UN Secretaries General

UN Secretaries General

UN Secretaries General All Time List & Career Timelines

All UN Secretaries General are appointed by the UN General Assembly which is advised by the Security Council. António Guterres became the 9th UN Secretary General on 1 January 2017, the “Chief Administrative Officer” of the United Nations, effectively the leader and spokesperson for the United Nations organization. The “UNSG” initially serves a four year term and UN Secretaries General are often elected for a second term. No candidates from the five permanent members of the UN Security Council (USA, China, Russia, UK and France) can be considered.

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UN Secretaries GeneralBornDiedIn OfficeCountryUN Secretaries General Career SummaryFacts & Trivia
Gladwyn Jebb
(Acting UN Secretary General)
190019961945-1946Great Britain
  • 1924: British Diplomatic Service; Tehran, Rome, London.
  • 1940: British Ministry of Economic Warfare; Chief Executive Officer of the Special Operations Executive.
  • 1942: British Foreign Office; Head of Reconstruction Department.
  • 1943: British Counsellor (Diplomat).
  • 1945: Executive Secretary of the Preparatory Commission of the United Nations.
  • 1945: Gladwyn Jebb was acting UN Secretary-General from 24 October 1945 to 1 February 1946.
  • 1946: British Deputy to Foreign Secretary Ernest Bevin.
  • 1946: British Foreign Office’s UN Adviser.
  • 1947: UK Ambassador at the Brussels Treaty Permanent Commission.
  • 1950: UK Ambassador to the United Nations.
  • 1954: UK Ambassador to Paris 1954–1960.
Baron Gladwyn Jebb is the only UN Secretary General from a permanent member state of the United Nations Security Council.
Trygve Lie189619681946-1952Norway
  • 1940: Norwegian Minister of Foreign Affairs
  • 1945: Leader of Norwegian delegation to the San Francisco UN conference.
  • 1946: Leader of the Norwegian delegation to the UN General Assembly.
  • 1946: Trygve Halvdan Lie was the first United Nations Secretary-General from 2 February 1946 to 10 November 1952.
Trygve Halvdan Lie was re-elected in 1951 against the will of Russia and eventually resigned. Arguably the least successful of all the UN Secretaries General.
Dag Hammarskjöld190519611953-1961Sweden
  • 1930: Swedish government secretary.
  • 1935: Secretary of Sveriges Riksbank (Sweden’s Central bank) until 1941.
  • 1936: Swedish Ministry of Finance state secretary until 1945.
  • 1941: Governor of the Riksbank until 1948.
  • 1947: Swedish delegate to OEEC (Organization for European Economic Cooperation) until 1953.
  • 1949: Swedish Cabinet Secretary for Ministry of Foreign Affairs until 1951.
  • 1951: Swedish Minister without portfolio until 1953.
  • 1951: Vice Chairman of Swedish delegation to UN General Assembly.
  • 1952: Chairman of Swedish delegation to the UN General Assembly.
  • 1953: Dag Hammarskjöld was United Nations Secretary-General from 10 April 1953 to 18 September 1961.
  • 1958: Unanimously reelected for second term starting 10 April 1958.
Dag Hjalmar Agne Carl Hammarskjöld died in air crash en-route to UN cease-fire negotiation in Africa on 18 September 1961. Dag Hammarskjöld was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize in 1961 which was awarded posthumously following his death. No other UN Secretaries General have died in office.
U Thant, Sithu190919741961-1971Burma
  • 1951: Secretary to Burmese Prime Minister U Nu until 1957.
  • 1948: Appointed director of Burmese broadcasting.
  • 1955: Secretary of the Bandung Conference in Indonesia which lead to the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM).
  • 1957: Appointed Burma’s permanent representative to the United Nations.
  • 1961: Chairman of the UN Congo Commission.
  • 1961: U Thant was United Nations Secretary-General from 30 November 1961 to 31 December 1971.
  • 1966: Reelected for second term on 2 December 1966.
  • 1971: U Thant retired on 31 December 1971 and was appointed senior fellow of the Adlai Stevenson Institute of International Affairs.
