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The UN Secretary-General and the Security CouncilA Dynamic Relationship$
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Manuel Fröhlich and Abiodun Williams

Print publication date: 2018

Print ISBN-13: 9780198748915

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: April 2018

DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780198748915.001.0001

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U Thant, 1961–1971

U Thant, 1961–1971

(p.71) 3 U Thant, 1961–1971
The UN Secretary-General and the Security Council

Bernard J. Firestone

Oxford University Press

U Thant assumed the position of Acting Secretary-General with the office under assault from the Soviet Union, Cold War tensions escalating, and the UN mired in an inconclusive peacekeeping mission in the Congo. Ten years later, Thant retired from the Secretary-Generalship with the integrity of the office having been preserved but with the powers of the Secretary-General significantly reduced. Thant acknowledged the limitations of a Security Council divided by Cold War rivalries and subject to the veto of the permanent members, but he also subscribed to the view that the Charter granted him the authority to engage in diplomacy without a specific Security Council or General Assembly mandate. By examining the peacekeeping record of the UN during Thant’s ten years in office, this chapter will trace the evolution of a UN and Secretary-General significantly more modest in ambition and international profile than the UN of Thant’s predecessor. In the process, the chapter will explore aspects of Thant’s personality, world view, and conception of the office.

Keywords:   U Thant, UN Secretary-General, UN Security Council, Cold War, Personality

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