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The United Nations Secretary-General as an International Civil Servant

November 18, 2020

The International History ReviewFrom the beginnings of the UN Secretariat, its Secretaries-General reached out to a wide audience, considering themselves servants of peace beyond narrow organizational tasks. The article argues that it is the Secretaries-General perception as an international civil servant which led them to endeavour a more expansive role ever since. To unfold this argument, the article, first, traces the international civil servant roots of the Secretary-General. Second, the article illustrates that the themes and rhetorical details of the Secretaries-General inaugural addresses provide a lens to detect and trace the trajectory of the Secretaries-General self-understanding as international civil servants providing the grounds to expand their role. Secretaries-General as international civil servants always embraced the ideal of serving peace, thereby seeking to gain a political role. This international civil servant trajectory illustrates that the role of the UN Secretary-General transcends historical periodization of the UN and sheds light on the evolution of the UN’s global nature and mission.