Secretaries-General

Under Article 97 of the Charter of the United Nations, the Secretary-General is appointed as the Organization's chief administrative officer by the General Assembly upon the recommendation of the Security Council.

The current Secretary-General, as of 1 January 2017, is Mr. António Guterres (Portugal). His predecessors are: Ban Ki-moon (Korea) who served from January 2007 to December 2016; Kofi Annan (Ghana) who held office from January 1997 to December 2006; Boutros Boutros-Ghali (Egypt), who held office from January 1992 to December 1996; Javier Pèrez de Cuèllar (Peru), who served from January 1982 to December 1991; Kurt Waldheim (Austria), who held office from January 1972 to December 1981; U Thant (Burma, now Myanmar), who served from November 1961, when he was appointed acting Secretary-General (he was formally appointed Secretary-General in November 1962) to December 1971; Dag Hammarskjöld (Sweden), who served from April 1953 until his death in a plane crash in September 1961; and Trygve Lie (Norway), who held office from February 1946 to his resignation in November 1952.

Archives of all former Secretaries-General are available for consultation.

Ban Ki-Moon, 2007-2016

“Multiple crises – food, fuel, financial, flu – are hitting at once. Climate change looms larger every day. Each illustrates a 21st-century truth: we share one planet, one home. As people, as nations, as a species, we sink or swim together. The United Nations is doing its utmost to respond – to address the big issues, to look at the big picture.” - Ban Ki-Moon, 24 October 2009.

Ban Ki-Moon of the Republic of Korea was born on 13 June 1944 and received a bachelor's degree in international relations from Seoul National University in 1970. In 1985, he earned a master's degree in public administration from the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University.

On 1 January 2007, Ban Ki-moon became the eighth Secretary-General of the United Nations, bringing to his post 37 years of service both in Government and on the global stage.

At the time of his election as Secretary-General, Mr. Ban was his country's Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade. His long tenure with the Ministry included postings in New Delhi, Washington D.C. and Vienna, and responsibility for a variety of portfolios, including Foreign Policy Adviser to the President, Chief National Security Adviser to the President, Deputy Minister for Policy Planning and Director-General of American Affairs. Throughout this service, his guiding vision was that of a peaceful Korean peninsula, playing an expanding role for peace and prosperity in the region and the wider world.

 

 

Archival Finding Aid

Official United Nations Biography

Ban Ki-Moon Centre for Global Citizens

Kofi Annan, 1997-2006

In the 21st Century I believe the mission of the United Nations will be defined by a new, more profound awareness of the sanctity and dignity of every human life, regardless of race or religion. This will require us to look beyond the framework of States, and beneath the surface of nations or communities.” - Kofi Annan, 10 December 2001.

Kofi A. Annan of Ghana, the seventh Secretary-General of the United Nations, served from 1997 to 2006 and was the first to emerge from the ranks of United Nations staff.

Mr. Annan joined the UN system in 1962 as an administrative and budget officer with the World Health Organization in Geneva. He later served with the Economic Commission for Africa in Addis Ababa, the UN Emergency Force (UNEF II) in Ismailia, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in Geneva, and in various senior posts in New York. Immediately before becoming Secretary-General, he was Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping. Mr. Annan also served as Special Representative of the Secretary-General to the former Yugoslavia (1995-1996), and facilitated the repatriation from Iraq of more than 900 international staff and other non-Iraqi nationals (1990).

At Mr. Annan's initiative, UN peacekeeping was strengthened in ways that enabled the United Nations to cope with a rapid rise in the number of operations and personnel. It was also at Mr. Annan's urging that, in 2005, Member States established two new intergovernmental bodies: the Peacebuilding Commission and the Human Rights Council. Mr. Annan likewise played a central role in the creation of the Global Fund to fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, the adoption of the UN's first-ever counter-terrorism strategy, and the acceptance by Member States of the “responsibility to protect” people from genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity. His “Global Compact” initiative, launched in 1999, has become the world's largest effort to promote corporate social responsibility.

Archival Finding Aid

Official United Nations Biography

Kofi Annan Foundation

Boutros Boutros-Ghali, 1992-1996

Democracy within the family of nations means the application of its principles within the world Organization itself. This requires the fullest consultation, participation and engagement of all States, large and small, in the work of the Organization.” - Boutros Boutros-Ghali, 17 June 1992.

