Secretary-General's remarks at the General Assembly Tribute to the Memory of late Secretary-General Dag Hammarskjold on the 50th Anniversary of his death
New York, 13 September 2011Your Excellency, Mr. Nassir Abdulaziz Al-Nasser, President of the General Assembly, Excellencies, Ladies and gentlemen,
Mr. President, before I pay tribute to the late Secretary-General, Dag Hammarskjöld, allow me to congratulate Your Excellency on your election as President of this august Assembly. At this historic time, I am sure that the Assembly will benefit from your sound wisdom, your extensive experience and your able leadership. As you know, I deeply value the role of the General Assembly. And I deeply cherish our relations, both officially and personally, which have been developed, working together over a decade. The theme you have suggested – the role of mediation in the settlement of disputes – is very relevant in the current state of the challenges the United Nations is facing. You have my full support, and that of the Secretariat, in all of your important work.
Mr. President, Excellencies,
This is an appropriately solemn opening to our sixty-sixth session of the General Assembly. Nothing could be more fitting at this tumultuous time than to reflect on the life and death of Dag Hammarskjöld.
Today, we remember the example he set. We are inspired by the power of his conviction ? and we pledge to carry on the work of the United Nations that he died defending.
I think back, now, to a General Assembly meeting held just two days after he died. Our world was sharply divided then. Debates in this Assembly were polarized. But on that occasion, in this Hall, representatives from around the world spoke with one voice to share their bewildered sense of loss.
A collective mourning echoed across the world.
Two years ago, I visited Dag Hammarskjöld's grave in Uppsala. I offered a simple prayer in memory of my hero: that I might be guided by his wisdom as I carry on the mission of the United Nations for which he gave his life.
When I look back on what Dag Hammarskjöld accomplished, I am profoundly aware of our debt to him.
From the time of the Suez operation, he was the architect of peacekeeping as we know it today.
But in Congo, the complex operation he designed went even further. It actually had the elements of what we today call peacemaking and peacebuilding. And it was because of the credibility he had already built up as Secretary-General that he was able to persuade Member States to commit to it.
One of the deepest aspects of his conviction was that the United Nations exists not for the major powers but for the other, smaller, weaker countries, especially at that time the newly independent nations of Africa.
He said, “The Organization is first of all their Organization, and I deeply believe in the wisdom with which they will be able to use it and guide it.”
His words ring as true today. This reason for the UN's existence was tested recently in Libya and in Côte d'Ivoire. In those cases and others, we stood firmly on the side of democracy, on the side of justice, on the side of the people.
And I am especially moved to mark this anniversary just months after the United Nations helped another African country become independent. South Sudan needs our continuing solidarity in the years to come.
Ladies and gentlemen,
Dag Hammarskjöld kept over his fireplace a gift from a mountain climber who had conquered Mount Everest.
It was a climber's pick with an eight-word inscription. I am sure he lived by these words. They were:
So you may climb to even greater heights.
Hammarskjöld never stopped climbing. He never gave up. His ideals were uncompromising, his accomplishments were magnificent, and his legacy towers over us to this day.
Statements on 13 September 2011
- Beirut, Lebanon, 13 September 2011 - Secretary-General's message to the Second Meeting of States Parties to the Convention on Cluster Munitions [delivered by Mr. Sergio Duarte, High Representative for Disarmament Affairs]
- New York, 13 September 2011 - Statement attributable to the Spokesperson for the Secretary-General on school bus attack near Peshawar, Pakistan
- Paris, France, 13 September 2011 - Secretary-General's message to UN Inter-Agency Meeting on the Safety of Journalists and the Issue of Impunity (delivered by Kiyo Akasaka, Under-Secretary-General for Communications and Public Information)
- New York, 13 September 2011 - Statement Attributable to the Spokesperson for the Secretary-General on Papua