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Beyond the Legacies of Prof. Dr.Boutros Boutros-Ghali: Reflecting on the Formation of Global Developmental Agenda

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By Karim Errouaki 1

Prof. Dr. Boutros Boutros-Ghali, former UN Secretary-General (UNSG), passed away at the age of 93 in a Cairo hospital on Tuesday February 16th, 2016. Egypt’s President Mr. Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi led the funeral procession for the country’s veteran diplomat as he was laid to rest with full State honours. He was a champion of peace for Egypt and for the world a symbol, as the first Arab and African to occupy the position of UNSG. The incumbent UNSG, Ban Ki Moon, in his tribute, stated that “the UN Community will mourn a memorable leader who rendered invaluable services to ensure world peace and international order”.

A tribute to an uncommon gem, a gallant diplomat and a world-acclaimed great leader of rare intellectual prowess

To me, it is a great privilege to write this tribute in the memory and in honour of Prof. Dr. Boutros Boutros-Ghali, a scholar, diplomat, visionary leader and determined man of impeccable principles and international repute. He was my mentor, friend and colleague. I have known Mr. Boutros-Ghali since the early 1980s. I admired him all his life and will continue to admire him. Our friendship, which was further reinforced, culminated in my collaborating with him as his Special Adviser during his tenure as UNSG, a position I held even thereafter as I continued to serve in this capacity when in 1998 he was elected first Secretary-General of the International Organization of the Francophonie (OIF) Paris and later on when he was appointed in 2003 the first President of the Egyptian National Council for Human Rights. It is a privilege to be counted among his friends.

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When in 1996 he relinquished his duties as UNSG, the former Director General of UNESCO, Prof. Dr. Federico Mayor Zaragoza, published a magnificent celebratory two-volume book (Boutros Boutros-Ghali: Amicorum Discipulorumque Liber, Bruylant, Brussels, 1998) in his honour that focused on the triad which inspired many of his actions, summarized in his well-known Agenda, namely, Peace, Development and Democracy. Federico Mayor Zaragoza and many of Boutros-Ghali’s friends such as Karel Vasak, Jacques Delors, Michel Camdessus, James Wolfensohn, Yevgeny Primakov, Prince El Hassan Bin Talal, George Soros, Robert Badinter, Maurice Druon, Enrique Iglesias to name just few, thought that a special tribute should be paid to him, recognizing that, when in the service of the international community, he never ceased to be an eminent intellectual, open to all the cultures of the World.

Mr. Boutros-Ghali was very accessible and had a wonderful sense of humour which overflowed from an inner calm. The years have not dimmed his intellect nor have they detracted from his wry sense of humour. Self-deprecating at times, his humour projected his self-confidence as well as his “joie de vivre”. His talents as a great communicator earned him unflinching respect amongst generations of Egyptians, Arab intellectuals and prominent scholars and politicians whether they agreed with him or not. All this served him well at the apex of his career, when he was elected UNSG in 1992. It is in his capacity as UNSG that history, as well as peers, will judge Mr. Boutros-Ghali.

In the course of working with him, I quickly noticed his sound intellectual and political wealth, as well as his firm, dogged and undaunted commitment to the democratization of international relations. He proved that he was capable not only of thinking in the abstract, but also of acting pragmatically, received the sort of education, and inherited the distinctive ancestral merits, that paved the way for the great heights he attained in his own right. Our intellectual and geopolitical interests were in part close. I can affirm that we were also linked by the same way of considering the responsibility of intellectuals towards society, and by the need to connect scientific explanations to the consequences for action; that was not for an ideological apriorism nor for an urgency of operation, but for the firm belief in the validity of scientific analyses and their social mandate at the service of human freedom.

When he was elected UNSG it was evident that the world was in need of a new direction. Moreover, his election coincided with the mandates of his two close friends, namely, Mr. Federico Mayor Zaragoza (D-G of UNESCO) and Mr. Michel Camdessus (MD of IMF). UNESCO was the conscience of the UN.2 He, therefore, found at UNESCO and the IMF and later on at the World Bank and WTO partners for Peace, Development and Democracy. Boutros-Ghali, Federico Mayor Zaragoza, Michel Camdessus, James Wolfensohn and Renato Ruggiero were linked in a partnership to work on some of the most important commitments of the Bretton Woods institutions and the UN. It was, then, no surprise that UNESCO, IMF, World Bank, WTO and the UN had much in common in the tumultuous decade of the 1990s on such issues as the indebtedness of the least developed countries, assistance to countries in post-conflict situations, the need for concessional financing for developing countries, the importance of good governance, the promotion of the culture of peace, and the risks and challenges of globalization.

