Boutros Boutros-Ghali

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I am Boutros Boutros-Ghali.
Put down your guns and listen to Bob Marley.
Only stupid people don't change their minds.
The Roman Empire had no need for diplomacy. Nor does the United States.
The days of dictatorship are over.

Boutros Boutros-Ghali (Arabic: بطرس بطرس غالي; born 14 November 1922) is an Egyptian diplomat who was the sixth Secretary-General of the United Nations from January 1992 to December 1996.



  • We have entered a time of global transition marked by uniquely contradictory trends. Regional and continental associations of States are evolving ways to deepen cooperation and ease some of the contentious characteristics of sovereign and nationalistic rivalries. National boundaries are blurred by advanced communications and global commerce, and by the decisions of States to yield some sovereign prerogatives to larger, common political associations. At the same time, however, fierce new assertions of nationalism and sovereignty spring up, and the cohesion of States is threatened by brutal ethnic, religious, social, cultural or linguistic strife. Social peace is challenged on the one hand by new assertions of discrimination and exclusion and, on the other, by acts of terrorism seeking to undermine evolution and change through democratic means.
  • The concept of peace is easy to grasp; that of international security is more complex, for a pattern of contradictions has arisen here as well. As major nuclear Powers have begun to negotiate arms reduction agreements, the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction threatens to increase and conventional arms continue to be amassed in many parts of the world. As racism becomes recognized for the destructive force it is and as apartheid is being dismantled, new racial tensions are rising and finding expression in violence. Technological advances are altering the nature and the expectation of life all over the globe. The revolution in communications has united the world in awareness, in aspiration and in greater solidarity against injustice. But progress also brings new risks for stability: ecological damage, disruption of family and community life, greater intrusion into the lives and rights of individuals.
    • An Agenda for Peace : Preventive diplomacy, peacemaking and peace-keeping (1992)
  • Since the creation of the United Nations in 1945, over 100 major conflicts around the world have left some 20 million dead.
    • In a speech in 1992. Cited in Awake! magazine, 1995, 9/8; article: How Was the World 50 Years Ago?
  • The lesson I learned in Cairo still applies. The only way to deal with bureaucrats is with stealth and sudden violence.
    • Statement of 1993, as quoted in The Coming Plague : Newly Emerging Diseases in a World Out of Balance (1995) by Laurie Garrett, p. 592, and in Preventive Diplomacy : Stopping Wars before they Start (1996) by Kevin M. Cahill, p. 254
  • There are signs that the system of collective security established in San Francisco nearly 50 years ago [at the founding of the UN] is finally beginning to work as conceived . . . We are on the way to achieving a workable international system.
    • Cited in the Awake! magazine 1996, 4/22; article: Is a World Without War Possible?
  • I believe it will take time to find a solution to the problem. Thus we must have patience.
  • It would be some time before I fully realized that the United States sees little need for diplomacy; power is enough. Only the weak rely on diplomacy. This is why the weak are so deeply concerned with the democratic principle of the sovereign equality of states, as a means of providing some small measure of equality for that which is not equal in fact. Coming from a developing country, I was trained extensively in international law and diplomacy and mistakenly assumed that the great powers, especially the United States, also trained their representatives in diplomacy and accepted the value of it. But the Roman Empire had no need for diplomacy. Nor does the United States. Diplomacy is perceived by an imperial power as a waste of time and prestige and a sign of weakness.
    • Unvanquished : A U.S. - U.N. Saga (1999), p. 198.


  • While the broad principles of democracy are universal, the fact remains that their application varies considerably … We are at the beginning of the road, at the very beginning. We still have a long way to go.
    • Quoted in "Boutros Boutros-Ghali: The world is his oyster" by Gamal Nkrumah in Al-Ahram weekly No. 777 (10 - 18 January 2006)
  • Cultural pluralism is as important as political and multi- party pluralism. Religious, linguistic and cultural pluralism are vitally important hallmarks of a true democracy. We are against cultural hegemony of any sort. Diversity is a mark of a healthy democracy.
    • Quoted in "Boutros Boutros-Ghali: The world is his oyster" by Gamal Nkrumah in Al-Ahram weekly No. 777 (10 - 18 January 2006)
  • I will continue to work for the advancement of freedoms in Egypt and the Arab world until I drop dead. … Education itself — which can and should play an important role in the apprenticeship of tolerance and respect for other people — sometimes encourages identitarian closure, or even extremist behaviour … It is therefore vital to ensure that education does not encourage rejection of other people or identitarian closure, but that on the contrary it encourages knowledge and respect for other cultures, other religions and other ways of being and living.
    • Quoted in "Boutros Boutros-Ghali: The world is his oyster" by Gamal Nkrumah in Al-Ahram weekly No. 777 (10 - 18 January 2006)

Quotes about Boutros-Ghali[edit]

  • The situation also gave U.N. Secretary-General Boutros-Ghali a chance to start the U.N.'s disegagement from Bosnia, something he had long wanted to do. After a few meetings with him, I concluded that this elegant and subtle Egyptian, whose Coptic family could trace its origins back over centuries, had disdain for the fractious and dirty peoples of the Balkans. Put bluntly, he never liked the place. In 1992, during his only visit to Sarajevo, he made the comment that shocked the journalists on the day I arrived in the beleaguered capital: "Bosnia is a rich man's war. I understand your frustration, but you have a situation here that is better than ten other places in the world. … I can give you a list." He complained many times that Bosnia was eating up his budget, diverting him from other priorities, and threatening the whole U.N. system. "Bosnia has created a distortion in the work of the U.N.", he said just before Srebrenica. Sensing that our diplomatic efforts offered an opportunity to disengage, he informed the Security Council on September 18 that he would be ready to end the U.N. role in the former Yugoslavia, and allow all key aspects of implementation to be placed with others. Two days later, he told Madeleine Albright that the Contact Group should create its own mechanism for implementation — thus volunteering to reduce the U.N.'s role at a critical moment. Ironically, his weakness simplified our task considerably.
  • The struggle over the U.N.'s role foreshadowed the American determination a year later to oppose Boutros-Ghali's quest for a second term as Secretary-General. More than any other issue, it was his performance on Bosnia that made us feel he did not deserve a second term — just as Kofi Annan's strength on the bombing in August had already made him the private favorite of many American officials. Although the American campaign against Boutros-Ghali, in which all our key allies opposed us, was long and difficult — especially for Allbright, who bore heavy and unjust criticism for her role — the decision was correct, and may well have saved America's role in the United Nations.

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