The men who ruled the world

TRYGVE LIE, Norwegian, 1946-53

The Norwegian Foreign Minister became the UN's first Secretary General after the rejection of names including Winston Churchill and Dwight Eisenhower. The Great Powers expected a tame bureaucrat; instead Lie quickly defined an activist role by intervening in the Security Council in an early dispute between Moscow and the West over Iran.

No fewer than 50 Soviet vetoes were cast in the Security Council during his tenure. He was boycotted by Moscow in his second term; resigned in frustration in 1953. A former wrestler, Lie was not considered to have soaring intellect or deep vision.

DAG HAMMARSKJOLD, Swedish, 1953-1961

Hammarskjold, from aristocratic Swedish stock, is now revered as the wisest and most skilled leader the UN has ever had. He fought back the tentacles of the McCarthy-era witch-hunts and travelling to Peking to demand the release of US airmen shot down by China. In his interventions in the Suez crisis, Hammarskjold laid down the notion of the Secretary General as neutral mediator in armed conflict and dispatched the first UN peacekeeping force.

The legend of Hammarskjold was set in stone after his death in a plane crash over Africa - ruled an accident - while he was attempting to negotiate peace for the Congo.

U THANT, Burmese. 1961-1971

The ambassador to the UN from Burma, U Thant oversaw a decade marked by the Cuban missile crisis, the Vietnam War, the invasion of Czechoslovakia and the Six Day War in the Middle East. In spite of his passive nature, U Thant also believed in the Secretary General's duty to intervene in such events. His abortive mediation efforts in South Vietnam earned him contempt from Washington while his actions during the Cuban Missile crisis also infuriated Moscow.

History remembers U Thant as weak and essentially invisible. The image was partly born of his public passivity and calmness that came with his devout belief in Buddhism.

KURT WALDHEIM, Austrian. 1972-1981

Waldheim took over in an era when the UN's standing in the world was at rock-bottom. Waldheim was seen as weak and an appeaser of the main powers. "I have not got the real power to force anyone to do anything," he lamented.

Waldheim will for ever be associated with the revelations of his Nazi past. It has since been surmised that Russia, for one, knew of his war crime activities and used it to its advantage. What is most remarkable is that the original documents that incriminated him and that charged him with "murder" and "putting hostages to death" had all along been held in UN archives. No-one had bothered to check them.

JAVIER PEREZ de CUELLAR, Peruvian. 1982-1991

A long-time UN bureaucrat, Perez de Cuellar is credited with taking advantage of the Cold War's close to give the UN fresh standing. He began his tenure by complaining that the Security Council was passing resolutions that "were increasingly ignored or defied"; by the time of his retirement he was hailing an organisation in the midst of "renaissance".

He saw the UN mediate to end the Iran-Iraq war and the conclusion of the Lebanon hostage crisis. An early nightmare for Perez de Cuellar came with the 1982 Falklands crisis. He attempted to mediate a settlement, even suggesting that the islands live under three flags.

BOUTROS BOUTROS-GHALI, Egyptian. 1992-1996

Elected with French backing almost by accident in 1991 - the British did not want him and the Americans supported him in the belief he could not win - Boutros-Ghali brought the UN a flavour of patrician diplomacy. In spite of his age, 70 when he arrived, he proved a forceful and fiercely independent Secretary General. That independence quickly began to grate with the Clinton administration, which erroneously came to assign to Boutros-Ghali much of the blame for the debacle in Somalia. Boutros-Ghali, who was even ridiculed in America because of his name, was later to be similarly maligned over the prolonged failure of the peace mission in Bosnia.