Boutros Boutros-Ghali became the sixth Secretary-General of the United Nations on 1 January 1992, when he began a five-year term. Mr. Boutros-Ghali was born in Cairo on 14 November 1922.

Mr. Boutros-Ghali received a Ph.D. in international law from Paris University in 1949. Between 1949 and 1977, Mr. Boutros-Ghali was Professor of International Law and International Relations at Cairo University. From 1974 to 1977, he was a member of the Central Committee and Political Bureau of the Arab Socialist Union.

He was a member of the International Law Commission from 1979 until 1991, and is a former member of the International Commission of Jurists. He became a member of the Egyptian Parliament in 1987 and was part of the secretariat of the National Democratic Party from 1980. Until assuming the office of Secretary-General of the United Nations, he was also Vice- President of the Socialist International.

In September 1978, Mr. Boutros-Ghali attended the Camp David Summit Conference and had a role in negotiating the Camp David accords between Egypt and Israel, which were signed in 1979. He also headed Egypt's delegation to the General Assembly sessions in 1979, 1982 and 1990.

 

Archival Finding Aid

Official United Nations Biography

Register of the Boutros Boutros-Ghali papers, Online Archive of California

Javier Pérez de Cuéllar, 1982-1991

"It is my conviction that the Organization must constantly represent the expression of the universal conscience. To that end I shall do everything within my power to ensure that the purposes and principles of the Charter are scrupulously observed. I shall take up every problem or issue in an open-minded fashion and I shall act with awareness and according to conscience, on the basis of right, law and justice.” - Javier Pérez de Cuéllar, 15 December, 1981

Javier Pérez de Cuéllar assumed office as Secretary-General of the United Nations on 1 January 1982. On 10 October 1986, he was appointed for a second term of office, which began on 1 January 1987. Mr. Pérez de Cuéllarwas born in Lima, Peru, on 19 January 1920. He is a lawyer and a career diplomat, now retired.

He joined the Peruvian Ministry of Foreign Affairs in 1940 and the diplomatic service in 1944. He was a member of the Peruvian delegation to the General Assembly at its first session in 1946 and a member of the delegations to the twenty-fifth to thirtieth sessions of the Assembly.

Having returned to Lima in 1961, he was promoted to the rank of Ambassador the following year, successively occupying the posts of Director of the Legal Department, Director of Administration, Director of Protocol and Director of Political Affairs. In 1966, he was appointed Secretary-General (Deputy Minister) for Foreign Affairs and served as Legal Adviser in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (1981).

He was appointed Permanent Representative of Peru to the United Nations (1971), and led his country's delegation to all sessions of the Assembly until 1975. Mr. Pérez de Cuéllar represented his country in the Security Council (1973-1974), serving as President of the Council at the time of the events in Cyprus in July 1974. In 1975, he was appointed Special Representative of the Secretary-General in Cyprus, a post he held until December 1977, when he rejoined his Foreign Service.

In 1979, he was appointed as United Nations Under-Secretary-General for Special Political Affairs. In May 1981, he again rejoined his country's Ministry of Foreign Affairs but continued to represent the Secretary-General in the context of the situation relating to Afghanistan until his appointment in December of that year as Secretary-General of the United Nations.

Archival Finding Aid

Official United Nations Biography

Guide to the Javier Pérez de Cuéllar Papers, Yale University

Kurt Waldheim, 1972-1981

"The United Nations was founded on the belief that the human race is capable, by an effort of will, of improving its lot and fulfilling in a more satisfactory way its promise and its genius." - Kurt Waldheim, 1977.

Kurt Waldheim was appointed Secretary-General of the United Nations for two five-year terms beginning on 1 January 1972. Mr. Waldheim was born at Sankt Andra-Wordern, near Vienna, Austria, on 21 December 1918. He graduated from the University of Vienna as a Doctor of Jurisprudence in 1944 and is also a graduate of the Vienna Consular Academy.

