Trygve Halvdan Lie (July 16, 1896 – December 30, 1968) was a Norwegian politician. From 1946 to 1952 he was the first official Secretary-General of the United Nations. As a representative of the Norwegian government, Lie was very involved in the meetings that led up to the formation of the United Nations.
A very significant role that Lie played as Secretary General was through his work to organize multinational troops to respond to the invasion of Korea in 1950. Prior to this, he also lent his support to the formation of the nations of Israel and Indonesia.
Lie recognized the significance of the United Nations. He stated, "The one common undertaking and universal instrument of the great majority of the human race is the United Nations. A patient, constructive long-term use of its potentialities can bring a real and secure peace to the world."
Lie was born in Oslo (then Kristiania) on July 16, 1896. Lie's father, Martin, left the family to work as a carpenter in the United States when Trygve was young. His mother, Hulda, ran a boarding house.
Trygve Lie became interested in politics at a very young age. Lie joined the Norwegian Labor Party Youth Organization in 1911 when he was 15 years old. Lie was appointed an assistant to the Labor Party's national secretary eight years later. He had just completed his law degree at the University of Oslo.
Lie married Hjørdis Jørgensen in 1921. The couple had three daughters named Sissel, Guri, and Mette.
Political Career Flourishes
Lie worked as a legal consultant to the Norwegian Trade Union Federation from 1922 to 1935. Continuing on the upward track, he was appointed national executive secretary of the Labor party in 1936. Also in 1936, Trygve Lie was elected to the Parliament of Norway.
He was appointed Minister of Justice when a Labor Party government was formed by Johan Nygaardsvold in 1935. Lie held this post until 1939. Lie was later named Minister of Trade and Industries from July to September 1939 and Minister of Supply and Shipping at the outset of the Second World War.
When Norway was invaded by Germany in 1940, Lie ordered all Norwegian ships to sail to Allied ports. This action saved the Norwegian Navy.
Lie moved to England in June of 1940. He was appointed acting Foreign Minister of Norway in December. Lie was named Foreign Minister of the Norwegian government-in-exile in February of 1941.
Trygve Lie was re-elected to Parliament in 1945. Later that year, the government he was a part of resigned. Lie was appointed Foreign Minister of the interim cabinet in June, and appointed to the same post in the new Labor Party Government established in October 1945.
United Nations Career
Lie led the Norwegian delegation to the United Nations conference in San Francisco in 1946 and was a leader in drafting the provisions of the United Nations Security Council. He was the leader of the Norwegian delegation to the United Nations General Assembly in 1946.
On February 1, 1946, Trygve Lie was elected the first Secretary General of the United Nations as a result of a compromise between the major powers. Lie had aspired to become President of the first UN General Assembly. He had only missed being elected President by a small margin. Instead, the first President of the UN General Assembly was Belgian Foreign Minister, Paul-Henri Spaak. The Soviets were strongly in support of former labor lawyer Lie for the role of Secretary General. The U.S. preference was Lester Pearson of Canada. The Soviets did not like Pearson's close ties with the United States.
Lie was instrumental in securing the current site in New York City for the United Nations Headquarters and establishing the offices there. He worked closely with John D. Rockefeller Jr. and Manhattan real estate developer William Zeckendorf Sr. to secure a parcel of land along the East River in Manhattan for the headquarters complex.
Shortly after Truman was inaugurated President of the U.S., UN Secretary General Lie laid out a 20 year peace plan that included regular meetings among foreign ministers, the addition of more members to the UN, and aid to poor nations. Lie also recommended a permanent UN military force. This military force has become what is now known as the UN Peacekeeping Forces.
Lie attracted the anger of the Soviet Union when he helped gather support for the defense of South Korea after it was invaded in 1950. Later, he worked to end the Soviet boycott of UN meetings. But his involvement with this has only little to do with the eventual return of the Soviet Union to the UN
He was opposed to Spain's entry into the United Nations because of his opposition to the Franco government. Lie also sought to have the People's Republic of China recognized by the United Nations after the Nationalist government was exiled to Taiwan. Lie's argument was that the People's Republic was the only government that could fulfill the membership obligations in full.
There have been criticisms for Lie's failures to facilitate negotiation in the Berlin Blockade, as well as his failure to bring about a swifter end to the Korean War. His critics argue that he was under the influence of a select few in the UN Secretariat.
Over objections from the Soviet Union, his term of office was extended by the General Assembly 46 to 5 in 1950. This was the result of a Security Council impasse, in which the U.S. refused to accept any candidate but Lie. The Soviet Union absolutely refused to accept him again due to his involvement in the Korean War. The Soviet Union refused to acknowledge him as Secretary General in his second term.
After being accused by Joseph McCarthy of hiring "disloyal" Americans (an allegation that he attributed to the rapid hiring of civil servants necessary after the creation of the organization), Lie resigned on November 10, 1952.
As Lie greeted his predecessor, Dag Hammerskjold, as Hammerskjold prepared to take the office of Secretary General, Lie stated, "You are about to take over the most impossible job on earth."
Post UN Life
Lie remained active in Norwegian politics after his resignation from the UN He was the Governor of Oslo and Akershus, Chairman of the Board of Energy, Minister of the Interior, and Minister of Trade. Though he never achieved widespread popularity, he earned a reputation as a pragmatic, determined politician.
In 1958 the UN General Assembly resolved to find a solution to the border dispute between Ethiopia and the former Italian colony, Somalia. The General Assembly asked King Olav to handle this matter. King Olav appointed Trygve Lie in 1959 as mediator to resolve the dispute.
Lie died on December 30, 1968 of a heart attack. He was 72 years old.
- Barros, James. Trygve Lie and the Cold War: The UN Secretary-General Pursues Peace, 1946-1953. DeKalb, Ill: Northern Illinois University Press. 1989. ISBN 087580148X
- Meisler, Stanley. United Nations: The First Fifty Years. NY: The Atlantic Monthly Press. 1995. ISBN 0871136562
- Ryan, Stephen. The United Nations and International Politics. NY: Palgrave Macmillan. 2004. ISBN 0312228252
- Kalpage, Stanly. They did it their way. Retrieved October 31, 2007.
- Robins, Sharani. A biography and selection of utterances by Trygve Lie. Retrieved October 31, 2007.
- Trygve Lie Gallery. Trygve Lie Gallery. Retrieved October 31, 2007.
- un.org. Trygve Halvdan Lie (Norway). Retrieved October 31, 2007.
- UNSGselction.org. Trygvie Lie. Retrieved October 31, 2007.
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