The Appointment of Trygve Lie as the First UN Secretary-General

Trygve Lie

Author/s (editor/s):

Ellen Ravndal

Publication year:


Publication type:

In Brief

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One World Trust

Ellen Ravndal, ‘The Appointment of Trygve Lie as the First UN Secretary-General’, One World Trust background briefs for the 1 for 7 billion campaign, Brief number 3, May 2016.

The appointment of Trygve Lie as the UN’s first Secretary-General in January 1946 set a number of precedents for the appointment of his successors in that post, but in other respects his appointment and tenure were unique in UN history. The political context for the UN in 1946 was radically different from the situation of today. The United Nations was a brand new organisation and no-one knew quite how this experiment would play out. Coming out of the devastating Second World War, peoples and governments alike dreamed of a better future, and pinned their hopes on the UN organisation. Within the UN the five victorious great powers – the P5 – would work out their own differences while jointly policing the world to prevent new wars. But the balance between them was fragile and tensions of the Cold War were already beginning to show. Suspicion and fear between the Soviet Union and ‘the West’ would leave its mark on the new organisation, and also influenced the selection of its first secretary-general.

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