– As delivered –

Remarks by H.E. Mr. Volkan Bozkir, President of the 75th session of the United Nations General Assembly

9 September 2021

Mr. Secretary-General,


Ladies and gentlemen,

It is my privilege to preside over this commemorative meeting in honour of the late Dag Hammarskjöld. I thank the Permanent Missions of Sweden and Tunisia as well as the Dag Hammarskjöld Foundation for their support in holding this important event.

I also wish to acknowledge Her Excellency Ambassador Elinor Hammarskjöld, Director-General for Political Affairs, Ministry for Foreign Affairs of Sweden. Thank you for joining us today on this important occasion.

As President of the General Assembly, I cannot imagine how PGA Freddie Boland felt when he informed delegations of the tragic passing of His Excellency Dag Hammarskjold back in 1961.

Indeed as I look to the young diplomats sitting before me, it occurs to me that perhaps many of you may not remember Dag Hammarskjöld himself. You may have spent countless hours in the Dag Hammarskjöld Library or met colleagues at Dag Hammarskjöld Plaza. Perhaps you have found solace in the Meditation Room. However, today we gather to pay tribute to Dag Hammarskjöld, the man.

Those who knew him spoke of his integrity, intellect, and ingenuity. He was said to be a quiet character, with a unique ability to persuade others. A man who was well-respected, and who instilled confidence in others.

The youngest Secretary-General in the history of the United Nations, he was unanimously appointed at a time when the world was seriously divided. He took on a role which many considered to be an impossible job.

However, he set out to share his belief in the capacity of the United Nations to save succeeding generations from the scourge of war.

He introduced the theory of preventative diplomacy. 

He deployed the first ever United Nations peacekeeping force.

He revolutionized the Secretariat, creating a professional class of independent international civil servants committed to meeting the needs of the people we serve.

In doing so, he transformed the United Nations from an academic outpost to an operational organization with the power to improve and protect the lives of the most vulnerable people around the world. 

Today we can admire his foresight and honour him as a true multilateralist, but critics of the time considered his actions to be overreaching, broadening the scope of the position of Secretary-General beyond what they had envisaged.

But like any good leader, he knew when to push.

A political realist, he harnessed what little good will was left after the demise of the League of Nations to strengthen the United Nations, establishing an organization of unparalleled legitimacy with strong institutions at its core.

Among his achievements, he is credited with leading efforts to build peace in the Middle East: supporting the Armistice Agreements; the clearance of the Suez Canal and the peaceful resolution there; as well as the creation of the United Nations Emergency Force and the United Nations Observation Group in Lebanon; and the establishment of an office of the Special Representative of the Secretary-General in Jordan.


Ladies and gentlemen,

Dear colleagues,

Dag Hammarskjöld’s legacy does not end with the buildings named in his honour.

His legacy lies:

In the Charter of the United Nations;

In the ideals instilled within the United Nations family;

In the lives saved by our ‘blue helmet’ UN Peacekeepers.

He once stated, and I quote,

“I have no doubt that forty years from now we shall also be engaged in the same pursuit. How could we expect otherwise? World organization is still a new adventure in human history. It needs much perfecting in the crucible of experiences and there is no substitute for time in that respect.”


Ladies and gentlemen,

Six decades on, we are still learning on this adventure.

I ask now that we take a moment of silence to reflect upon the life and legacy of His Excellency Dag Hammarskjöld, Secretary-General of the United Nations from 1953 to 1961.

I thank you.