British UN diplomat who devised peacekeeping missions dies at 101

Brian Urquhart was the second diplomat hired by the United Nations after its creation in 1945.

Brian Urquhart, who was the second diplomat hired by the United Nations after its creation in 1945, and who helped shape the organization in the last years of the Cold War, died Saturday in Massachusetts, aged 101.

The news was announced this Monday by his daughter, Rachel Urquhart, to the local press, but without specifying the cause of death.

Urquhart was considered one of the most influential figures in the United Nations, having been a distinguished advisor to five secretaries-general of the organization and idealized the principles on which the UN is based.

Born in Dorset, United Kingdom, in 1919, he was part of the British army during World War II, something that admitted to having taught him all the “very practical idealism” that guided his diplomatic career.

In the mid-1950s, being one of the few with military experience in the team closest to the secretary-general of the time Dag Hammarskjold, he helped carry out UN peacekeeping missions through the creation of the UN Emergency Forces, which , in 1956, were sent to oversee the end of hostilities between Egypt and Israel in the Suez Canal.

UN peacekeeping missions are considered to be his great legacy, although they are not included in the United Nations Charter. These missions, which aim to send armed or unarmed soldiers to accompany the implementation of peace agreements, are now known as the ‘blue helmets’ and continue to be present in various areas of the world that are in crisis.

Although Urquhart spent much of his career at UN headquarters in New York, he was also a mediator and diplomat in some of the most complicated conflicts the United Nations has followed, such as those in Congo, Cyprus, Kashmir, Namibia and the Middle East.

His role at the UN was recognized this Monday by the current Secretary-General of the United Nations, António Guterres, who said in a statement that “the mark that Brian [Urquhart] left is one of the most profound in the history of the organization”.

“As an adviser to Secretary-General Dag Hammarskjold, he helped define the scope of UN action in the face of armed conflicts and other global challenges. And as a close assistant to [political scientist] Ralph Bunche, the recognized UN member and Nobel Prize winner. Peace, helped to establish and later to boost peacekeeping missions, “said Guterres.

In addition to his official responsibilities, Sir Brian Urquhart was seen as the unofficial historian of the UN, and he defended the public perception of the organization in his autobiography “A Life in Peace and War”, in addition to writing several reviews for the New York Review of Books.

 


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