Lakhdar Brahimi’s Biography
He is also a world leader in promoting strong, good governance, having received numerous awards for his services in his own country, as well as to the United Nations. He is recognized as one of those who fought for Algeria’s independence, a feat that earned him recognition and won him various awards.
Lakhdar Brahimi was born in Algeria in 1934. At a very young age, Lakhdar already became exposed to the realities of war as he was able to witness the Second World War. After the war, Lakhdar continued his studies on law and political science and further pursued them by going to France. It was there that he became fluent in speaking English and French.
While in the university, his classmates and teachers were often taken in by Lakhdar’s attractive personality and intellect. After graduating, he returned to Algeria and joined the National Liberation Front, a political party that pushed the independence of Algeria. From 1956 to 1961, Lakhdar served as the NLF representative to Indonesia and Tunis, as well as one of the party’s upper members.
Upon Algeria’s declaration of independence in 1962, Lakhdar became one of the president’s most trusted advisors. In 1963, he was appointed as the Ambassador of Algeria to Egypt, where he held the position for the next seven years. He established strong political and economic ties to Egypt during his term which greatly improved Algeria’s connection to the other Arab states. In 1971, a year after his term as an ambassador for Egypt ended, he was appointed to be the Ambassador of Algeria to the United Kingdom until 1979.
Lakhdar’s experience and excellence in the positions he held earned him the respect of many of the leaders of the neighbouring Arab states. In 1984, he was appointed as the Under Secretary General of the League of Arab States and held the post for the next seven years. During his term, Lakhdar enacted several policies that further strengthened the ties between the nations of the Arab League and sought to promote diplomatic resolutions to the problems being faced by many of its members.
Afterwards, in 1991, Lakhdar Brahimi returned to Algeria to serve as its foreign minister until 1993. During the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (also known as the Earth Summit) in 1992, Lakhdar served as Rapporteur.
In 1988, Lakhdar became a part of the Arab League High Level Tripartite Committee as a special envoy to mediate in the Lebanese civil war, which lasted for two years. In 1991, after nearly seventeen years of war and bloodshed, the Lebanese civil war finally ended, and a peace agreement among the factions known as the Taef Peace Agreement was enacted.
Lakhdar’s prowess in negotiations and peace talks has allowed him to be successful in mediating between different sectors and governments. He also has a passion for promoting peace and freedom among other nations.
Being United Nation’s Under Secretary-General
In 1993, Lakhdar Brahimi reached the peak of his career when he was appointed as the Under Secretary General of the United Nations. During his term as an Under Secretary General, Lakhdar has accomplished numerous achievements in terms of nation building and peace talks.
Lakhdar participated and witnessed the end of the Apartheid system in South Africa when he led an Observer Mission for the United Nations during the 1994 South African elections wherein Nelson Mandela was voted as the first president of the new Republic of South Africa.
He also engaged in the negotiations that helped end the civil war between North and South Yemen. That same year, Lakhdar Brahimi was also appointed as the Special Representative of the Secretary General of the United Nations for the country of Haiti, a position he held until 1996.
One of the most notable nations that Lakhdar visited was Afghanistan, where he held two positions in his career in the United Nations; first as a Special Envoy of the Secretary General (which he was appointed to from 1997 to 1999) then as the Special Representative of the Secretary General (between 2001 to 2004).
He was given the responsibility of the United Nations’ activities in Afghanistan, and had full authority over the political decisions, human rights envoys, relief and supplies, recovery and reconstruction operations. His efforts in the rebuilding of Afghanistan proved to be quite a challenge, but nevertheless successful.
In the years between his appointments in Afghanistan, Lakhdar was appointed as the Under Secretary General for Special Assignments and worked extensively with various organizations and personnel regarding the peace-making efforts of the Secretary General. It was during this time that Lakhdar participated and chaired an independent panel that made assessments regarding the peacekeeping operations that were conducted by the United Nations.
The Brahimi Report in 2000
The report, which was widely known as the “Brahimi Report,” was released in 2000, assessed the areas of opportunity as well as made recommendations for modifying several policies and strategies, as well as the areas of need in terms of organization and operation. In 2001, Lakhdar Brahimi chaired the Bonn Conference which helped arrange the war-torn political situation in Afghanistan. The conference ended in a success, and the new Afghan government was organized.
In early 2004, Lakhdar was appointed the Special Envoy of the Secretary General to Iraq to help in the organization of a national government. In one of his visits to Baghdad to determine the first Iraqi elections, Lakhdar remarked on how the violence in the country threatened to disrupt and delay the national assembly elections. He said:
"The elections scheduled to take place in January 2005 are the most important milestone…There is no substitute for the legitimacy that comes from free and fair elections."
Lakhdar was one of those who suggested that the Iraq Interim Governing Council should be dissolved; while the council was indeed dissolved, many of its members still had powerful positions in the new government. In one instance, his criticism of Ahmed Chalabi led to a political disturbance that resulted in Chalabi claiming that Lakhdar did not have the right to determine the future of Iraq.
