9 September 2021

Secretary-General Salutes Dag Hammarskjöld’s Devotion to Duty, as General Assembly Marks Sixtieth Anniversary of Former United Nations Chief’s Death

Following are UN Secretary-General António Guterres’ remarks at the informal commemorative event of the General Assembly to mark the sixtieth anniversary of the death of former Secretary-General Dag Hammarskjöld, today:

Exactly 60 years ago this month, the world lost a noble servant of peace and the United Nations lost one of our greatest:  Dag Hammarskjöld.  It is my privilege to join you to recognize his achievements, to pay tribute to his sacrifice, and to reflect together on his enduring legacy.

Dag Hammarskjöld is a reference and an inspiration.  His wisdom and humanity, his unimpeachable integrity and single-minded devotion to duty, set the highest standard for public service.  He was more than a person of action and deft diplomat; he was a person of immense culture, of brilliant and sensitive intellect.  And it was this deep and broad passion for culture that helped shape him as the leading diplomat of his generation.

Dag Hammarskjöld was at home in the literature of half a dozen languages.  But he was perhaps most fluent in the language of our common humanity — recognizing diversity as richness, promoting dialogue, tolerance, and mutual understanding.  He was tireless in finding creative solutions to the most intricate and combustible problems of his time.  And he remains a lodestar to this day.

The values he embodied, the ideals for which he fought, and the strategies he championed remain guiding lights pointing the United Nations true north.  To stand together in global solidarity.  To place human rights at the centre.  To focus on prevention — multilateral in approach; sustainable in impact.

He had a vision for the United Nations to become both the measure and the vehicle of humanity’s most generous impulses.  And he advanced it in practical ways — shaping our institution into an active force in making and keeping peace.  Nurturing and sharpening the UN’s obligation to act — in times of crisis, on the ground, closest to the people we serve.

He showed us what the United Nations could become — and what the world around it should become:  united in purpose and together in the pursuit of peace.  He never wavered in his conviction that our United Nations — while imperfect — remained indispensable in this pursuit of a more a just world.  And he summoned us all to keep reaching higher.

As he said to the General Assembly:  “Future generations may come to say of us that we never achieved what we set out to do.  May they never be entitled to say that we failed because we lacked faith or permitted narrow self-interest to distort our efforts.”  Let us heed his words today, take courage from his example, and resolve to push ahead together.

For information media. Not an official record.