The UN Secretary-General and Moral Authority

Ethics and Religion in International Leadership

Kent J. Kille, Editor

"This is an excellent volume and should prove useful and intriguing for students of all collegiate levels, as well as for researchers, diplomats, ethicists, persons of faith, and anyone generally interested in the U.N. and international peace and security."
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Once described by Trygve Lie as the "most impossible job on earth," the position of UN Secretary-General is as frustratingly constrained as it is prestigious. The Secretary-General's ability to influence global affairs often depends on how the international community regards his moral authority. In relation to such moral authority, past office-holders have drawn on their own ethics and religious backgrounds—as diverse as Lutheranism, Catholicism, Buddhism, and Coptic Christianity—to guide the role that they played in addressing the UN's goals in the international arena, such as the maintenance of international peace and security and the promotion of human rights.

In The UN Secretary-General and Moral Authority, contributors provide case studies of all seven former secretaries-general, establishing a much-needed comparative survey of each office-holder's personal religious and moral values. From Trygve Lie's forbearance during the UN's turbulent formative years to the Nobel committee's awarding Kofi Annan and the United Nations the prize for peace in 2001, the case studies all follow the same format, first detailing the environmental and experiential factors that forged these men's ethical frameworks, then analyzing how their "inner code" engaged with the duties of office and the global events particular to their terms.

Balanced and unbiased in its approach, this study provides valuable insight into how religious and moral leadership functions in the realm of international relations, and how the promotion of ethical values works to diffuse international tensions and improve the quality of human life around the world.

Table of Contents

Kent J. Kille

1. Moral Authority and the UN Secretary-General's Ethical Framework
Kent J. Kille

2. Seeking Balance: The Secretary-General as Normative Negotiator
Dorothy V. Jones

3. The House that Trygve Lie Built: Ethical Challenges as the First UN Secretary-General
James P. Muldoon Jr.

4. The UN Charter, the New Testament and Psalms: The Moral Authority of Dag Hammarskjöld
Alynna J. Lyon

5. U Thant: Buddhism in Action
A. Walter Dorn

6. An Ethical Enigma: Another Look at Kurt Waldheim
Michael T. Kuchinsky

7. Religion, Ethics and Reality: A Study of Javier Perez de Cuellar
Barbara Ann Rieffer-Flanagan and David P. Forsythe

8. A Realist in the Utopian City: Boutros Boutros-Ghali's Ethical Framework and its Impact Anthony F. Lang Jr.

9. Politics and Values at the United Nations: Kofi Annan's Balancing Act
Courtney B. Smith

10. The "Secular Pope": Insights on the UN Secretary-General and Moral Authority
Kent J. Kille




"This is an excellent volume and should prove useful and intriguing for students of all collegiate levels, as well as for researchers, diplomats, ethicists, persons of faith, and anyone generally interested in the U.N. and international peace and security."—Human Rights & Human Welfare

"Well worth the effort to all those interested in the future of humanity. Religious dynamics shaping societies will continue to dominate conflicts and relations in the next century, and those working in the fields of intelligence, international law, military science, conflict management, and political science would all benefit from deeper understanding of these connections."—International Journal of Intelligence Ethics

"What can be learned from the ethical principles and religious beliefs held by previous secretaries-general? How have these ideas affected the office itself and the claims of many for its moral authority? This book offers richly detailed case studies in ethics and statesmanship at the UN. It is a welcome and much-needed addition to our understanding of how the UN works."—Joel H. Rosenthal, president, Carnegie Council for Ethics in International Affairs


A. Walter Dorn, Royal Military College of Canada David P. Forsythe, University of Nebraska-Lincoln Dorothy V. Jones, The Newberry Library, Chicago Kent J. Kille, The College of Wooster Michael T. Kuchinsky, Gardner-Webb University Anthony F. Lang Jr., University of St. Andrews Alynna J. Lyon, University of New Hampshire James P. Muldoon Jr., Rutgers University-Newark Barbara Ann Rieffer-Flanagan, Central Washington University Courtney B. Smith, Seton Hall University

Supplemental Materials


About the Author

Kent J. Kille is associate professor of political science and chair of the international relations program at The College of Wooster.

384 pp., 6 x 9

Oct 2007

384 pp., 6 x 9

ISBN: 978-1-58901-180-9
Oct 2007

384 pp.

ISBN: 978-1-58901-473-2
Oct 2007

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