Sir Marrack Goulding: Outspoken diplomat who pioneered the United Nations’ peacekeeping operation

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The Independent Online

A diplomat with a foot in academia, a keen ornithologist and a committed soldier in the army of peacemaking, Sir Marrack Goulding, former United Nations Under Secretary General and Warden of St Antony's college, Oxford, made a distinct mark on the UN peacekeeping policy in the post-Cold War era, on the college he later headed, and on the many women who loved him.

As the UN's Under Secretary-General for Special Political Affairs from 1986, Goulding took charge of all UN peacekeeping operations and in 1992, under the guidance of Perez de Cuellar's successor, Boutros Boutros-Ghali, he helped establish theDepartment of Peacekeeping Operations. On Goulding's watch, 16 peace-keeping missions were initiated, and his influence within the UN was considered by many to be second only to that of the Secretary-General.

In his 2002 memoir Peacemonger Goulding reviewed the UN's role as peacebroker: among his successes he could count the ceasefire in the Iran-Iraq War, the liberation of Kuwait and the peace settlements in Namibia, El Salvador, Cambodia, and Mozambique. He owned up to notable failures in Angola, Bosnia and Somalia.

Marrack Irvine Goulding was born in Plymouth in 1936, the son of a judge. His first name is typical to Cornwall, but is found more often as a family name, originating in the Cornish "marrek" or "marghek" – a rider, knight or horseman. He gained a First in Classics at Magdalen College, Oxford, and joined the Foreign Office. He studied Arabic at the FO's school in Shamlan, Lebanon, often referred to as the "spies college" because of the many secret service officers who studied there. One of his instructors was Sir James Craig, who later served as ambassador in Syria and Saudi Arabia. In 2004 the two of them, together with Oliver Miles and 49 other former British ambassadors, signed a letter criticising the Government's policy in the Middle East following of the invasion of Iraq.

Goulding's first foreign post was Iraq, and in 1961 he had his first taste of international crises when Iraq threatened to invade Kuwait, claiming it as its 19th province. He and his colleagues were more successful in deterring the Iraqis than their American counterparts were to be in 1990. Though cordial and affable, Goulding's language was forever blunt and free of mock modesty, objecting, for example, to the use of phrases like "intervention" to describe the Turkish invasion of Cyprus.

On his return from Kuwait in 1964, Goulding worked for three years at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, then served in various roles in British embassies in the Arab world, among them Egypt and Libya. In the 1970s he was back in England at the Foreign Office, as private secretary for a succession of Ministers of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, including Roy Hattersley and Julian Amery.

He started making something of a reputation for himself as a critic of the extravagance among Foreign Office officials, and in 1979 he was posted to the British Embassy in Portugal, in a move described by him as a "punishment" for his outspokenness. Two years later he was rescued from what amounted to exile and was attached for four years to the United Nations in New York as Head of Chancery to the UK mission.

His first commission as ambassador came in 1983, to Angola and São Tomé and Príncipe, where he stayed until the end of 1985. The following year saw a change in his status, from British diplomat to senior employee of the UN, when he was appointed as Under Secretary-General for Special Political Affairs under the Secretary-General Javier Pérez de Cuéllar. In 1993 he was appointed Under Secretary General for Political Affairs, and remained in this role until 1997, under the Secretary-General Kofi Annan.

In 1997 Goulding was elected Warden of St Antony's College, Oxford, a graduate college with seven regional centres. The 40 Fellows of the college were evenly divided between those who wanted an academic head and those who preferred a practitioner of international affairs; the internationalists won. As Warden, Goulding put to good use his skills as a diplomat and administrator. His greatest contribution lay in reforming the college administration; he inherited a hopelessly inefficient system with long and rambling meetings of the governing body and countless, overlapping committees. He transferred day-to-day management of the college to a lean executive committee, and also helped correct the college's Eurocentric bias by promoting the study of the developing world, especially Africa and the Middle East.

Goulding gained some fame and notoriety as a "ladies' man". His first marriage, to Susan d'Albiac in 1961, ended in 1996. Shortly after his divorce he married Catherine Pawlow, a young and glamorous Belgian woman whom he had met at the UN. The marriage was dissolved in 2004. Goulding retired as Warden in 2006. In his last years he moved into a nursing home and suffered from re-occurring strokes, and recently from cancer.

Marrack Irvine Goulding, diplomat: born Plymouth 2 September 1936; Joined Foreign (later Diplomatic) Service 1959; Middle East Centre for Arab Studies 1959–61; Kuwait 1961–64; Foreign Office 1964–68; Tripoli 1968–70; Cairo 1970–72; Private Secretary, Minister of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs 1972–75; seconded to Cabinet Office 1975–77; Counsellor, Lisbon 1977–79; Counsellor and Head of Chancery, UK Mission to UN 1979–83; Ambassador to Angola to São Tomé e Principe 1983–85; United Nations: Under Secretary-General, Special Political Affairs, later Peace-Keeping Ops 1986–93; Under Secretary-General, Political Affairs 1993–97; Warden, St Antony's College, Oxford 1997–2006; CMG 1983, KCMG 1997; married 1961 Susan D'Albiac (divorced 1996; two sons, one daughter), 1996 Catherine Pawlow (divorced 2004); died Oxford 9 July 2010.