UN officials pay tribute to late US diplomat Richard Holbrooke

14 December 2010
Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon (right) with the late Richard Holbrooke in 2007

Senior United Nations officials today mourned the passing of veteran United States diplomat Richard Holbrooke, praising his skills as a top negotiator, peacemaker and champion of global causes.

Mr. Holbrooke, who died following heart surgery on Monday at the age of 69, helped broker the 1995 Dayton agreement that ended the Bosnian war. More recently, he was US special envoy for Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon called him “a giant and a legend in his time” in a letter he wrote to Mr. Holbrooke’s family upon hearing the news of the death.

“His drive was immense. His desire to do good in the world was fierce, and he pursued all he set out to do with a resolution and tenacity that were second to none,” wrote Mr. Ban.

“The advice on which so many relied reflected the rich breadth and challenge of his extraordinary career. He was there, a man of history: from architecting the Dayton peace accords, to working so hard to bring peace to the people of Afghanistan,” he said. “His legacy will be his works, an inspiration to so many around the world.”

Staffan de Mistura, the top UN envoy in Afghanistan, issued a statement highlighting the “energy, vision and drive” that Mr. Holbrooke brought in particular to his role as the US Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan.

“Ambassador Holbrooke has been a friend of the United Nations here in Afghanistan and a first-class diplomat,” said Mr. de Mistura, adding that the US statesman’s efforts will always be remembered.

Mr. Holbrooke’s vast diplomatic experience also included a posting as US Ambassador to the UN from 1999 to 2001 under former President Bill Clinton.

Voicing sadness at the passing of an “extraordinary American diplomat,” members of the Security Council expressed admiration for his contributions as US Ambassador to the UN, as well as for his “energetic and unrelenting” commitment to promoting peace and strengthening international cooperation at the world body.

“They noted that Ambassador Holbrooke’s service spanned decades and continents, confronting profoundly difficult issues in global affairs,” according to a statement read out to the press by Ambassador Susan Rice of the US, which holds the Council’s rotating presidency for this month.

Robert Orr, who served as Mr. Holbrooke’s deputy during his tenure at the UN, lauded not only his diplomatic skills but also the relationship he had with the media as it relates to diplomacy.

“Ambassador Holbrooke understood probably better than any individual I ever worked with the importance of the media,” Mr. Orr, who is the UN Assistant Secretary-General for Strategic Planning and Policy Coordination, told reporters at UN Headquarters.

“So I think it’s not just the United States and the UN that has lost an important figure. I think the media has also lost someone who not only gave them a lot of good quotes but someone who really understood the importance of your profession as well.”


♦ Receive daily updates directly in your inbox - Subscribe here to a topic.
♦ Download the UN News app for your iOS or Android devices.