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Vladimir Petrovsky was Director-General of the United Nations Office at Geneva from 1993 to 2002. He was an effective and powerful advocate of Geneva's role within the United Nations system and the world.  He served through the difficult and intense times of the Cold War, and was later instrumental in the foreign policy process during the Perestroika period as First Deputy Foreign Minister under President Mikhail Gorbachev.

Security policy was Mr. Petrovsky’s forte, and he worked closely with the third UN Secretary-General, U Thant, in the 1960s and ’70s. Mr. Petrovsky played a leading role in bringing to fruition the signing of the Helsinki Final Act in 1975—thirty-five countries, including the United States, Canada and most European nations, signed the declaration in an attempt to improve relations between the Communist bloc and the West—and the comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty of 1996. Both were very important stepping stones on the way to a more secure and peaceful world.

While in his earlier years his work was clearly guided by classic diplomatic guidelines, later, in his role as United Nations Under-Secretary-General, Mr. Petrovsky promoted more and more a comprehensive way of solving the world’s problems, including not only political actors, but also civil society, academics, religious and spiritual groups and even artists and businesses. Today this has become a much more common approach.

In Geneva he opened the United Nations Office to the public through ‘open days’. He was also active in connecting the various UN agencies, and in improving relations between the United Nations and the host nation, Switzerland, through regular meetings with the government in Bern. Mr. Petrovsky led numerous fact-finding missions to Libya, and also served as Secretary-General of the ongoing Conference on Disarmament. He had a strong and clear vision and dreamt of Geneva as a place where peace would flourish, change would be welcome and diversity embraced.


He worked to establish an atmosphere in which luminaries from all fields could come together and develop a new security paradigm. Following his retirement from the United Nations, Mr. Petrovsky continued to work for peace in numerous ways, founding the non-governmental organization Comprehensive Dialogue among Civilizations and teaching political science at Columbia University in New York.


For more information on Vladimir Petrovsky, his life and work please click here.

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