The United Nations Secretary-General as an International Civil Servant

The International History Review, 2020, DOI:10.1080/07075332.2020.1828139

23 Pages Posted: 20 Jan 2021

See all articles by Jodok Troy

Jodok Troy

University of Innsbruck; Stanford University

Date Written: November 18, 2020


From the beginnings of the UN Secretariat, its Secretaries-General reached out to a wide audience, considering themselves servants of peace beyond narrow organizational tasks. The article argues that it is the Secretaries-General perception as an international civil servant which led them to endeavour a more expansive role ever since. To unfold this argument, the article, first, traces the international civil servant roots of the Secretary-General. Second, the article illustrates that the themes and rhetorical details of the Secretaries-General inaugural addresses provide a lens to detect and trace the trajectory of the Secretaries-General self-understanding as international civil servants providing the grounds to expand their role. Secretaries-General as international civil servants always embraced the ideal of serving peace, thereby seeking to gain a political role. This international civil servant trajectory illustrates that the role of the UN Secretary-General transcends historical periodization of the UN and sheds light on the evolution of the UN’s global nature and mission.

Keywords: United Nations Secretary General, International Civil Servant, Peace, United Nations

Suggested Citation

Troy, Jodok, The United Nations Secretary-General as an International Civil Servant (November 18, 2020). The International History Review, 2020, DOI:10.1080/07075332.2020.1828139, Available at SSRN:

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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