taught. The new faculty was destined to attract the intellectual elite of the country. He also set up a publication, Al Ahram Al Iktisadi (Economic Al Ahram). It came out as a bimonthly. …

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