Fifty years ago, on 18 September 1961, Dag Hammarskjöld died in a plane crash while on a peace mission in the Congo.
On the occasion of this anniversary, the film “Fredens Pris
” (Peace Prize) directed by Stig Holmvist and produced by Goran Guner will be screened for UNOG staff on Monday 19 September. The film is an extensive documentary on the life, vision and action of the former United Nations Secretary-General.
Director-General Kassym-Jomart Tokayev has also marked this anniversary with the below article:
Dag Hammarskjöld – a man of honour and dignity
Fifty years ago, on 18 September 1961, Dag Hammarskjöld died in a plane crash while on a peace mission in the Congo. As we mark this anniversary, we should take a moment to reflect on his extraordinary achievements, for which he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, and the enduring legacy of his life as a visionary and principled civil servant.
Dag Hammarskjöld served as Secretary-General of the United Nations for eight years. Although his second term was cut short, he was able to reshape and expand the functions and responsibilities of the Secretary-General by travelling far and wide, talking to many leaders, offering his good offices and promoting a new brand of preventive diplomacy. He stressed the need for the head of the United Nations to be able to act independently, with honour and dignity. He refused to let his conduct be dictated by any single member state. This resolute independence and unquestionable integrity earned him the respect and support of many countries.
For all his principles, he was not a dreamer but an effective leader, who introduced pragmatic policies and operational mechanisms to tackle the challenges of his time. He is widely credited for inventing peacekeeping in its current form, when he assembled the United Nations Emergency Force within weeks of the Suez crisis in 1956. A trained economist, he was equally concerned with economic affairs and pushed for a greater role for the United Nations in promoting development and helping newly-independent countries establish effective administrations.
Dag Hammarskjöld did not undertake all these actions in isolation but relied on the support of his colleagues. He spoke of “the gratitude a Secretary-General owes to his collaborators in the Secretariat from the third basement to the thirty-eighth floor” and referred to the members of the Secretariat as the “United Nations family”. His conviction that the Organization must be able to rely on impartial and qualified staff members led him to draw up regulations defining their responsibilities and affirming their independence, thus laying the foundations for a strong international civil service.
Fifty years later, as the United Nations is called upon to carry out an ever widening range of activities and faces unprecedented challenges, let us remember Dag Hammarskjöld’s words: “The significance of what this Organization stands for, as a venture in progress towards an international community living in peace under the laws of justice, transforms work for its aims from a duty into a privilege.”