Global Policy Forum

Secretary General Trygve Lie's Reform Agenda - 1946 to 1952


Picture Credit:
United Nations

A few months after states had ratified the UN charter, the General Assembly elected Norwegian foreign minister Trygve Lie as Secretary General. During his tenure, Lie established rules of procedure that allow the Secretary General to intervene in the Security Council's discussions. Lie also played a key role in securing the UN building in New York through contacts with John D. Rockefeller Jr., who purchased the land and donated it to the UN. More known as a pragmatic politician than a sophisticated diplomat, Lie facilitated the withdrawal of Soviet troops from Iran, worked for a ceasefire in Kashmir and supported the foundation of Israel. He also urged UN members to recognize the People's Republic of China, arguing that the exiled government in Taiwan could not fulfill the UN membership obligations. In 1950, the UN General Assembly voted to extend Lie's term for another 3 years. The Soviet Union refused to recognize Lie as Secretary General after he supported the UN intervention in Korea in 1950. Other countries also criticized Lie for failing to bring a quick end to the Korean war. Later, Lie lost the support from the US, as Senator Joseph McCarthy accused him of having hired staff that was "disloyal" to the US. Lie resigned from his office in 1952.


Immigrant to What? (November 25, 1946)

Starting his career in local politics and later becoming Minister of Justice and Foreign Affairs in the Norwegian government, Trygve Lie assumed the position as first UN Secretary General in 1946. Praised for his pragmatism, many doubted whether he possessed the necessary leadership skills to "transform the UN from a mere Council of Ambassadors, into something resembling a world government." During his term, Lie changed the Security Council's rules of procedure to allow the Secretary General to make oral and written statements. (Time)

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