At a critical moment during the Cuban missile crisis Sithu U Thant’s intervention led to the diversion of the Soviet ships and a peaceful settlement. One of the most successful UN Secretaries General. Burmese students snatched his coffin prior to burial which prompted a harsh response by the Burmese military junta. U Thant was currently holds 2 UN Secretaries General Records:
  1. First non-European UN Secretary General.
  2. Longest time in office at 3,684 days.
Kurt Waldheim191820071972-1981Austria
  • 1945: Joined Austrian diplomatic service.
  • 1948: Austrian First Secretary of the Legation in Paris.
  • 1951: Austrian First Secretary in the Ministry for Foreign Affairs.
  • 1956: Austrian Ambassador to Canada.
  • 1960: Returned to Austrian Ministry for Foreign Affairs.
  • 1964: Austrian Permanent Representative to the UN.
  • 1968: Austrian Federal Minister for Foreign Affairs.
  • 1970: Austrian Permanent Representative to the UN.
  • 1972: United Nations Secretary-General from 1 January 1972 to 31 December 1981.
  • 1986: 9th President of Austria from 8 July 1986 to 8 July 1992.
Denied a third term by China’s veto after which a two-term limit was set for UN Secretaries General. In 1985 the “Waldheim affair” revealed his WWII Wehrmacht service record.
Javier Pérez de Cuéllar19201982-1991Peru
  • 1946: Junior member of the Peruvian delegation to the first session of the General Assembly.
  • 1971: Permanent representative of Peru to the United Nations until 1975.
  • 1973: Represented Peru in the UN Security Council.
  • 1975: Special Representative of the Secretary-General in Cyprus until 1977.
  • 1977: Rejoined Peruvian Foreign Service.
  • 1979: Appointed UN Under-Secretary-General for Special Political Affairs.
  • 1981: Secretary-General’s Personal Representative to Afghanistan.
  • 1981: United Nations Secretary-General from 1 January 1982 to 31 December 1991.
  • 1986: Reelected for a second term.
  • 2000: Elected 135th Prime Minister of Peru and Minister of Foreign Affairs from 22 November 2000 to 28 July 2001.
  • 2004: Stepped down as Peru’s Ambassador to France.
Javier Felipe Ricardo Pérez de Cuéllar de la Guerra KCMG is the oldest living former UN Secretaries General. Pérez de Cuéllar mediated in the Falklands War, Cyprus conflict and Namibian independence.
Boutros Boutros Ghali192220161992-1996Eygpt
  • 1977: Egypt’s Minister of Foreign Affairs until 1991.
  • 1991: Egypt’s Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs.
  • 1992: Boutros Boutros-Ghali was UN Secretary-General from 1 January 1992 to 31 December 1996.
  • 1997: 1st Secretary-General of La Francophonie until 2002.
UN Secretaries General are customarily reelected for a second term but Boutros Boutros-Ghali was vetoed by the United States.
Kofi Annan193820181997-2006Ghana
  • 1962: Budget Officer for the World Health Organization, a UN agency.
  • 1974: Director of Tourism in Ghana until 1976.
  • 1980: Head of personnel at the UN High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) in Geneva.
  • 1983: UN Secretariat Director of administrative management services in New York.
  • 1987: UN Assistant Secretary-General of Human Resources, Management and Security Coordinator.
  • 1990: UN Assistant Secretary-General of Program Planning, Budget and Finance, and Controller.
  • 1992: Joined UN World Health Organization’s Geneva office until 1996.
  • 1993: UN Under-Secretary-General for peacekeeping.
  • 1995: UN Special Representative of the Secretary-General to the former Yugoslavia.
  • 1996: UN Under-Secretary-General.
  • 1997: Kofi Annan was UN Secretary-General from 1 January 1997 to 31 December 2006.
  • 2001: Reelected for a second term as United Nations Secretary General.
  • 2007: Kofi Annan Foundation established.
  • 2012: UN and Arab League Envoy to Syria (23 February-31 August 2012).
  • 2016: Annan lead the Myanmar Advisory Commission on Rakhine State. Its final report was released in August 2017 which was unpopular with all parties. Annan attempted unsuccessfully to get the UN involved. The Rohingya conflict and humanitarian disaster followed with most of the Rohingya forced out of Myanmar.
