During Perez de Cuellar's tenure as United Nations Secretary General, monumental changes came to pass in the world. The thawing of the Cold War occurred as the Soviet Union disintegrated, East and West Berlin were reunited and the Berlin Wall came down. Major achievements were negotiated at the United Nations for bilateral arms control and disarmament, which brought about a lessening of tensions between East and West. The Security Council faced issues using consensus leadership after many years of intense standoff between super powers. Successful peacekeeping missions in Namibia, Cambodia, and Latin America were conducted. South Africa's apartheid system was also coming to an end. The United Nations began its work anew and in earnest helping to organize and monitor free and fair elections in new democracies. Secretary General Perez de Cuellar deserves credit for his role in shepherding the United Nations through these many successes.
Javier Perez de Cuellar married Marcela Temple. They have two children. Educated as a lawyer, Perez de Cuellar entered diplomatic service for his country as a young man. In 1964, after twenty years of diplomatic service, he authored Manual de Derecho Diplomatico (Manual of Diplomatic Law).
Pérez de Cuéllar joined Peru's Ministry of Foreign Affairs in 1940 when he was just twenty years old, and the diplomatic service in 1944. He subsequently served as Secretary at Peru's embassies in France, the United Kingdom, Bolivia, and Brazil. He later served as ambassador to Switzerland, the Soviet Union, Poland, and Venezuela.
Mr. Perez de Cuellar served as a member of the Peruvian delegation to the General Assembly at its first session in 1946. Perez de Cuellar served again as a member of the delegations to the 25th through 30th sessions of the Assembly. In 1971, he was appointed permanent representative of Peru to the United Nations. He led his country's delegation to all sessions of the Assembly from then until 1975.
In 1973 and 1974, Perez de Cuellar represented his country on the Security Council. He was serving as President of the Council when the crisis in Cyprus developed in July 1974. On September 18, 1975, he was appointed Special Representative of the Secretary General in Cyprus. He held this post until December 1977, when he rejoined the Peruvian Foreign Service.
On February 27, 1979, Mr. Perez de Cuellar was appointed as United Nations Under–Secretary General for Special Political Affairs. From April 1981, while still holding this post, he acted as the Secretary General's Personal Representative to Afghanistan. This was the period when the Soviet Union had invaded Afghanistan and was attempting to take control of the nation. As Secretary General's Personal Representative, he visited Pakistan and Afghanistan in April and again in August of 1981 in order to continue the negotiations initiated by the Secretary General some months earlier.
Perez de Cuellar shared his diplomatic expertise as an academic, also. He was a Professor of International Law at Peru's Academia Diplomatica and Professor of International Relations at Peru's Academia de Guerra Aerea.
On December 31, 1981, Pérez de Cuéllar succeeded Kurt Waldheim as Secretary General and was reelected for a second term in October 1986.
During his two terms, he led mediations between Britain and Argentina in the aftermath of the Falklands War and promoted the efforts of the Contadora Group to bring peace and stability to Central America. He also interceded in the negotiations for the independence of Namibia, the conflict in Western Sahara between Morocco and the Polisario Front, and the division on the island in Cyprus.
Secretary General Perez de Cuellar took his responsibility under the Charter very seriously regarding the priority of seeking resolution to conflicts. He applied this commitment to the conflict between Iraq and Iran that had begun in 1980. He was also committed to holding the two nations accountable for humanitarian standards. UN teams were dispatched to the area. Perez de Cuellar visited both Tehran and Baghdad in 1985 to initiate discussions that would move toward and end of the war. The fighting stopped in August of 1988.
Under the supervision of Perez de Cuellar, the UN Peacekeepers received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1988.
It was under the watch of Perez de Cuellar that massive United Nations aid efforts unfolded along the border of Cambodia and Thailand to assist refugees of the conflict between Cambodia and Vietnam. After 11 years of war, with the involvement of the Security Council, an agreement between the parties of the conflict was signed in October of 1991.
Near the end of his second term, Javier Perez de Cuellar instigated efforts for the United Nations to focus on the establishment of a covenant between humankind and the environment. Conferences on climate change were held. This began the entirely new concept within the UN, of sustainable development.
Mr. Perez de Cuellar's second term as Secretary General concluded in January 1992. In his concluding report in December of 1991, on the work of the United Nations, Perez De Cuellar stated,
"Peace has won victories on several fronts.... New vistas are opening for States to work together in a manner they did not do before. The earlier posture of aloofness and reserve towards the Organization has been replaced by more ardent participation in its endeavors. An era of law and justice may not be around the corner but the United Nations has defined the direction.... Today there are far more solid grounds for hope than there are reasons for frustration and fear. The hope arises both from the enduring relevance of the philosophy of the Charter and from the vastly strengthened credentials of the Organization. My credo is anchored in that philosophy and it will remain so. With its return from the doldrums, and with its role no longer peripheral, the United Nations has come nearer to the vision of its Charter. Everyone who contributed to the process is entitled to a measure of exultation and I, for my part, to a feeling of fulfillment. I profoundly appreciate the confidence placed in me through this testing phase of international affairs. I close on that note of faith and gratitude."
In light of all the ways that the United Nations was active and successful in the decade that Secretary General Javier Perez de Cuellar was shepherding the organization, his dedication to peace, and his leadership effected these many accomplishments.
In 1995, Perez de Cuellar ran unsuccessfully against Alberto Fujimori for President of Peru. He was President of the Council of Ministers, as well as Minister of Foreign Affairs in Peru from November 2000 until July 2001, during the turbulent period following Fujimori's resignation over corruption charges.
In September 2004, he stepped down from his position as Peru's Ambassador to France. In retirement, he continues to reside in France.
In the course of his career, Javier Perez de Cuellar received honors from twenty five different countries.
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