Sir Brian, one of the first staff members of the United Nations holds a special place in the UN organisation. He has been involved in the UN history from its inception in 1945 and through its development during the subsequent decades. He has become one of the most well-known international civil servants. While celebrating his 100th birthday, we also celebrate 100 years of international civil service, which was instituted along with the Covenant of the League of Nations.
Urquhart started his UN career as Trygve Lie’s personal assistant, and later became one of Dag Hammarskjöld’s advisors. During his time at the UN, he played a central role in developing the UN Peacekeeping Force and the conceptualisation of the Blue Helmets. He oversaw operations among others in Lebanon, Cyprus, Namibia and the Congo. Urquhart ended his career as the Under-Secretary-General for Special Political Affairs.
As the author of the biography Hammarskjöld, he paints a portrait of the late Secretary-General with a personal touch (although admitting that he didn’t know Hammarskjöld well – despite working with him for many years). Urquhart also edited a number of the Dag Hammarskjöld Foundation’s Development Dialogue issues: ‘A World in Need of Leadership’ and ‘Towards a More Effective United Nations’. He also contributed with personal reflections to the volume Dag Hammarskjöld Remembered – A Collection of Personal Memories. In recent years, he has written about some of the individuals he worked with in the series Character Sketches, published by the UN News.
‘With warmth, generosity and encouragement, Sir Brian has been an inspirational figure for UN staff and countless young people as they pursued their careers,’ said Secretary-General António Guterres in a birthday message to Urquhart. ‘A Life in Peace and War, should be required reading for all who work for the United Nations and for all who wish to understand the Organization’s work’, he added.