In 2001 Kofi Annan shared the Nobel Prize for Peace with the UN for prioritizing human rights and helping to revitalize the UN. Critics accused him of failure in Rwanda in 1994.
Chairman of “The Elders”, founded by Nelson Mandela, to work for peace, human rights and solutions to poverty, climate change and HIV/AIDS.
Of all the UN Secretaries General Kofi Atta Annan remains the only UN staff member to be elected UN Secretary General.
Ban Ki-moon19442007-2016South Korea
  • 1970: Joined Korean Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
  • 1974: UN First Secretary of the South Permanent Observer Mission.
  • 1979: Director of the United Nations Division.
  • 1980: Director of the UN International Organizations and Treaties Bureau.
  • 1990: Director-General for American Affairs.
  • 1992: Vice Chairman of the South-North Joint Nuclear Control Commission.
  • 1993: South Korea’s Deputy Ambassador to the United States.
  • 1995: South Korea’s Deputy Minister for Policy Planning and International Organizations.
  • 1996: South Korea’s National Security Advisor to the President.
  • 1998: Korea’s Ambassador to Austria and Slovenia.
  • 1999: Chairman of the Preparatory Commission for the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organization.
  • 2001: Chief of staff to South Korean president Han Seung-soo.
  • 2003: Foreign policy advisor to incoming South Korean president Roh Moo-hyun.
  • 2004: South Korean Foreign Minister until November 2006.
  • 2007: Secretary-General of the United Nations from 1 January 2007 to 31 December 2016.
  • 2012: Reelected for a second term as UN Secretary General.
  • 2016: Stepped down to join the other former UN Secretaries General.
Critics questioned Ban Ki-moon’s expertise and attitude to human rights. Made the Paris Agreement legally binding in under a year.
António Guterres19492017Portugal
  • 1974: Portuguese Head of Office of the Secretary of State of Industry until 1975.
  • 1976: Deputy for Castelo Branco in the Portuguese National Parliament until 1995
  • 1991: Founding member of the Portuguese Refugee Council.
  • 1992: Secretary-General of the Socialist Party and leader of the opposition.
  • 1995: Appointed Portuguese Prime Minister by President Soares until 1999.
  • 1996: Re-appointed as Portuguese Prime Minister until 2002.
  • 1999: Elected President of Socialist International until 2005.
  • 2001: Guterres resigned to “Prevent the country from falling into a political swamp”.
  • 2005: UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) until 2015.
  • 2017: António Guterres has been the United Nations Secretary-General since 1 January 2017.
On his first day in office António Manuel de Oliveira Guterres said: “Let us resolve to put peace first

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7 responses to “UN Secretaries General”

  1. JC says:

    Hi Rek Luak Moses, thanks for your suggestion. We’re always keen to improve #Adducation lists because #WeLoveLists so we’ve added the UNSG career timelines.

  2. Rek Luak Moses-South Sudan says:

    Reminding us of the former UN Secretaries General is so fantastic. Many lives would have been lost now a days had the UN not been existing. Can you also please include the last positions they (UN Secretaries General) held in their countries of origin and the last positions they had held in UN bodies before they became UN Secretary General. I noticed they’re all men – we need to a female UN General Secretary after Antonio Guterres I think.

  3. JC says:

    Hi Sonia, the “Country” column is the place of origin for each Secretary General.

  4. Sonia says:

    The list should be contain the place of origin…

  5. Paul says:

    I thank the UN for their work towards world peace

  6. JC says:

    Thanks for the reminder Vincent! I’ve now updated and tweaked the list.

  7. Vincent MUEMA says:

    Antonio Guterres

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