American University of Beirut

Lakhdar Brahimi

Lakhdar Brahimi is a man of peace negotiationsthe UN's most senior negotiator, with a long history of mediation in the trouble spots of the world. He was United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan's Special Envoy for Afghanistan from 1997 until 1999, and on October 3, 2001 he once again undertook the position he still holds as special UN representative for Afghanistan with overall responsibility for the work of the UN in humanitarian, human rights, and political fields. His focus is on the peace-building phase of that country's post-conflict development and reconstruction. In the fall of 2002 he received the Great Negotiator Award from Harvard Law School.

Lakhdar Brahimi has spent most of his four-decade career persuading people to choose peace over war. As under secretary general of the League of Arab States from 1984-1991, Ambassador Brahimi was the envoy of the Tripartite Committee which helped mediate the Taif Accord, leading to the end to civil war in Lebanon. He served as the UN Secretary General's special representative in Zaire (now Democratic Republic of Congo), South Africa, Yemen, Haiti, Nigeria, Cameroon, Burundi, and Sudan. As Special Representative for South Africa, he headed the UN Observer Mission until the 1994 election of Nelson Mandela. Always at the center of the diplomatic and practical intricacies of both peacekeeping and peace-building efforts in the hotspots of the world, Brahimi served also as under secretary general for Special Assignments in Support of the secretary general's preventive and peacemaking efforts. Lakhdar Brahimi was a member of a panel which produced in 2000 the significantly important Brahimi Report on UN Peace Operations, which evaluated weaknesses of peacekeeping systems then in place and recommended new approaches in areas of politics, strategy, operations, and organization.

This extraordinary peace-builder began his public service early in life. Born in 1934 in Algeria, he studied law and political science at the University of Algiers and the University of Paris. His career was closely entwined with his country, Algeria, both before and after its liberation from France in 1962. Before independence he worked from 1956 to 1961, based in Jakrarta, as the Algerian National Liberation Front's representative in South East Asia and in the Ministry for Foreign Affairs of the Provisional Government of Algeria in exile in Cairo. Following independence, he continued with the ministry back home in Algiers.

The title ambassador has seldom been absent from his name. From 1963 to 1970 he was simultaneously Algerian ambassador in Cairo, ambassador to Sudan with residence in Cairo, and permanent representative to the League of Arab States. He next served as ambassador at the Court of Saint James, London, followed by two years as adviser to the Algerian president of the republic.

His more complete immersion in peacekeeping and peace-building activities began in 1984 as under secretary general of the League of Arab States in Tunis. It was during this seven-year period at the helm of the league that he was envoy of the Tripartite Committee (composed of the heads of state of Morocco, Saudi Arabia, and Algeria) on Lebanon, mediating the end to the civil war. After two years as foreign minister in Algiers he took up his activities as the UN secretary general's special representative in a number of African countries, Yemen, and Haiti.

Fluent in Arabic, French, and English Brahimi labors tirelessly to nurture peace in our troubled, war-torn world. Those who have worked closely with him characterize Ambassador Brahimi as professional, gentle, sophisticated, yet extremely humble and self-effacing. Currently Lakhdar Brahimi continues his pursuit of peace in Afghanistan as special representative of the United Nations.

In a May 8 interview with the World Service of the BBC, Ambassador Brahimi reported that after a year and a half of work in Afghanistan, difficult problems still exist. Brahimi spoke of spoilers threatening progress in Afghanistan, and expressed the hope that piece-building initiatives would be expanded outside the capital. When asked whether he would soon be involved in peace-building in Iraq, Brahimi indicated that such ru​mors were totally unfounded.

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