Second United Nations Secretary-General
Hjalmar Agne Carl Hammarskjöld was Secretary-General of the United
Nations from 10 April 1953 until 18 September 1961 when he died
in a plane crash while on a peace mission in the Congo. He was born
on 29 July 1905 in Jonkoping in south-central Sweden. The fourth son of
Hjalmar Hammarskjöld, Prime Minister of Sweden during World War I, and his wife Agnes, M.C. (née Almquist), he was brought up
in the university town of Uppsala where his father was Governor
of the county of Uppland.
At 18, he graduated from college and enrolled in Uppsala University.
There, in 1925, he completed, with honours, a Bachelor of Arts degree, majoring in Linguistics, Literature and History. For the next three years he successfully pursued studies towards a "filosofic licenciat" degree in Economics. He continued his studies at the same university for two more years and completed a Bachelor of Laws degree in 1930.
Mr. Hammarskjöld then moved to Stockholm, where he became a secretary
of a governmental committee on unemployment (1930-1934). At the same time
he wrote his doctoral thesis in Economics, entitled, "Konjunkturspridningen"
(The Spread of the Business Cycle). In 1933 he received his doctorate
from the University of Stockholm, where he assumed the responsibilities of Assistant Professor
of Political Economics.
Although he never joined any political party, regarding himself as an
independent, Dag Hammarskjöld served the Swedish Government
in several posts. At the age of 31, after having served one year as Secretary of
the National Bank of Sweden, Mr. Hammarskjöld was appointed to the
post of Permanent Under-Secretary of the Ministry of Finance - then one
of the most gruelling jobs in the Swedish Government service. He concurrently
served as Chairman of the Board of the National Bank from 1941 to 1948. Six
members of the Board members are appointed by Parliament and the Chairman by
the Government. This was the first time that one man had held both posts,
the Chairman of the National Bank and Permanent Under-Secretary of the
Ministry of Finance.
Early in 1945, he was appointed Adviser to the Cabinet on financial
and economic problems. His responsibilities included organizing and coordinating
governmental planning for the various economic problems that
arose as a result of the war. During these years,
Mr. Hammarskjöld played an important role in shaping Sweden's financial
policy. He led a series of trade and financial negotiations with other
countries, among which were the United States and the United Kingdom.
In 1947 he was appointed to the Foreign Office as Under-Secretary, where he was responsible
for all economic questions. In 1949, he was
appointed Secretary-General of the Foreign Office and in 1951, he joined
the Cabinet as Minister without portfolio. He became, in effect, Deputy
Foreign Minister, dealing especially with economic problems and various
plans for economic cooperation.
He was a delegate to the Paris Conference in 1947, a key event in the
launch of the Marshall Plan. He was his country's chief delegate to the
1948 Paris Conference of the Organization for European Economic Cooperation
(OEEC). He later served as Vice-Chairman of the OEEC Executive
Committee. He was also a member (1937-1948) of the
Advisory Board of the government-sponsored Economic Research Institute.
In 1950, he became Chairman of the Swedish Delegation to UNISCAN,
established to promote economic cooperation between the United Kingdom
and the Scandinavian countries.
He was Vice-Chairman of the Swedish Delegation to the Sixth Regular
Session of the United Nations General Assembly in Paris 1951-1952, and
Acting Chairman of his country's delegation to the Seventh General Assembly
in New York in 1952-1953.
On 20 December 1954, he became a member of the Swedish Academy -- the
body which awards the Nobel Prize for Literature. He was elected to the seat in the Academy previously held by his father.
Mr. Hammarskjöld was unanimously appointed Secretary-General of
the United Nations by the General Assembly on 7 April 1953 on the recommendation
of the Security Council (those Member States who at the time saw him as
an apolitical compromise candidate would later have reason to revise their
On 10 April 1953, he took the oath of office as Secretary-General of the United Nations for a term of five years. He was re-appointed unanimously for another five-year term
in September 1957-- more than six months before the end of his first term.
As Secretary-General, Mr. Hammarskjöld used his good offices in a range of situations 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
and to promote progress toward better and more peaceful conditions in the
area; organization in 1956 of the United Nations Emergency Force (UNEF)
and its subsequent administration; clearance of the Suez Canal in 1957
and assistance in the peaceful solution of the Suez Canal dispute; organization
and administration of the United Nations Observation Group in Lebanon (UNOGIL)
and the establishment of an office of the special representative of the Secretary-General
in Jordan in 1958.
In 1955, following his visit to Peking from 30 December 1954 - 13 January
1955, 15 detained American fliers who had served under the United Nations
Command in Korea were released by the Chinese People's Republic. Mr. Hammarskjöld
also traveled to many countries of Africa, Asia, Europe, the Americas and
the Middle East, either on specific assignments or to further his acquaintance
with officials of member governments and knowledge of the problems of various areas.
On one of these trips, from 18 December 1959 to 31 January 1960, the
Secretary-General visited 21 countries and territories in Africa -- a trip
he described later as "a strictly professional trip for study, for information",
and from which he said he had gained a "kind of cross-section of every sort of
politically responsible opinion in the Africa of today".
Later in 1960, when President Joseph Kasa-Vubu and Prime Minister Patrice
Lumumba of the Republic of the Congo sent a cable on 12 July asking "urgent
dispatch" of United Nations military assistance to the Congo, the Secretary-General
addressed the Security Council at a night meeting on 13 July and asked
the Council to act "with utmost speed" on the request. Pursuant to Security
Council resolutions, the United Nations Force in the Congo was established and
the Secretary-General himself made four trips to the Congo in connection
with the United Nations operations there. The first two trips to the Congo
were made in July and August 1960. Then, in January of that year, the Secretary-General
stopped in the Congo while en route to the Union of South Africa on another
mission in connection with the racial problems of that country. The fourth
trip to the Congo began on 12 September and terminated with the fatal plane
In other fields of work, Mr. Hammarskjöld was responsible for the
organization in 1955 and 1958 of the first and second United Nations International
Conference on the Peaceful Uses of Atomic Energy in Geneva, and for planning
a United Nations conference, held in 1962, on the application of science and technology for the benefit of the less developed areas of the world.
He held honorary degrees from Oxford University, England; in the United
States from Harvard, Yale, Princeton, Columbia, the University of Pennsylvania, Amherst,
John Hopkins, the University of California, Uppsala College, and Ohio University;
and in Canada from Carleton College and McGill University.
authority on literature whose translations of poetry were widely admired,
Dag Hammarskjöld's journal of personal and spiritual reflections was
published posthumously as Markings in 1963.
Links to other resources
on Dag Hammarskjöld from UNBISnet, the Dag Hammarskjöld
Dag Hammarskjöldbiblioteket. Biography
of Dag Hammarskjöld
Against Violence and Abuse
New York Times, September 19, 1961: "Hammarskjöld
Dies In African Air Crash; Kennedy Going To U. N. In Succession Crisis"
New York Times, September 19, 1961:"Hammarskjöld
Greatly Extended U.N.'s Scope Through Leadership and Personal Initiatives"
J.F. Kennedy's speech
the United Nations
United Nations Operation in the Congo (ONUC) July 1960 - June 1964