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Revue d’historie diplomatique
Ellen Ravndal, ‘La mission la plus impossible au monde: Le Secrétaire général Trygve Lie face à la Guerre froide, 1946‒1953’, Revue d’historie diplomatique, 2, 2016: 145‒61.
The UN secretary-general today plays important roles in preventive diplomacy and as an advocate for global issues and is widely seen as the UN’s foremost diplomatic and political representative, yet the UN Charter describes him merely as ‘the chief administrative office of the Organization.’ How did it become possible for the UN secretary-general to play such an autonomous role in international politics? What was the contribution of the first UN secretary-general, Trygve Lie, to this development? How did the Cold War conflict impede or facilitate the development of the UN secretary-general’s political role? Most of the literature on the UN secretary-general largely overlooks the contributions made by Lie, but this paper argues that several precedents for the political role of the UN secretary-general were set in this earliest period of UN history. Lie actively sought to expand the powers of his office, and to establish the secretary-general as an important mediator and negotiator between the member states. This paper examines Lie’s consistent attempts to seek an end to the growing Cold War tensions between the great powers during his tenure in office, 1946-1953, and discusses what precedents were set by his actions.