Mr. Waldheim joined the Austrian diplomatic service in 1945, served as First Secretary of the Legation in Paris (1948-1951), headed the personnel department of the Ministry for Foreign Affairs in Vienna (1951 to 1955) was appointed Permanent Observer for Austria to the United Nations (1955) and later that year became head of the Austrian Mission. Mr. Waldheim represented Austria in Canada (1956-1960) and was head of the Political Department (1960-1962) in the Austrian Ministry for Foreign Affairs, subsequently becoming Director-General for Political Affairs until June 1964. Mr. Waldheim was Permanent Representative of Austria to the United Nations (1964-1968) and was Federal Minister for Foreign Affairs of Austria (1968-1970).

As Secretary-General, Mr. Waldheim made it a practice to visit areas of special concern to the United Nations. In 1972 he traveled to South Africa and Namibia in order to assist in finding a satisfactory solution for the problem of Namibia S-0902.The Secretary-General paid three visits to Cyprus for discussions with government leaders and to inspect the United Nations Peace-keeping Force in the island S-0903. Mr. Waldheim made a number of trips to the Middle East in the continuing search for peace in the area. In 1973 he visited Syria, Lebanon, Israel, Egypt and Jordan. On these visits he also inspected the United Nations peace-keeping operations in the area - the United Nations Truce Supervision Organization (UNTSO), the United Nations Emergency Force (UNEF I and UNEF II) and United Nations Disengagement Observer Force (UNDOF).

The Secretary-General also opened and addressed a number of major international conferences convened under United Nations auspices. These include the third session of the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (Santiago, April 1972), the United Nations Conference on the Human Environment (Stockholm, June 1972), the Third United Nations Conference on the Law of the Sea (Caracas, June 1974), the World Population Conference (Bucharest, August 1974) and the World Food Conference (Rome, November 1974).

Archival Finding Aid

Official United Nations Biography

U Thant, 1961-1971

We are thrown together on this planet and we have to live together. That is why the Charter imposes the imperative on all human beings to practice tolerance and to live together in peace with one another as good neighbors. To my mind this is the simplest definition of peaceful coexistence.” - U Thant, 7 January 1964

U Thant, who served as Secretary-General of the United Nations from 1961 to 1971, was chosen to head the world body when Secretary-General Dag Hammarskjöld was killed in an air crash in September 1961. U Thant was born at Pantanaw, Burma, on 22 January 1909, and was educated at University College, Rangoon.

Prior to his diplomatic career, U Thant's experience was in education and information work. He served as Headmaster of National High School, was a member of Burma's Textbook Committee and the Council of National Education, and was an Executive Committee member of the Heads of Schools Association, Secretary of Burma's Education Reorganization Committee (1942), and was appointed Press Director of the Government of Burma in 1947. He became Director of Broadcasting, was appointed Secretary to the Government of Burma in the Ministry of Information (1948), became Secretary for projects in the Office of the Prime Minister (1953), and was then assigned additional duties as Executive Secretary of Burma's Economic and Social Board (1955).

At the time of his appointment as Acting Secretary-General of the United Nations, U Thant had been Permanent Representative of Burma to the United Nations, with the rank of Ambassador (1957-1961). U Thant was unanimously appointed by the General Assembly to fill the unexpired term of the late Secretary-General, Dag Hammarskjöld. He was then unanimously appointed Secretary-General by the General Assembly on 30 November 1962 and was re-appointed for a second term as Secretary-General of the United Nations by the General Assembly on 2 December 1966. His term of office continued until 31 December 1971.

Archival Finding Aid

Official United Nations Biography

U Thant House

Dag Hammarskjöld, 1953-1961

"I have no doubt that 40 years from now we shall be engaged in the same pursuit. How could we expect otherwise? World organization is still a new adventure in human history." - Dag Hammarskjöld, 20 May 1956.

Dag Hjalmar Agne Carl Hammarskjöld was Secretary-General of the United Nations from 10 April 1953 until 18 September 1961 when he was killed in a plane accident while on a peace mission in the Congo. Born on 29 July 1905 in Jonkoping, Sweden, Mr. Hammarskjöld was educated at Uppsala University and University of Stockholm, where he obtained a doctorate in economics in 1933.

