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Edward Mortimer, Academic, Journalist, UN Staff, 1943-2021

Edward Mortimer, who died at the age of 77, was the Chief Diplomatic Commentator of the Financial Times from 1987 to 1998, the Chief Speechwriter of former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan from 1998 to 2006, and a prominent Fellow of All Souls College. was. Oxford.

As a journalist, writer, academic and international civil servant, Mortimer defends human rights and protects minorities, promotes conflict and a deeper understanding between the state and the community.

He was once a political activist who stood as a candidate for the European Parliament and a member of the Liberal Democratic Party of the Oxfordshire County Parliament. He was also a devoted Christian, but he never wore his religion.

Mortimer’s father, Robert, was the Bishop of Exeter, and he grew up in a very intelligent family. One youthful visitor remembers a quote from Latin literature being treated roughly across the breakfast table in the Bishop’s Palace. He was one of the best historians at Balliol College in Oxford and could easily become a full-time scholar by earning a blessing prestigious degree and subsequently award-winning at All Souls. It was.

“The first thing people think about Edward is how smart he was,” says Sir Chris Patten, a modern and lifelong friend. “That was true. He was the smartest of our generation. But he was more than that. He had a wise view of almost everything, good, neat and likable. He was a generous man who could have. “

He was also very curious. The university spent a year in voluntary service in Senegal before he was fluent in French and fascinated by real-world dirt and dust, including all the issues of decolonization. He jumped over a ship from academia and became a journalist.

His first work, as a junior reporter for The Times’ Paris office, covered the dramatic events of the student rebellion in Paris in May 1968. He stayed connected with All Souls, and after submitting a report on the rioting student and President Charles de Gaulle’s decline year, he learned about France and Africa but found time to write a very readable book. It was.

In 1973, he was persuaded by William Reese Mogg to join the Times leader writer in London. This was commonly known as the “Cardinals” and his educational background was natural.

In the next decade, he wrote an original book on Islamic politics. Faith and power, Focusing on the Islamic Revolution in Iran, it also accepted the Arab world. His writing is a combination of erudition and experience, with a strict attention to history and the ability of reporters to illuminate stories that many readers find obscure.

The editor, Sir Geoffrey Owen, also caught the attention of the Financial Times, who was looking for a foreign chief commentator. In 1987, Mortimer moved to FT. “He brought authority and experience [which] We have greatly improved our game in the field of international affairs, “says Sir Jeffrey.

His tall figure and gray-haired mop, gentle humor, and generous willingness to listen to any debate combined with his determination to pay attention to human rights and conflict. These proved an addition to the natural focus of the treatise on global finance and economics. One of his great projects was a series of features on the “fault line” on the European border. There, the ancient frontiers of the Roman Empire left unresolved friction between ethnic minorities.

He wrote another book about the rise of the French Communist Party in 1984 and was fascinated by the rise of Eurocommunism in Italy, just as Mikhail Gorbachev launched perestroika in the Soviet Union.

After working for FT for 11 years, he was persuaded to start a new career at the United Nations — as Annan’s speechwriter.

Mark Malloch Brown, Chief of Staff of Annan, was skeptical of the appointment. “It would be a good match to be this highly intelligent and cerebral journalist and a companion to All Souls,” he said. [for Annan]”.

He was wrong. “It was a marriage made in heaven,” he says today. Mortimer succeeded in adapting his prose (always a model of clarity) to the plainly informal and African oral language of the Secretary-General, who was spoken quietly.

Jean-Marie Gehenno, then head of United Nations peacekeeping operations, says he brought more than a keen intelligence to the United Nations. “I think he contributed significantly to Kofi Annan’s unique style of leadership. He had a rare resentment ability at the United Nations, but his deep ethics never became intolerable or patronizing. He was a humble man with a passion for ideas, and Kofi Annan’s speech reflected that. “

After leaving the United Nations, Mortimer became Senior Vice President and Chief Program Officer at the Salzburg Global Seminar, bringing his passion for the defense of human rights and minorities to the conference circuit.

He is also the reporter and lead author of the Council of Europe’s report on “Freedom and Diversity”, focusing on the question of how to integrate the immigrant community into the wealthy countries of Europe and North America. .. The lessons he learned about the importance of citizenship to promote integration and the need to treat religious beliefs with special respect are still very important today.

He returned to All Souls, the great love of his school life, where he was still not shy from the controversy. In his 2016 university chapel preaching, he dared to tackle the subject of “Historical Heritage Disputed in Public”. In the case of All Souls, that meant focusing on the wealth of the university inherited from the very prosperous slave owner Christopher Cordrington. He dared to consider ways for the university to make some form of compensation.

Mortimer is remembered in all of his various incarnations as a humane, tolerant, and especially generous human being. He was always interested in listening to others and was happy to be a mentor for a young journalist. He was an interesting and wonderful impersonator.

He wasn’t dry and dull. He will be deeply missed by his wife Elizabeth (with), daughters Francis and Fiebe, sons Horatio and Matthew, and seven grandchildren.

Edward Mortimer, Academic, Journalist, UN Staff, 1943-2021

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