Global Policy Forum

Secretary General Boutros Boutros-Ghali's Reform Agenda - 1992 to 1996

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.



The UN's new Peacebuilding Commission (December, 2006)

In spite of Boutros-Ghali being the only UN Secretary-General not elected for a second term, he made an important impact in improving UN Peacebuilding. In his Supplement to an Agenda to Peace from 1995, Boutros-Ghali recognized the need for improving the coordination in Peacebuilding. The report became the inspiration for the Peacebuilding Commission, established ten years later in 2005. (Peacemagazine)

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)

The No-Win Gamble (November 12, 1996)

In June 1996, the Clinton Administration announced it would veto Boutros Boutros-Ghali's reelection as UN Secretary General. The US accused the Secretary General of "ordering American troops into combat." The author calls the claims an "insult and humiliation" pointing out that UN member states decide on troop deployment and no country is obligated to send troops. A majority of the member states supported Boutros-Ghali's bid for a new term and showed their anger at the US veto by voting the US off the important UN Budgetary Committee. (New York Times)

The Change in the Administration's Position Is a Mystery (November 11, 1996)

In this interview with the Washington Times, Boutros Boutros-Ghali talks about why he wants a second term as UN Secretary General. "I need a second term to make sure there will be no slackening of the reform plan," referencing his reform agenda that resulted in a "zero-growth budget" for the UN. Boutros-Ghali decided to run in spite of US demands for his resignation. Ultimately, Boutros-Ghali concedes that his biggest failure as Secretary General was not convincing the US administration of the importance of the UN.

Needed at the UN: More Secretary, Less General (June 24, 1996)

In this article by the conservative Heritage Foundation, author James Phillips urges the Clinton administration to veto Boutros Boutros-Ghali's bid for a second term as UN Secretary General. Philips criticizes the Secretary General for his "utopian goals such as 'eradicating poverty'" and for expanding the UN's peacekeeping work. The article argues that the next Secretary General should get the UN "out of the foreign aid business altogether" and promote "free-market economic policies" and "property rights."

An Agenda for Development (May 6, 1994)

Secretary Boutros Boutros-Ghali describes the nature and scope of UN development efforts and proposes ideas for reform.

Our Global Neighbourhood (November 1994)

The report of the Comission on Global Governance presents proposals for improving the world's governance and centers its recommendations on reforming the United Nations bodies. The report contains some interesting ideas, though some argue that its proposals to eliminate ECOSOC and otherwise shrink the UN may have given added impetus to the movement for "downsizing."

An 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.

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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