Mr. Boutros-Ghali knew that any effort to transform the UN should be gradual and should be based on its undeniable successes and should be accompanied by measures to meet the challenges of the world context. He was a cosmopolitan figure with a deep sense of commitment to objectivity and precision. His convictions were strongly conveyed, a fact that rendered the UN threatening to those who did not have their way in dictating policy and led them to recoil into brooding and vengeful rhetoric. In a way, this explains the last episode of his tenure.

Mr. Boutros-Ghali faced the challenges of adapting the UN to the revolutionary changes which had taken place in world politics since the end of the Cold War. He recognized more quickly than many others that the end of the Cold War opened up new opportunities for the Organization. For more than four decades the Security Council in particular had been paralyzed by the East-West conflict. The end of the East-West conflict gave the UN the opportunity to finally play its role as a global organization which sought to bring about and preserve world peace. The bipolar relationship between Moscow and Washington had given way to a multipolar world in which all areas of life are experiencing the effects of globalization.

A Triple Agenda but One Global Vision

It was against this background that Mr. Boutros-Ghali, as the UNSG, commissioned three Agenda, namely studies of Peace, Democracy and Development, in the hopes of initiating not only discussions but also movements to shape new policies. The problems of peace, democracy, and development were interdependent, and the policies that would promote each would generally also create favourable conditions for the others.

In his speech at the Japan Institute of International Relations in December 1999, Mr. Boutros-Ghali spoke about the connection between Peace, Democracy and Development in the post-Cold War era. He observed:

“All three (Agenda) are interlocked and I will try to explain what this means with reference to the three Agenda I presented during my mandate as the Secretary-General of the United Nations: Agenda for Peace in 1992, Agenda for Development in 1994 and Agenda for Democratization in 1996. Peacekeeping, development and democracy are being redefined and extended in the post-Cold War era. The connections between them are beginning to emerge. We will need a new level of understanding, and a new depth of commitment to understand the importance of this connection if we want to make human security a reality.”3

To understand the complexity of the articulation between peace, development and democracy4 he formulated four basic rules, to wit:

  1. The potential recurrence of conflict is a constant threat to the peace process and to human security. Hence any external support for post-conflict peace building, post-conflict development and post-conflict democracy-building must be consistent and sustained.
  2. International assistance must be phased over time, focusing on development before the conflict, on humanitarian aid during the conflict, rehabilitation after the conflict, and sustainable development aid in order to build peace and promote human security.
  3. There is no one model of democratization or democracy suitable to all societies. Democracy cannot be exported or imported. Each State must be free to decide for itself its priorities for the welfare of its people.
  4. Democratization within States must also be supported by a process of democratization among States. The globalization of the market economy must be controlled by a global democracy.

Clearly the three Agenda are interrelated: peace is in many ways a crucial precondition for both democracy and development. War is not only destructive – funding the military and ammunition also absorbs scarce resources that could otherwise be more gainfully deployed for development. Moreover, war either leads to chaos, civil unrest and loss of human resources, or results in military rule which relegates democracy to the background. On the other hand, peace will be easier to achieve and sustained if development is under way and democratic institutions are in place. And, in turn, democracy will be more readily attainable if development is occurring. While this will usually generate winners and losers, democracy offers a political forum in which losers can press their case for protection and compensation. In addition, popular pressure will usually prevent the winners from scooping up every jackpot in sight. In other words, a democratic system is likely to alleviate the social pains and reduce the conflicts that may hinder development. Interdependence cuts two ways.

If the three Agenda rest on and support each other, by the same token, that means that in the absence of peace, it will be harder to get development under way, while the absence of development will make peace harder to achieve, and the absence of democracy can be expected to pose problems for both development and peace. How to begin, when, as in many parts of the world, all three are clearly absent, so that we are faced with war and poverty under dictatorial rule? Where should we start? Such questions surely cannot be answered in general, and often cannot be answered with any certainty, even in particular cases.

During the 51stAnniversary celebration of the United Nations in Rome, Prof. Boutros-Ghali observed that “those active in international life are guarantors of democracy and play a fundamental role in today’s world”. He has been a tireless crusader on the impact of globalization on the economic and social progress of both countries and peoples. He argued at many occasions that “the global economy poses many threats, including that of destroying traditional bonds of solidarity, marginalizing countries, and further widening the gap between rich and poor”.5

Boutros Ghali (2003)6 argued that globalization could only realize its potential benefits if it was circumscribed and regulated democratically. The impact of globalization is far-reaching and powerful, for good and bad. For example, the effects of reducing trade and investment barriers extend far beyond the markets immediately involved, and many of these effects may be destructive and long-lasting. Those affected must be allowed some say in how the process is managed, how damage is to be prevented, and how those damaged are to be compensated. That is the point of democracy and justice, and it requires the construction of appropriate institutions. The famous slogan of the American Revolution was ‘No taxation without representation’. Boutros-Ghali’s proposals called for voice and representation for those affected by globalization. His proposals, in effect, amounted to bringing that slogan up to date, so that it now becomes: ‘No globalization without representation.’

