Dag Hammarskjöld (1905 - 1961)


Fifty years ago, the former United Nations Secretary-General Dag Hammarskjöld tragically passed away in a plane crash, on his way to cease-fire negotiations with the leaders of Katanga province of conflict-ridden Congo. When Dag Hammarskjöld became Secretary-General in 1953, the United Nations was heavily divided by the Cold War. In spite of great political hostility between the Super Powers, he proved to be undaunted by powerful governments and was able to generate a strong and welcoming feeling of hope within the international arena.

From the beginning, Hammarskjöld was very aware that the UN was still in its early stages of development and needed to make a constant effort to search for new ideas as well as establish new precedents to effectively deal with contemporary problems. He went to great lengths to lay a strong foundation for new ideas and techniques. For instance, he personally engaged in laborious negotiations of a Status of Forces Agreement with Egypt to define the relationship of the first UN Peacekeeping Force with its host country. [1] Hammarskjöld believed that a just and fair world could eventually be achieved by the establishment of precedents and case law.

In his last Annual Report to the UN General Assembly, Hammarskjöld argued that the objective of International Peace and Security would only be achieved on the basis of four fundamental principles, namely: (i) equal political rights, both sovereign and individual; (ii) equal economic opportunities, through higher standards and also conditions conducive to economic and social advancement; (iii) a firm framework of the rule of law, which should underpin all activities of the international community; and (iv) the prohibition of the use of force, where it is contrary to the other three principles.

Today, these same principles remain at the core of the UN's efforts to maintain global peace and security, and the international institutions that emerged. The development of a collective security system raises intriguing questions as to what extent comtemporary approaches are still consistent with Dag Hammarskjöld's vision of the UN.

To commemorate his legacy, The Hague Institute of Global Justice organizes a Conference on the 9th and 10th of November 2011 titled: Peace Diplomacy, Global Justice and International Agency, Rethinking Human Security and Ethics in the spirit of Dag Hammarskjöld (1905-1961)

The Conference will pursue the following objectives:

  1. To investigate Dag Hammarskjöld's ideas in shaping the future role of the United Nations.
  2. Learning lessons from concrete conflict situations in which the International community was or is involved.
  3. Raising our understanding of the critical relationship between justice and peace.
  4. Making national and international efforts and institutions more effective and sustainable.

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[1] New Routes, Volume 16 (2), Special issue in collaboration between the Life & Peace Institute and the Dag Hammarskjöld Foundation, Life & Peace Institute, 2011