Good offices – definition and meaning

‘Good offices’ means the influence an individual in a position of power who can get results. For example, if Peter got his current job through the good offices of his brother, it means that his brother has influence. It also means that his brother’s job is influential. In other words, the term may refer to either the individual, the office/organization, or both.

The term may also refer to the services of a mediator or intermediary in a dispute.

‘Good offices’ does not refer to the person, but rather their influence or the help they can give others. What does it mean if I succeed in achieving something thanks to Tom’s good office? It means that Tom’s influence and help contributed to my success.

Collins Dictionary has the following definition:

“Someone’s good offices are the help that they give to other people who are trying to achieve something.”

Although the term refers to a person’s help and perhaps also their influence, it is not derogatory. In other words, it does not express sarcasm regarding corruption or abuse of power. We use the term ‘good offices’ for good things.

‘Good offices’ may simply be an ergonomic term. In other words, it may refer to a company whose offices are comfortable and have enough sunlight.

Good offices – United Nations

In the United Nations (UN), the Secretary-General uses his ‘good offices’ when he meets with heads of state. This means he uses his prestige and the weight of the organization that he represents.

The UN Secretary-General uses his good offices to try to prevent international disputes from developing or escalating. He also uses that influence to stop disputes between countries from spreading.

Good Offices - definition and an example with the United Nations
The term refers to the influence a person or organization has.

In 1998, for example, UN General Secretary Kofi Annan negotiated an agreement following a US-Iraq dispute. The dispute was regarding arms inspections in Iraq.

Annan used the prestige of his office to force Saddam Hussein, the Iraqi leader, to allow the continuation of UN inspections. He also used the threat of UN Security Council action if the negotiations resulted in no settlement.

In other words, Annan used his ‘good offices’ to get a result.

Regarding other United Nations examples, in a University of Colorado article, the authors wrote:

“Earlier examples include U Thant’s assistance during the Cuban Missile Crisis and Javier Perez de Cuellar’s mediation of the Soviet withdrawal from Afghanistan.”