Mr. Hammarskjöld was appointed to the post of Permanent Under-Secretary of the Ministry of Finance (1936) and became an adviser to the Cabinet on financial and economic problems (1946), organizing and coordinating different governmental planning for the various economic problems that during the post-war period. He was appointed to the Foreign Office (1947) and was appointed Secretary-General of the same (1949) before joining the Cabinet as Minister (1951). He was Vice-Chairman of the Swedish Delegation to the Sixth Regular Session of the United Nations General Assembly in Paris (1951-1952), and acting Chairman of Sweden’s delegation to the Seventh General Assembly (1952-1953).

Mr. Hammarskjöld was unanimously appointed Secretary-General of the United Nations by the General Assembly on 7 April 1953 on the recommendation of the Security Council. He was re-elected unanimously for another term of five years in September 1957.

During his terms as Secretary-General, Mr. Hammarskjöld carried out many responsibilities for the United Nations in the course of its efforts to prevent war and serve the other aims of the Charter. In 1960, President Joseph Kasa-Vubu and Prime Minister Patrice Lumumba of the Republic of the Congo sent a cable on 12 July asking for the "urgent dispatch" of United Nations military assistance to the Congo. Following Security Council actions, the United Nations Force in the Congo was established and the Secretary-General himself made four trips to the Congo in connection with the United Nations operations there throughout 1960 and 1961. The fourth trip to the Congo began on 12 September and ended on 18 September 1961 with the plane crash that killed the Secretary-General.

Archival Finding Aid consists of a very small portion of the archives of Secretary-General Dag Hammarskjöld; those which were left at the Secretariat after selected archives were transferred to Mr. Andrew Cordier and the Royal Library of Sweden. 

Death of Dag Hammarskjöld research guide

Official United Nations Biography

Dag Hammarskjold Library Research Guide

Speeches and Recordings

Commission of Investigation into the Death of Mr. Dag Hammarskjold, Secretary-General, and Members of His Party

United Nations Operation in the Congo (ONUC) - Files and Correspondence

United Nations Operation in the Congo (ONUC) - Advisory Committee Verbatim Minutes

Dag Hammarskjöld Collection, Royal Library of Sweden 

Andrew Cordier Papers, Columbia University Library Rare Book and Manuscript Division

Trygve Lie, 1946-1952

"Those who gave their lives in order that we may be free, those who lost their homes, those who suffered, and still suffer, from the consequences of war have given us a sacred mandate: that is, to build a firm foundation for the peace of the world.” - Trygve Lie, 2 February 1946.

Trygve Halvdan Lie was born on 16 July 1896, in Oslo, Norway, He was educated at Oslo University where he obtained a law degree in 1919.

Mr. Lie became a member of the Norwegian Labor Party Youth Organization in 1911. He was an assistant to the secretary of the Labor Party from 1919 to 1922, a legal adviser to the Norwegian Trade Union Federation from 1922 to 1935, and national executive secretary of the Labor Party in 1926. In the Labor Party Government formed by Johan Nygaardsvold, Mr. Lie was Minister of Justice (1935 to 1939), Minister of Trade and Industries (July to September 1939), and Minister of Supply and Shipping (1939-1941). In that capacity he evolved the provisional measures that saved the Norwegian fleet for the Allies, after the German invasion in April 1940.

In December 1940, he became acting Foreign Minister and was appointed Foreign Minister of Norway in 1941. Mr. Lie had been elected a member of the Norwegian Parliament in 1936 and was re-elected in 1945.
 Mr. Lie led the Norwegian delegation to the United Nations Conference on International Organization in San Francisco, April 1945, and was Chairman of Commission III for drafting the Security Council provisions of the Charter. Soon after becoming Chairman of the Norwegian delegation to the United Nations General Assembly in London, on 1 February 1946 Mr. Lie was elected the first Secretary-General of the United Nations. He was formally installed by the General Assembly at its 22nd meeting on 2 February 1946. On 1 November 1950, the General Assembly extended Mr. Lie’s term for another three though he resigned as Secretary-General of the United Nations in November 1952.

Archival Finding Aid

Official United Nations Biography

Minutes of the Secretary-General's private meetings with Under-Secretaries-General

Secretariat and Personnel Files

Andrew Cordier Papers at Columbia University Library

Trygve Lie Papers at the National Library of Norway

Sound Recordings