Life and Style
tech
Sport
Farah returns to the track with something to prove
Commonwealth games
News
John Barrowman kisses his male “bride” at a mock Gretna Green during the Commonwealth Games opening ceremony
peopleBarrowman's opening ceremony message to Commonwealth countries where he would be sent to prison for being gay
Voices
voicesGood for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth, writes Grace Dent
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
Sport
Shinji Kagawa and Reece James celebrate after the latter scores in Manchester United's 7-0 victory over LA Galaxy
football
Arts and Entertainment
The Tour de France peloton rides over a bridge on the Grinton Moor, Yorkshire, earlier this month
film
Life and Style
fashion Designs are part of feminist art project by a British student
News
Very tasty: Vladimir Putin dining alone, perhaps sensibly
news
Life and Style
Listen here: Apple EarPods offer an alternative
techAre custom, 3D printed earbuds the solution?
Arts and Entertainment
Top guns: Cole advised the makers of Second World War film Fury, starring Brad Pitt
filmLt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a uniform
News
Snoop Dogg pictured at The Hollywood Reporter Nominees' Night in February, 2013
people... says Snoop Dogg
News
The University of California study monitored the reaction of 36 dogs
sciencePets' range of emotions revealed
Arts and Entertainment
A scene from Shakespeare in Love at the Noel Coward Theatre
theatreReview: Shakespeare in Love has moments of sheer stage poetry mixed with effervescent fun
News
Joining forces: young British men feature in an Isis video in which they urge Islamists in the West to join them in Iraq and Syria
newsWill the young Britons fighting in Syria be allowed to return home and resume their lives?
Arts and Entertainment
The nomination of 'The Wake' by Paul Kingsnorth has caused a stir
books
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

English Teacher

£110 - £130 per day + Pay between ?110 - ?130 Day: Randstad Education Cardiff:...

SAP Deployment Manager

£480 per day + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: SAP Deployment Manager-Ta...

Microsoft Dynamics CRM Consultant

£50000 per annum + benefits: Progressive Recruitment: Urgently seeking a Dynam...

Test Lead - Financial Reporting - Banking - London

£350 - £400 per day: Orgtel: Test Lead, London, Banking, Financial Reporting, ...

Day In a Page

Screwing your way to the top? Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth

Screwing your way to the top?

Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth, says Grace Dent
Will the young Britons fighting in Syria be allowed to return home and resume their lives?

Will Britons fighting in Syria be able to resume their lives?

Tony Blair's Terrorism Act 2006 has made it an offence to take part in military action abroad with a "political, ideological, religious or racial motive"
Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter, the wartime poster girl who became a feminist pin-up

Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter

The wartime poster girl became the ultimate American symbol of female empowerment
The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones: Are custom, 3D printed earbuds the solution?

The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones

Earphones don't fit properly, offer mediocre audio quality and can even be painful. So the quest to design the perfect pair is music to Seth Stevenson's ears
US Army's shooting star: Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform

Meet the US Army's shooting star

Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform
Climate change threatens to make the antarctic fur seal extinct

Take a good look while you can

How climate change could wipe out this seal
Should emergency hospital weddings be made easier for the terminally ill?

Farewell, my lovely

Should emergency hospital weddings be made easier?
Man Booker Prize 2014 longlist: Crowdfunded novel nominated for first time

Crowdfunded novel nominated for Booker Prize

Paul Kingsnorth's 'The Wake' is in contention for the prestigious award
Vladimir Putin employs a full-time food taster to ensure his meals aren't poisoned

Vladimir Putin employs a full-time food taster

John Walsh salutes those brave souls who have, throughout history, put their knives on the line
Tour de France effect brings Hollywood blockbusters to Yorkshire

Tour de France effect brings Hollywood blockbusters to Yorkshire

A $25m thriller starring Sam Worthington to be made in God's Own Country
Will The Minerva Project - the first 'elite' American university to be launched in a century - change the face of higher learning?

Will The Minerva Project change the face of higher learning?

The university has no lecture halls, no debating societies, no sports teams and no fraternities. Instead, the 33 students who have made the cut at Minerva, will travel the world and change the face of higher learning
The 10 best pedicure products

Feet treat: 10 best pedicure products

Bags packed and all prepped for holidays, but feet in a state? Get them flip-flop-ready with our pick of the items for a DIY treatment
Commonwealth Games 2014: Great Scots! Planes and pipers welcome in Glasgow's Games

Commonwealth Games 2014

Great Scots! Planes and pipers welcome in Glasgow's Games
Jack Pitt-Brooke: Manchester City and Patrick Vieira make the right stand on racism

Jack Pitt-Brooke

Manchester City and Patrick Vieira make the right stand on racism
How Terry Newton tragedy made iron men seek help to tackle their psychological demons

How Newton tragedy made iron men seek help to tackle their psychological demons

Over a hundred rugby league players have contacted clinic to deal with mental challenges of game