Subsequently, Chalabi’s allies also claimed that the United Nations has been receiving bribes from former leader Saddam Hussein under the guise of Oil for Food program. Eventually, Lakhdar decided to resign from his position due to the frustration of the council members taking powerful positions in the new government. Despite this disappointment, Lakhdar continued serving in the United Nations.
Aside from his work at the United Nations, Lakhdar Brahimi has also had experiences in teaching in schools; he became a visiting professor at the Institute for Advanced Study in the United States from 2006 to 2008, an “Andrew D. White Professor–At–Large” for Social Sciences at Cornell University and is also a member of several organizations such as The Center for Contemporary Arab Studies at Georgetown University and the Carnegie Middle East Center.
Joining the Elders and Receiving the Franklin D. Roosevelt Four Freedoms Award for Freedom of Speech and Expression
Brahimi joined Nelson Mandela and Graca Machel's The Elders, an organization founded to help solve issues plaguing the world. Among his co-members are Gro Harlem Brundtland and Desmond Tutu.
In 2008, Lakhdar received the Franklin D. Roosevelt Four Freedoms Award for Freedom of Speech and Expression for his efforts in promoting world peace.
Lakhdar Brahimi’s amazing gift of connecting to people has helped him create decisions that benefited the majority—if not all. This has made him very proficient and successful in his careers from being an Ambassador of Algeria to being the Under Secretary General of the United Nations.
In 2010, Lakhdar was awarded the Laureate of the Special Jury Prize for Conflict Prevention of the Fondation Chirac for his efforts at continuously promoting world peace.
Lakhdar Brahimi on Bashar al-Assad
Today, at age 79, Lakhdar still actively engages in the United Nations’ peacekeeping efforts. Recently, he was appointed as the peace envoy of the United Nations to Syria.
Being envoy to Syria, Brahimi has met with its President, Bashar al-Assad. Since the war ensued, thousands of Syrians have been killed. What’s worse, according to Brahimi, is that "Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has been convinced by his inner circle that his country is the victim of a broad conspiracy led by terrorists" (source: Hurriyet Daily News). This makes ongoing negotiations even harder than before.
Organizations and Programmes Supported
- Global Leadership Foundation
- The Elders
- Commission on Legal Empowerment of the Poor
- 1956 – 1961: Representative to Indonesia for the National Liberation Front
- 1963 – 1970: Ambassador to Egypt, Sudan and the Arab League
- 1971 – 1979: Ambassador to the United Kingdom
- 1982 – 1984: Diplomatic Adviser to the President of Algeria
- 1984 – 1991: Undersecretary General of the Arab League
- 1989 – 1991: Arab League Special Envoy to Lebanon
- 1991 – 1993: Foreign Minister of Algeria
- 1992: Rapporteur to the Earth Summit
- 1993 – 1994: U.N. Special Envoy to South Africa
- 1994 – 1996: U.N. Special Envoy to Haiti
- 1997 – 1999: U.N. Special Envoy to Afghanistan
- 2000: Chairperson, Independent Panel on United Nations Peace Operations
- 2001 – 2004: U.N. Special Envoy to Afghanistan
- 2001: Chairperson, Bonn Conference
- 2004 – 2005: Special Adviser and Undersecretary General of the United Nations
- 2004: U.N. Special Envoy to Iraq
- 2006 – 2008: Visiting Professor of the Institute for Advanced Study
- 2007 – Present: Member of The Elders
- 2008: Chairperson, Independent Panel on Safety and Security of United Nations Personnel and Premises Worldwide
- 2012 – Present: U.N. and Arab League Envoy to Syria
Awards and Achievements
- 2002: Received the Defender of Democracy Award from the Parliamentarians for Global Action
- 2002: Received the Raymond “Jit” Trainor Award for a Career of Dedicated Diplomatic Service from Georgetown University
- 2002: Received the Great Negotiator Award from Harvard Law School
- 2004: Received the Dag Hammarskjold Honorary Medal Award
- 2004: Received the United Nations Correspondents’ Association Citizen of the World Award
- 2005: Received the Stefan A. Riesenfeld Award from UC Berkeley, Berkeley Journal of International Law and Boalt School of Law
- 2005: Received the Kahlil Gibran Spirit of Humanity Award from the Arab American Institute
- Received the Lifetime Achievement Award from the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee
- 2008: Received the Franklin D. Roosevelt Four Freedoms Award for Freedom of Speech and Expression
- 2010: Laureate of the Special Jury Prize for Conflict Prevention from Fondation Chirac
- Honorary Doctorate from the American University in Beirut
- Honorary Doctorate from Oxford University in the United Kingdom
- Honorary Doctorate from the University of Bologna in Italy
- Honorary Doctorate from the University of Nice in France