Markets and democracy were utopian dreams in the late 19th Century, barely realized in only a few advanced countries. Now they are reality. Similarly he was proposing – peace and regulated transformational growth for human development, supporting worldwide full employment – may seem utopian today. But these proposals will work, and could achieve the goal of making globalization work for human development. One day this vision, too, could be reality, however utopian it may seem now. But before it can become reality, it has to be set out and debated; it has to become part of the discourse.

Mr. Boutros-Ghali: A Diplomat for Development

Nell, Errouaki and Mayor (‘Reinventing Globalization after the Crash’, 2016)7 observed that the principles that animated the career of Mr. Boutros-Ghali during his tenure as UNSG were developed in the triple Agenda. Each of these was a program to make the world a better place; each laid out a masterly survey of the problems in its area, followed by a comprehensive analysis of relevant policies, and ended with specific proposals. Mr. Boutros-Ghali honoured us by writing the Preface to our book (‘Reinventing Globalization after the Crash’, 2016) which was the last piece he ever wrote. He rightly noted in the preface that:

“globalization was widely considered a new development; but it was not. It not only happened before, taking place on a grand scale prior to World War I, but it had, in fact, always been a feature of capitalist development, even if not appearing in such a dramatic guise.”

Like Nobel Laureate Amartya Sen, Boutros-Ghali raised concerns over fairness – globalization meant reaching out and bringing new economies or areas of economy into the world system, but in the process it excludes as well as includes. Those excluded may well be worse off than ever. And those included may be included on terms that violate our sense of fairness, yet the institutions that will provide ways of remedying global unfairness still have to be built. We provided in our book ways of assessing these problems. Like Nobel Laureate Joseph Stiglitz, Boutros-Ghali noted that opponents of Globalization contended that the economic pressures it created may undermine the idea of ‘capitalism with a human face’. The growth generated by globalization can actually create or intensify poverty in some areas – it can become ‘immiserizing growth’8 and trade can generate pressures that increase inequality. But that, we argued in our book, is because we have not directly addressed the issue of humanizing globalization itself.

Mr. Boutros-Ghali was responsible for crafting a new international development agenda, with enormous global support. As former President of the World Bank James Wolfenshon put it:

“Boutros’s commitment to peace and development took him to every corner of the globe. He used these two pillars to establish his two-track diplomacy with countries everywhere. He deserves a great deal of credit for his forward-looking efforts on Post-Conflict Reconstruction and land-mines, a cause that has now been successfully taken up across the globe… He also gave a strong push for democratization and democracy in the world.”9

Furthermore, former Managing Director of IMF Michel Camdessus noted that:

“Boutros-Ghali, from his perspective, was adamant that development should be recognized as the foremost task of our time and identified peace, the economy, environmental protection, social justice, and democracy as the five dimensions of development. He underscored that development requires competent government leadership, coherent national policies, and strong popular commitment.”10

Mr. Boutros-Ghali has long observed that development is not just economic growth, although that is central. He argued that social factors, like literacy, education and public health, are as much a part of development as purely market matters. They affect economic growth and are affected by it. Health and education, for example, are central to the productivity of the labour force, but they cannot be provided adequately unless the economy is itself in good shape. Environmental factors are likewise central; public health cannot be maintained without clean air and water, agriculture can fail if the desert spreads because of improper cultivation or deforestation. Both social and environmental factors interact not only with economics, but also with the pressures determining the rate at which the population will grow. This, in turn, will affect the level of prosperity.11

Nell, Errouaki and Mayor (2016) argued that development is not only a complex of interactions between economic, social and environmental variables. It also causes social upheavals, as traditional ways of life are uprooted and replaced by new. Joseph Schumpeter’s term was “Creative Destruction,” meaning that development rested in large part on innovation, and that innovation not only brings about new products and new technologies but in the process destroys the old. And as the old products and technologies slip into oblivion, so, too, do the corresponding skills and traditions. Whole ways of life can disappear under the pressure of the forces of development, while new ones are being formed. This is all now happening with unprecedented speed.

