Global Policy Forum

Secretary General Javier Perez de Cuellar's Reform Agenda - 1982 to 1991


Picture Credit: United Nations

Javier Pérez de Cuéllar took office on January 1, 1982 and the General Assembly later elected him for a second five-year term starting 1987. During his time as Secretary General, Pérez de Cuéllar took part in several peace negotiations, including between the UK and Argentina during the Falklands war, between Israel and Lebanon in 1982, and between Afghanistan and the Soviet Union in 1988. The Iran-Iraq war also demanded attention from him, and, as the two countries ended the fighting in 1988, the Security Council asked the Secretary General to send UN military observers to monitor the cease-fire. Two years later, Iraq invaded Kuwait and the Gulf War erupted. The Security Council acted rapidly, and unanimously passed a resolution to intervene with multilateral forces. After the intervention, Pérez de Cuéllar urged the Security Council to ensure that UN members comply with humanitarian law when employing armed forces in conflicts. Pérez de Cuéllar was also dedicated to ending apartheid and sent a high-level mission to South Africa in 1990. During Pérez de Cuéllar's tenure, the UN went through major changes as the Cold War ended and the Berlin wall fell. The Security Council came out of its deadlock and started to play a much more active role. And, global problems, such as HIV/AIDS, drug trafficking and environment challenges demanded more cooperation between countries.



The Vermouth Goes in by the Drop (May 24, 1982)

In the 1982 selection of the UN Secretary General, China refused to re-elect Kurt Waldheim for a third term and the US did not accept the Tanzanian candidate. After a six-week stalemate, the US and China agreed on a compromise candidate - Javier Perez de Cuellar. Prior to his selection, Perez de Cuellar had revealed himself several times as a great mediator, according to this article. Skills needed at his first serious challenge as Secretary General in trying to mediate between Buenos Aires and London over the Falkland Islands. (Time)

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