Preventive Diplomacy ‘a Constant and Essential Work in Progress’, Says Secretary-General at 50-Year Commemoration of Dag Hammarskjöld’s Death

22 September 2011

Preventive Diplomacy ‘a Constant and Essential Work in Progress’, Says Secretary-General at 50-Year Commemoration of Dag Hammarskjöld’s Death

22 September 2011
Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Preventive Diplomacy ‘a Constant and Essential Work in Progress’, Says


Secretary-General at 50-Year Commemoration of Dag Hammarskjöld’s Death


Following are UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s remarks at the commemorative event “Dag Hammarskjöld’s Legacy for UN Preventive Diplomacy in the Twenty-first Century” in New York on 22 September:

I am honoured to participate in this very meaningful event, remembering and paying tribute to my eminent predecessor.  It is fitting that we meet here, in the Dag Hammarskjöld Auditorium, to remember the legacy of a Secretary-General who did so much to shape this Organization, as well as the role of Secretary-General itself.

Allow me to share a personal recollection.  Just a few weeks after I took office as Secretary-General, I came here, to this auditorium, for the first time.  Although I was the head of the United Nations, I sat quietly in the back, in the dark.  I did not make any speeches at the time.  I was here to simply watch a movie screening in memory of Dag Hammarskjöld.  The documentary film was called, The Vision of a Secretary-General.  And it opened my eyes.

Of course, I had read the writings of my predecessor.  But nothing compared to watching his words and deeds come alive in this film at the dawn of my own term in office — an office he did so much to defend and define.

I was deeply moved by Hammarskjöld’s integrity, his intelligence and his idealism.  And I am so honoured now to take part in various commemorations of the fiftieth anniversary of his death.

One modest way I am marking this milestone is to dedicate to Dag Hammarskjöld my new report, “Preventive Diplomacy:  Delivering Results”.  I have just come from the Security Council, where I presented this report and I made my speech there.  I am, therefore, all the more encouraged to see preventive diplomacy as the theme of this event.

Hammarskjöld articulated the very concept of preventive diplomacy.  He spoke about how to use the preventive capabilities of the United Nations “to forestall the emergence of conflicts”.  He knew that the UN was best-placed to carry out what he rightly called this “arduous and time-consuming” work.

My own efforts in preventive diplomacy have benefited from an understanding that has grown among Member States since Hammarskjöld’s time — that calming tensions is far less costly in financial and human terms than coping with the effects of violent conflicts.

Yes, there are risks; yes, the challenges are evolving.  But I share Dag Hammarskjöld’s abiding belief that preventive diplomacy is a constant and essential work in progress.

Allow me to share with you Dag Hammarskjöld’s words to the American Political Science Association in September 1954.  They are the same words I used to preface my report dedicated to Dag Hammarsköld:  “I believe we have only begun to explore the full potentialities of the United Nations as an instrument for multilateral diplomacy, especially the most useful combinations of public discussion on the one hand and private negotiations and mediation on the other.”

All of you in this room know how true those words are to this day, the delicate balance between public and quiet diplomacy, the choice between mediation and direct talks.  Many of you here have deep experience negotiating peace agreements, standing up for women’s rights and human rights, working on the frontlines of peacekeeping and peacebuilding.

And Foreign Minister [of Sweden Carl] Bildt, you yourself have served not only your country but the international community, including the United Nations.  This past Sunday, during your visit to the Hammarskjöld Memorial Site at Ndola [ Zambia], you spoke for all of us when you paid tribute to your compatriot.  And I quote:  “We know that the spirit of Dag Hammarskjöld is still very much alive.  He set the rest of us on a path that he charted.  He saw himself as a servant as much as a leader, and for that reason, he was followed by many.  He knew and loved his own country deeply, and was inspired by its ideals to work in the service of the world.”

I will always be inspired by Dag Hammarskjöld’s example of courage and conviction.  His life was too short.  His legacy is eternal.

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For information media • not an official record
For information media. Not an official record.