For three decades from 1949 to 1979 he served at the ‘Cairo University’ as Professor of International Law and International Relations. During this time he travelled and delivered lectures in several institutes and universities including in the US, Europe, Africa, Middle East and India. Many of his scholarly books were published in French.
From 1954 to 1955, he was associated with ‘Columbia University’ as a ‘Fulbright Research Scholar’.
From 1963 to 1964 he served ‘Centre of Research of the Hague Academy of International Law’ as a Director.
He was a Visiting Professor at the Faculty of Law, Paris University, during 1967-1968.
His career in politics shaped up during the tenure of President Anwar El Sadat. From 1974 to 1977 he was a ‘Central Committee of the Arab Socialist Union’ member.
He became the Honorary Rector of the ‘Graduate Institute of Peace Studies’.
In 1975 he was made the President of the ‘Centre of Political and Strategic Studies’.
From 1977 to early 1991 he remained the Minister of State for Foreign Affairs of Egypt. He played an important role in the peace agreements between the President of Egypt, Anwar El Sadat and the Prime Minister of Israel, Menachem Begin.
In September 1978, Ghali participated as an Egyptian delegate at the peace summit at Camp David in the US.
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In 1980 he was inducted in the ‘African Society of Political Studies’ as its President.
Linda Melvern, an investigative journalist mentions that during his tenure as Foreign Minister in 1990, Ghali gave approval for a covert arms sale worth $26 million to Rwanda government.
Thereafter he served as the Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs for several months.
In May 1991, he was inducted as Deputy Prime Minister for International Affairs by the then Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak.
On January 1, 1992 he took charge as the 6th Secretary-General of the ‘United Nations’ (UN) after being elected in 1991 and held the position till December 31, 1996. He made a call to all nations to realise the 1945 pledge of the ‘UN’, of an international political system.
He considered the ‘UN’ and its agencies to be apt for advocating global peace, economic development and security by way of international cooperation.
He wrote a report for the ‘UN’, ‘An Agenda for Peace’ in 1992 that proposed ways he felt the ‘UN’ can adopt to handle conflict in the post-Cold War World.
According to some Somalis, Ghali was responsible for crisis in Somalia. They believed that the July 12, 1993 US helicopter attack on a peace initiative meeting of the clan leaders of Habr Gidr (the meeting was planned by retired U.S. Admiral Jonathan Howe, the then leader of the UN Mission in Mogadishu) was done on Ghali’s wishes. The incident marred peace initiatives and led to the October 3-4 ‘Battle of Mogadishu’ that year.
When the ‘UN’ failed to respond to the ‘Rwandan Genocide’ in 1994, that claimed over a million lives, he was greatly censured. He also failed to gather support in the ‘UN’ to intervene in the ‘Angolan Civil War’ that was continuing since 1975 with a few intervals in-between.
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Another critical issue that cropped up during his tenure as Secretary-General was handling the crisis of the Yugoslav Wars.
The 50th UN anniversary celebration was led by Ghali in 1995.
In 1996 a resolution was sponsored by ten ‘UN Security Council’ members advocating for a second five year term for Ghali as the Secretary-General, but was dismissed by the US, a permanent member of the council. Thus he became the first such person who did not hold the position for a second term.
On November 16, 1997, he became the first Secretary-General of ‘La Francophonie’ and held office till December 31, 2002.
He served the ‘South Centre’ from 2003 to 2006, as chairman of its board. It is an intergovernmental organisation that acts as a think tank for developing nations.
The ‘Hague Academy of International Law’ made him the President of its ‘Curatorium Administrative Council’.
From 2003 to 2012 he remained the Director of ‘Egyptian National Council of Human Rights’.
He was an advocate for the ‘Campaign for the Establishment of a United Nations Parliamentary Assembly’, an initiative to initialise representation of citizens at the ‘United Nations’. In the 2007 initiative of the campaign he was one of the early signatories.
He also remained jury member of the ‘Foundation Chirac’ for its annual ‘Conflict Prevention Prize’ from 2009 to 2015.
He wrote two memoirs, ‘Egypt's road to Jerusalem: a diplomat's story of the struggle for peace in the Middle East’ and ‘Unvanquished: A US-U.N. Saga’ that were published in 1997 and 1999 respectively.