Global perspective Human stories

UN marks 41st anniversary of death of second Secretary-General Dag Hammarskjöld

UN marks 41st anniversary of death of second Secretary-General Dag Hammarskjöld

Dag Hammarskjöld
A senior United Nations official today laid a wreath at a ceremony marking the 41st anniversary of the death of the second UN Secretary-General, Dag Hammarskjöld and those accompanying him on a mission of peace in the Congo which ended in a fatal plane crash.

Secretary-General Kofi Annan's Chief of Staff, Iqbal Riza, represented him at the ceremony outside the Meditation Room, which Mr. Hammarskjöld himself helped design.

Mr. Hammarskjöld, who served as Secretary-General from 1953 to 1961, is widely viewed to have pioneered new roads for the UN in the course of efforts to prevent war and serve the other aims of the Charter.

In the Middle East these included continuing diplomatic activity in support of the Armistice Agreements between Israel and the Arab States, assisting in the peaceful solution of the Suez Canal dispute, organizing the UN Observation Group in Lebanon and establishing an office of the Special Representative of the Secretary-General in Jordan in 1958.

In 1955, following his visit to Peking, 15 detained American fliers who had served under the UN Command in Korea were released by the Chinese People's Republic. Mr. Hammarskjöld also travelled to many countries of Africa, Asia, Europe, the Americas and the Middle East.

In 1960, after President Joseph Kasa-Vubu and Prime Minister Patrice Lumumba of the Republic of the Congo sent a cable asking for the "urgent dispatch" of UN military assistance, the Secretary-General addressed the Security Council at a night meeting and asked that body to act with "utmost speed" in response. The UN then established a Force in Congo, and Secretary-General Hammarskjöld personally travelled to the country four times, including the final flight in September 1961 which took his life.

In his last address to the staff, only days previously, Mr. Hammarskjöld said, "We all know that if we feel that what we do is purposeful, not to say essential for the progress of men and human society in a broader sense - yes, even if we believe that what we do is essential only for a small group of people and its future happiness - we are willing to accept hardships and serve gladly for the value of serving."