Dag Hammarskjöld

Dag Hammarskjöld was the UNs second Secretary-general, a Swedish civil servant, and a member of the Swedish Academy of Science. He was raised in Uppsala and graduated from Uppsala University with a double degree in economics and philosophy.

 

The now legendary second Secretary-General (SG) of the United Nations (UN) had a considerable impact on the UN and its organisation throughout the time he held and shaped its secretariat. Hammarskjöld contributed considerably to how this new intergovernmental organisation conceived its own role on the world stage. Through his initiative UN peacekeeping operations were begun, and he also established the role of the Special Representative to the Secretary-General, in order to enhance UN presence in conflict zones. Above all he came to shape the role of the SG and that of the secretariat.

 

In the evolving post-world war era, hundreds of colonised peoples rose up against their former oppressors and claimed their right to independence. As Secretary General, Dag Hammarskjöld played a significant role navigating the UN in this new landscape as many new members joined the organisation. He saw in the UN a guarantor not only of world peace but also of the sovereignty of the smallest and youngest of nation-states, and an initiative for the world to be ruled via consensus and respect between these and the larger powers. He saw the integrity of the Secretary General, the independence of the secretariat and its obedience under the UN Charter; as the foremost important foundations enabling an effective UN.

 

In 1961, while attempting to settle a peace agreement in the Congo crisis (an ever so infected proxy war of the wider global cold war of the time), Hammarskjöld tragically dies in a much-disputed plane crash close to Ndola. The investigations never found the reason for the crash and the incident remains a mystery.

 

Through his sense of moral duty and conduct; Dag Hammarskjöld set an example for the civil servant, anywhere, wishing to serve his or her community, and that of the world. Through a mixture of silent diplomacy and the press he successfully presented the role of the SG as an independent third-party in the arena of international politics. By his brave and determined example, he proved the importance of integrity, and showed that the UN could be an organisation standing above hegemony and politics between and within member states.

 

The life and work of Hammarskjöld, his contributions to mankind and our common civilisation, for which he paid the dearest price, serves as an inspiration and example of what the individual can achieve, and proves that the integrity of any civil servant can increase the efficiency of the office in question, with profound and lasting effects.