Boutros-Ghali the protector promises fight to bitter end

Exclusive: United Nations chief determined to stand for re-election in face of hostility from US

New York - Casting himself as the indispensable protector of an institution bled of funding and credibility by its own member states, Boutros Boutros-Ghali said he intends to fight to the bitter end for a second term as the Secretary General of the United Nations.

Speaking to The Independent on the eve of the 51st UN General Assembly, opening in New York today, Mr Boutros-Ghali lamented what he calls the "neo-provincialism" gripping many world governments.

He made plain, for the first time, his intention to defy efforts by America to ditch him when his term expires in December, setting the stage for a bloody and drawn-out battle both within the General Assembly and the Security Council. It is a struggle that, in the view even of many of his friends, risks further enfeebling the UN when it can least afford it.

Appearing vigorous and animated in spite of his 73 years, Mr Boutros- Ghali defended his record, citing his "successes", ranging from the establishment of peace in Salvador and Mozambique to the adoption of a zero-growth UN budget and the holding of a series of world conferences on issues such as poverty and the environment. The debacles of the last five years, including the UN's aborted mission in Bosnia, were ultimately the responsibility of member governments, he claimed.

Since the Clinton administration announced in June that it would veto a second Boutros-Ghali term, the former Egyptian foreign minister has adopted a low profile.

He told The Independent, however, that he bridled at the suggestion that by not offering to stand down when his first term ends on 31 December he was risking further damage to the UN. "If I was convinced by this I would not hesitate to leave," he said.

"On the contrary, I believe that my departure would create more problems for this institution. Because you need the continuity at this particular period. We have begun a series of reforms; it is important if not to achieve them completely - it is a continuous process - then to achieve at least a certain amount of them."

He also rejected the argument that after five difficult years, at the end of which the UN finds itself effectively bankrupt with $2.9bn owed to it by delinquent member states (the US alone owes $1.6bn), the organisation would benefit from a fresh face at the top.

"I don't believe that this is related to a face, a new face or an old face," he said. "The crisis began 20 years ago. And the crisis is more related with the transition period in which we are living than with the face of the Secretary General."

Mr Boutros-Ghali, who throughout the interview in his 38th-floor sanctum atop the UN headquarters fiddled with a piece of tissue paper, rehearsed at length a theory that the world powers are struggling to cope simultaneously with establishing a new post-Cold War international order and adjusting to the new era of instant global information. In these circumstances, he said, governments have yet to define fully what the UN's new role should be.

He noted that a summit-level meeting of the Security Council convened by John Major, the British Prime Minister, in February 1992 coincided with a time of unprecedented confidence in the UN. "This organisation was at a peak and everyone was looking at the UN - the pendulum was extremely on one side. Now the pendulum is on the other side. This just proves that the international community don't know exactly what they want."

At the same time, he suggested many governments have taken their eye off world affairs. "You find this new-provincialism, neo-isolation. The great majority of the member states are not interested in international affairs. This is the real problem we face."

He acknowledged, however, that the member states were simultaneously battering the UN and its credibility by repeatedly using it as a scapegoat when international peace efforts go awry. "Who is damaging the UN?" he asked. "The member states. I am doing my best to defend the organisation, to explain how damaging it is for the organisation (to be made into a scapegoat)."

Mr Boutros-Ghali rejected accusations that he has not been strong enough in standing up for the UN when it has been given jobs beyond its capability by the Security Council. "On the contrary, that is why I have so many problems now, because I have been too ... independent." He insisted that ultimately he is the servant of the Security Council. "I have been firm very often, but once a decision is taken you have to carry it out. The UN has no army, the UN has no money, the UN has no infrastructure. We are borrowing everything from the member states so it would be useless to say no or not to obtain the agreement of the member states."

The UN floundered in Bosnia, he asserted, because it was asked to defend safe havens without the 34,000-strong force that he requested. (Eventually the UN force numbered just over 7,000). "The mistake was not only the number was not corresponding to the number we demanded, but that it took two years to get up to this number, and the soldiers came with very light armaments. It was a mistake ... of the international community."

Mr Boutros-Ghali flatly refused to address, specifically, the prospect that while the US remains opposed to him his chances of winning are, in effect, zero. Of the justness of his cause, he has no doubts.

