Secretary-General Mourns Legendary Official, Calling Sir Brian Urquhart Stalwart Servant of ‘We the Peoples’ Who Shaped United Nations, History Itself
3 January 2021 SG/SM/20521
I am deeply saddened at the passing of Sir Brian Urquhart, the legendary long-time United Nations official. I offer condolences to his family and to his legions of admirers within and beyond the United Nations.
Sir Brian’s imprint on the United Nations was as profound as that of anyone in the Organization’s history. As one of the Organization’s earliest employees, he set the standard for the international civil service: dedicated and impartial. As an aide to Secretary-General Dag Hammarskjöld, he helped to define the UN’s scope of action in addressing armed conflict and other global challenges. And as a close associate of Ralph Bunche, the renowned UN official and Nobel Peace Prize winner, Sir Brian helped to establish and then propel international peacekeeping into wide-ranging use.
Across the decades, in service to several of my predecessors, Sir Brian was at the centre of formative global events, from the Congo to the Middle East. His involvement in global affairs continued well after the end of his UN career through extensive writings that included definitive biographies of Hammarskjöld and Bunche. He was also a mentor for UN staff and countless young people as they pursued their careers.
Writing in his memoir, A Life in Peace and War, about the earliest days of the United Nations, Sir Brian noted that “we were all optimists […] who believed in the possibility of organizing a peaceful and just world”. Sir Brian Urquhart maintained that optimism across his life, shaping the United Nations and history itself. We are grateful for his brilliant and incomparable contributions as a stalwart servant of “we the peoples”.