Serving Peace: The Idealist Roots of the United Nations Secretary-General's Political Role

22 Pages Posted: 25 Mar 2018

See all articles by Jodok Troy

Jodok Troy

University of Innsbruck; Stanford University

Date Written: March 22, 2018


The United Nation Secretary-General is the world’s foremost international civil servant, a role considered at odds with political aspirations. Yet from the very beginnings of the UN, Secretaries-General reached out to a wider audience than the one within the UN framework and their civil servant role has been one of a self-described and publicly called-for political role in the service of peace. Contrary to the debate over “Secretary or General”, this article argues that those roles should not be framed as mutually exclusive. Rather, the Secretaries-General aspirations for a political role and external demands for a stronger role of the Secretary-General are embedded in the vision of an international civil servant who serves the eternal ideal of peace rather than only serving the temporary interest of states. This aspiration epitomizes the qualities of the Secretary-General as an international civil servant and potentially results in a more political outspoken role. I trace this idea of peace and international civil service, as envisioned by the Secretaries-General in their inaugural speeches. Doing so also sheds light on the evolution of the UN’s meaning, its global nature, and mission.

Keywords: United Nations Secretary-General, Peace, Civil Service, Leadership

Suggested Citation

Troy, Jodok, Serving Peace: The Idealist Roots of the United Nations Secretary-General's Political Role (March 22, 2018). Available at SSRN: or

Jodok Troy (Contact Author)

University of Innsbruck ( email )

Universitätsstraße 15
Innsbruck, Innsbruck 6020
+43(0)512.507.2849 (Fax)


Stanford University ( email )

Stanford, CA 94305
United States


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