CHARACTER SKETCHES by Brian Urquhart

Brian Urquhart, one of the first employees of the United Nations, served under a range of Secretaries-General in various roles culminating in his appointment as the Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs.
UN Photo/Mark Garten
Brian Urquhart, one of the first employees of the United Nations, served under a range of Secretaries-General in various roles culminating in his appointment as the Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs.

 

SIR BRIAN URQUHART, a veteran international civil servant who helped guide the United Nations from its inception through decades of dramatic challenges, was one of the Organization's first staff members.
 

Throughout his four decades of service to the United Nations, starting as one of its very first staff members and ending as an Under-Secretary-General for Special Political Affairs, he also helped shape history-making moments. He was present for the birth of the United Nations in 1945, and was witness to many of the Organization’s – and the world’s – seminal milestones.

He served with various Secretaries-General throughout his career and interacted with a range of world leaders and historical figures, from Patrice Lumumba to Yasir Arafat, and many others.

Over the years, Sir Brian has written about some of the people he encountered in his work. Here, in a selection from his previously-unpublished character sketches, he describes his interactions and impressions of some of those individuals. 

Character Sketches

Gladwyn Jebb, who served as the Executive Secretary of the UN Preparatory Commission and then, from October 1945 to February 1946, as the Acting UN Secretary-General. He later served as the UK's Permanent Representative to the UN.
GLADWYN JEBB (Great Britain, 1900 - 1996) – Diplomat, Civil Servant
Trygve Lie of Norway, the first elected Secretary-General of the United Nations.
TRYGVE LIE (Norway, 1896 - 1968) – UN Secretary-General
Andrei Gromyko of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics at a press conference at UN Headquarters. (29 May 1960)
ANDREI GROMYKO (Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, 1909 - 1989) – Diplomat
Ralph Bunche, the veteran UN official and Nobel Peace Prize laureate. (1 September 1950)
RALPH BUNCHE (USA, 1904 - 1971) – UN official, Nobel Peace Prize laureate

 

Portrait of former Secretary-General Dag Hammarskjöld.
DAG HAMMARSKJÖLD (Sweden, 1905 - 1961) – UN Secretary-General
The Prime Minister of the Republic of the Congo, Patrice Lumumba, during a visit to UN Headquarters in New York. (24 July 1960)
PATRICE LUMUMBA (Republic of the Congo, 1925 - 1961) – Prime Minister
U Thant, the third Secretary-General of the United Nations.
U THANT (Burma (now Myanmar), 1909 - 1974) – UN Secretary-General
Kurt Waldheim, the fourth Secretary-General of the United Nations.
KURT WALDHEIM (Austria, 1918 - 2007) – UN Secretary-General

 

Two important figures in the history of the country now known as the Democratic Republic of the Congo – Mobutu Sese Seko, who served as President, and Moise Tshombe, who served as Prime Minister, as well as leader of the breakaway province of Katanga.
JOSEPH MOBUTU (Republic of the Congo, 1930 - 1997) – President | MOISE TSHOMBE (Republic of the Congo, 1919 - 1969) – Prime Minister, politician
Yasir Arafat, head of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) addresses the UN General Assembly on the question of Palestine.
YASIR ARAFAT
Javier Perez de Cuellar of Peru, assumed office as the fifth Secretary-General of the United Nations in January 1982.
JAVIER PEREZ DE CUELLAR
Cyrus Vance, Secretary of State of the United States of America.
CYRUS VANCE