Brian Urquhart's remarkable career in the United Nations began when the UN was founded in 1945 and ended in 1986 after a twelve-year tenure as Under Secretary-General for Special Political Affairs—the equivalent of commander of UN peacekeeping operations. Among the many revolutions he observed during that period was the process of decolonization, which completely changed the geopolitical map of the world and the conditions under which governments seek to assure world peace. In Decolonization and World Peace, he charts the rapid progress of decolonization in Africa, the Middle East, and other areas of the Third World and describes some of its repercussions.
One of the most serious repercussions has been the chain of regional conflicts arising from the creation of postcolonial power vacuums in various parts of the world. Attributing the difficulty in resolving many of these conflicts—including the Palestine conflict and the Iran-Iraq War—to the climate of Cold War that paralyzed UN authority from the 1960s through the early 1980s, Urquhart is encouraged by what he calls a "new summer of international relations" brought on by the warming of relations between the US and the USSR.
The four chapters of Decolonization and World Peace are based on the Tom Slick World Peace lectures that Urquhart delivered at the Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs of the University of Texas at Austin in 1988. The appendices offer further insights into the peacekeeping potential of the UN. Included are his remarks at the Nobel Prize Banquet in Norway, on the occasion of the award of the 1988 Nobel Peace Prize to UN peacekeeping forces.
Brian Urquhart, a British citizen, is also the author of Hammarskjold (1972), A Life in Peace and War (1987), and other books.
"The lectures literally bristle with points of interest to scholars of imperialism, colonialism, decolonization, and the ever-growing group of Third World specialists."
—Perspectives on Political Science