We tend to assume that the creativity will outweigh the destructiveness, but this is not assured. First, the market only records profit and loss as experienced in monetary terms, but even this is not so clear. Are these monetary flows to be measured in the long run or in the short run? In the short run it may be hard to tell which prevails, for when markets are driving large changes there is usually confusion, if not chaos. On the other hand, as Keynes famously said: in the long run we are all dead.   Second, many of the gains and losses will lie outside of the market. That is, the activities in question will impose losses and gains on people who are not directly involved in the transactions, e.g., losses to those who live downwind of a polluting factory, or gains to those who find their property values rising because of crowding in other parts of the city. There is surely a need, as Boutros-Ghali has argued, to give a voice to those who bear the burden of the destruction. Otherwise, if no opposition can raise its voice, if there are no ways to set limits on the market, the destruction may get out of hand, and could eventually bring social conflict.

Development rests on innovation, which not only raises productivity and reduces costs, but perhaps more importantly changes the character of jobs, and even social life itself. Labour is forced out of agriculture, always and everywhere, with important and often catastrophic consequences for the economy of the countryside. This is the process that brings about ‘creative destruction’. Globalization drives this process; it encourages, and very often, forces rural to urban migration with all its attendant dislocation and disruption of lifestyles. Unchecked, this can lead to social turmoil and economic disaster – even if the patterns of trade and investment that engendered the changes were economically sound.   The disruptive changes may be extreme enough to undermine the initial economic advances. In such a case the globalization would not be sustainable – which might be considered reason enough to develop policies to channel and direct the process.

Nell, Errouaki and Mayor (2016) argued that for too long conventional economics has insisted that it can examine the problems of the economy and reach sound conclusions separately from any consideration of the social and political context in which economic issues are embedded. It does so by assuming that the populations of countries undergoing development are made up of well-informed ‘rational agents’ who make precise choices in response to well-defined economic signals, and thereby maximize their welfare. This is simply not how the world works. The evident fact is that, in the course of development, social and political forces impact strongly and frequently on economic matters, very often in unpredictable ways. And economic changes have social and political consequences. Indeed, it is often difficult to separate the economic from the social and political.


Mr. Boutros-Ghali decided to pay more attention to Africa – a continent that had practically been erased from the world’s agenda, and considered by many governments and leaders in the past to suffer from a terminal disease as though fate had destined it to be stricken by poverty, sickness, discrimination and war. I think that what brought Mr. Boutros Ghali to Africa was a sense of justice, not expediency. He trod the unpaved paths of that land, and spent several man-hours striving to prevent it from being erased from the map of global attention.

Former President of the World Bank James Wolfenshon rightly noted that:

“Boutros Boutros-Ghali left no doubt about his passionate commitment to putting the forces of the UN behind African economic development, which included political and civil security. He was unwavering in his support to countries that were in most need of development finance. At the same time he encouraged the World Bank to work closely with UN programs in such areas as health, education, agriculture and infrastructure, seeking the best use of resources in achieving development goals in the region.”12

It was not possible to implement all the reforms envisaged by Mr. Boutros-Ghali. However, to blame him for this, as many are wont to do, is, to say the least, unjust. One merely has to look at the handicaps of a UNSG to understand this. The UN, like every organization, cannot do more than its members wish and allow. This applies in particular to the permanent members of the UN Security Council. They have a special responsibility for the future development of the UN. It is therefore all the more regrettable that they have hitherto lacked the necessary will to reform and reorganize the UN and that they did not give the reform plans of SG Mr. Boutros-Ghali the necessary support which would have enabled them to see the light of the day.

The refinement of Mr. Boutros-Ghali did not prevent him from entering the arena, with the realization that in order to attain justice, it is necessary to defy conventional concepts. Statesmen have to look back on their past achievements and ask themselves not only how many assets they accumulated along the way, but also how many noble values they served. From this perspective, Mr. Boutros-Ghali was an uncommon intellectual pillar, an enlightened statesman, wise advocate of sustainable development and a valiant proponent of human liberation.

His career did not do justice to his brilliant intellect, his outstanding academic achievements, his devotion to the rule of international law, and his universal contribution to the enhancement of the levels of multinational discourse. He also laid the foundation for managerial reform, restructuring and reorganization that we are now seeing develop under the incumbent Secretary-General.

He has run his race and won his laurels. There is time to be born and time to die. It will be very difficult, if not impossible, to forget a man who impacted so much on the international community.

Although Mr. Boutros-Ghali showed me a lot of things, and from him I learned a lot that I didn’t hitherto know, yet he forgot to teach me one last thing i.e. how to let him go! If God could grant me one last wish I’d ask to say “Goodbye”! We’ve lost a rare gem, another champion of peace and liberty. We will all miss him.



