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."

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Voices
Homeless Veterans charity auction: Cook with Angela Hartnett and Neil Borthwick at Merchants Tavern
charity appealTime is running out to secure your favourite lot as our auction closes at 2pm tomorrow
Arts and Entertainment
J Jefferson Farjeon at home in 1953
booksBooksellers say readers are turning away from modern thrillers and back to golden age of crime writing
Sport
Amir Khan is engaged in a broader battle than attempting to win a fight with Floyd Mayweather
boxing Exclusive: Amir Khan reveals plans to travel to Pakistan
News
Stacey Dooley was the only woman to be nominated in last month’s Grierson awards
mediaClare Balding and Davina McCall among those overlooked for Grierson awards
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Voices
Joseph Kynaston Reeves arguing with Russell Brand outside the RBS’s London offices on Friday
voicesDJ Taylor: The great tradition of St Paul and Zola reached its nadir with a worker's rant to Russell Brand
News
Twitchers see things differently, depending on their gender
scienceNew study shows that birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends...
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Caroline Flack became the tenth winner of Strictly Come Dancing
tvReview: 'Absolutely phenomenal' Xtra Factor presenter wins Strictly Come Dancing final
Life and Style
A still from the 1939 film version of Margaret Mitchell's 'Gone with the Wind'
life
News
Xander van der Burgt, at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew
scienceA Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there
Arts and Entertainment
British actor Idris Elba is also a DJ and rapper who played Ibiza last summer
film
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

Recruitment Genius: Finance Director

£65000 - £80000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Finance Director required to jo...

Recruitment Genius: Medico-Legal Assistant

£15000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a unique opportunity fo...

Ashdown Group: (PHP / Python) - Global Media firm

£50000 per annum + 26 days holiday,pension: Ashdown Group: A highly successful...

The Jenrick Group: Quality Inspector

£27000 per annum + pension + holidays: The Jenrick Group: A Quality Technician...

Day In a Page

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

Panto dames: before and after

From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

The man who hunts giants

A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there
The 12 ways of Christmas: Spare a thought for those who will be working to keep others safe during the festive season

The 12 ways of Christmas

We speak to a dozen people who will be working to keep others safe, happy and healthy over the holidays
Birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends, new study shows

The male exhibits strange behaviour

A new study shows that birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends...
Diaries of Evelyn Waugh, Virginia Woolf and Noël Coward reveal how they coped with the December blues

Famous diaries: Christmas week in history

Noël Coward parties into the night, Alan Clark bemoans the cost of servants, Evelyn Waugh ponders his drinking…
From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

The great tradition of St Paul and Zola reached its nadir with a hungry worker's rant to Russell Brand, says DJ Taylor
A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore: A prodigal daughter has a breakthrough

A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore

The story was published earlier this month in 'Poor Souls' Light: Seven Curious Tales'
Marian Keyes: The author on her pre-approved Christmas, true love's parking implications and living in the moment

Marian Keyes

The author on her pre-approved Christmas, true love's parking implications and living in the moment
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef creates an Italian-inspired fish feast for Christmas Eve

Bill Granger's Christmas Eve fish feast

Bill's Italian friends introduced him to the Roman Catholic custom of a lavish fish supper on Christmas Eve. Here, he gives the tradition his own spin…
Liverpool vs Arsenal: Brendan Rodgers is fighting for his reputation

Rodgers fights for his reputation

Liverpool manager tries to stay on his feet despite waves of criticism
Amir Khan: 'The Taliban can threaten me but I must speak out... innocent kids, killed over nothing. It’s sick in the mind'

Amir Khan attacks the Taliban

'They can threaten me but I must speak out... innocent kids, killed over nothing. It’s sick in the mind'
Michael Calvin: Sepp Blatter is my man of the year in sport. Bring on 2015, quick

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Sepp Blatter is my man of the year in sport. Bring on 2015, quick