"I believe that we have to try to defend this organisation and contain this terrible crisis. I want to be re-elected to be able to continue the reform."

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Life and Style
fashionHealth concerns and 'pornified' perceptions have made women more conscious at the beach
Arts and Entertainment
tv
Sport
Ojo Onaolapo celebrates winning the bronze medal
commonwealth games
Arts and Entertainment
Rock band Led Zeppelin in the early 1970s
musicLed Zeppelin to release alternative Stairway To Heaven after 43 years
Arts and Entertainment
High-flyer: Chris Pratt in 'Guardians of the Galaxy'
filmHe was homeless in Hawaii when he got his big break. Now the comic actor Chris Pratt is Hollywood's new favourite action star
Sport
Van Gaal said that his challenge in taking over Bobby Robson's Barcelona team in 1993 has been easier than the task of resurrecting the current United side
footballA colourful discussion on tactics, the merits of the English footballer and rebuilding Manchester United
Life and Style
Sainsbury's could roll the lorries out across its whole fleet if they are successful
tech
Travel
The shipping news: a typical Snoozebox construction
travelSpending the night in a shipping container doesn't sound appealing, but mobile crash pads are popping up at the summer's biggest events
Arts and Entertainment
'Old Fashioned' will be a different kind of love story to '50 Shades'
film
Arts and Entertainment
Tracey Emin's 'My Bed' is returning to the Tate more than 15 years after it first caused shockwaves at the gallery
artTracey Emin's bed returns to the Tate after record sale
Arts and Entertainment
Smart mover: Peter Bazalgette
filmHow live cinema screenings can boost arts audiences
Environment
Neil Young performing at Hyde Park, London, earlier this month
environment
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Project Coordinator

Competitive: The Green Recruitment Company: The Organisation: The Green Recrui...

Project Manager (HR)- Bristol - Upto £400 p/day

£350 - £400 per annum + competitive: Orgtel: Project Manager (specializing in ...

Embedded Linux Engineer

£40000 - £50000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: Embedded Sof...

Senior Hardware Design Engineer - Broadcast

£50000 - £65000 per annum + Benefits: Progressive Recruitment: Working for a m...

Day In a Page

Save the tiger: The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

The big cats kept in captivity to perform for paying audiences and then, when dead, their bodies used to fortify wine
A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery all included in top 50 hidden spots in the UK

A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery

Introducing the top 50 hidden spots in Britain
Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

How a disease that has claimed fewer than 2,000 victims in its history has earned a place in the darkest corner of the public's imagination
Chris Pratt: From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

He was homeless in Hawaii when he got his big break. Now the comic actor Chris Pratt is Hollywood's new favourite action star
How live cinema screenings can boost arts audiences

How live cinema screenings can boost arts audiences

Broadcasting plays and exhibitions to cinemas is a sure-fire box office smash
Shipping container hotels: Pop-up hotels filling a niche

Pop-up hotels filling a niche

Spending the night in a shipping container doesn't sound appealing, but these mobile crash pads are popping up at the summer's biggest events
Native American headdresses are not fashion accessories

Feather dust-up

A Canadian festival has banned Native American headwear. Haven't we been here before?
Boris Johnson's war on diesel

Boris Johnson's war on diesel

11m cars here run on diesel. It's seen as a greener alternative to unleaded petrol. So why is London's mayor on a crusade against the black pump?
5 best waterproof cameras

Splash and flash: 5 best waterproof cameras

Don't let water stop you taking snaps with one of these machines that will take you from the sand to meters deep
Louis van Gaal interview: Manchester United manager discusses tactics and rebuilding after the David Moyes era

Louis van Gaal interview

Manchester United manager discusses tactics and rebuilding after the David Moyes era
Will Gore: The goodwill shown by fans towards Alastair Cook will evaporate rapidly if India win the series

Will Gore: Outside Edge

The goodwill shown by fans towards Alastair Cook will evaporate rapidly if India win the series
The children were playing in the street with toy guns. The air strikes were tragically real

The air strikes were tragically real

The children were playing in the street with toy guns
Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite – The British, as others see us

Britain as others see us

Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite
How did our legends really begin?

How did our legends really begin?

Applying the theory of evolution to the world's many mythologies
Watch out: Lambrusco is back on the menu

Lambrusco is back on the menu

Naff Seventies corner-shop staple is this year's Aperol Spritz