  1. Karim Errouaki holds a Ph.D. in Economics from the New School for Social Research (New York). He has taught and lectured in many parts of the world, including New York, Washington, Boston, Montreal, Sherbrook, Vancouver, London, Brussels, Paris, Madrid, Mexico, and Sao Paolo, among others. He is coauthor with Edward J. Nell of Rational Econometric Man (London, Elgar, 2013), with Edward J. Nell and Federico Mayor Zaragoza of Reinventing Globalization after the Crash (2016).He is a former Special Advisor to UNSG Prof. Dr. Boutros Boutros-Ghali and to Director General of UNESCO Prof. Dr. Federico Mayor Zaragoza. He is currently Ambassador of the International Organization of Latin-American Mayors in Morocco for Africa, Special Advisor to the Chairman of ECO Capacity Exchange, a leading Trade and Finance global organisation based in London, a Senior Research Fellow at the Foundation for the Culture of Peace (Autonomous University of Madrid), and a Special Advisor to the Director General of CAFRAD, Pan-African Intergovernmental Organization.
  2. During his twelve years as Director General of UNESCO (1987-1999) Federico Mayor Zaragoza gave new life to the organization’s mission to build a “bastion of peace in the minds of all people,” putting the institution at the service of peace, tolerance, human rights, and peaceful coexistence, working within the scope of its powers and remaining faithful to its original goals. Under Mayor Zaragoza’s guidance UNESCO created the “Culture of Peace Programme,” whose objectives revolve around four main themes: education for peace; human rights and democracy; the fight against isolation and poverty; the defence of cultural diversity and intercultural dialogue; and conflict prevention and the consolidation of peace.
  3. See Boutros Boutros-Ghali at
  4. Let’s recall here the excellent work done by James Galbraith and his associates at the Institute for Economics and Peace (IEP). This is an independent, non-partisan, non-profit research organization dedicated to shifting the world’s focus to peace as a positive, achievable, and tangible measure of human well-being and progress. The IEP is an UN-accredited NGO in Special Consultative Status to the UN Economic and Social Council. IEP is well known internationally for the Global Peace Index (GPI). The GPI ranks 162 nations according to states of peacefulness. It also has raised significant awareness about the drivers and indicators of peace and has become a valued resource used by major organizations and governments around the world.
  5. Speech at the celebration of the UN Fifty-first Anniversary in Rome, January 11, 1996.
  6. See Boutros Boutros-Ghali (2003), Democratizar la Globalización, Universidad del Valle, Artes Graficas del Valle Ltda, Cali.
  7. The title of the book is ‘Reinventing Globalization after the Crash’, Forthcoming in 2016. The book is based on material provided by Federico Mayor Zaragoza’s book The World Ahead, revisited and animated by the theoretical framework put forward by Nell in his opus magnum book General Theory of Transformational Growth (Cambridge University Press, 1998) and extended by Karim Errouaki (UM, HEC-Montreal, 2003) who argued that Transformational Growth provides a new vision and a new framework, for thinking about economic development, bringing it into the framework of economic history.
  8. ‘Immiserizing growth’ is a theoretical situation first proposed by Jagdish Bhagwati, in 1958, where economic growth could result in a country being worse off than before the growth. See Bhagwati, Jagdish. 1958. “Immiserizing Growth: A Geometrical Note,” Review of Economic Studies 25, (June), pp. 201-205.
  9. See James Wolfelshon in Federico Mayor Zaragoza Federico Mayor Zaragoza (1998) Boutros Boutros-Ghali Amicorm Discipuorumque Liber, Brussels: Bruylant, p.76
  10. See Michel Camdessus in Federico Mayor Zaragoza Federico Mayor Zaragoza (1998) Boutros Boutros-Ghali Amicorm Discipuorumque Liber, Brussels: Bruylant, p. 953.
  11. Former French President Nicolas Zarkozy commissioned two Nobel Laureates, namely, Amartya Sen and Joseph Stiglitz, to help devise a more holistic indicator of economic progress than gross domestic product, which falls to account for issues like income inequality that have been at the heart of the globalization debate. Furthermore, Sen argued that economics is not just politics. There is more to human progress than aggregate statistics of growth. We have to ask the right questions and concentrate on what matters to people. See the International Herald Tribune of January 23, 2008.
  12. See James Wolfelshon in Federico Mayor Zaragoza (1998) Boutros Boutros-Ghali Amicorm Discipuorumque Liber, Brussels: Bruylant, p.76.

From: pp.7-11 of World Economics Association Newsletter 6(1), February 2016

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