Who were Dag Hammarskjöld Second UN Secretary-General and Nobel laureate and why do we miss him?

Dr. Rizvana Sadykova, Expert, International International Development

I have lived abroad to study and work in many countries and regions including Africa, Amerika, Europe and the Middle East. I must admit that there are few countries where I want to live. Among them Sweden, I adore the Swedish people and I love the Swedish style of life…  there are so many reasons for this…

Of course, many of us know Astrid Lindgren a famous Swedish writer of fiction and screenplays, whose books, like Pippi LongstockingKarlsson-on-the-Roof we remember from our childhood. Sweden is known as the motherland of the Nobel Prize Committee, according to Alfred Nobel's will of 1895, is awarded to "those who, during the preceding year, have conferred the greatest benefit to humankind. Nobel Prizes were first awarded in 1901. I was lucky to meet and accompany several Nobel Prize Laureates who visited Kazakhstan for Astana Economic Forum. Among them R. Mundell, E. Felps,.K. Mullis,  R. Kornberg, R. Aumann, K. Pissarides and many others.

Recently I was invited to the United Nations Day held to mark the 30th anniversary of Kazakhstan’s membership in the UN and the 25th anniversary of the UN General Assembly resolution on assistance to the Semei Region. 

Twenty-seven UN agencies successfully operate in the country, and the UN team is implementing more than 200 projects, as UN Resident Coordinator  Michaela Friberg-Storey (foto below). I was surprised to find out that she is Swedish, and worked as Director of the EU Integration Office, and the UN Special Envoy for Kosovo under the UN Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK), where I served too.

My first meeting with the Swedish people happened right after the disintegration of the USSR, where I was the Executive Director of NGO World University Service, responsible for projects funded by the Swedish International Development Agency and the Dutch Foreign Ministry. I was acquainted with charming woman Benedicte Berner, who’s husband served as an Ambassador in Moscow.. Now Benedicte Berner teaches on Media, Democracy and Development at l’Institut d’Etudes Politiques of Paris, she is also Associate to the Davis Centre for Russian and Eurasian studies, Harvard.  .

In 2000 I served in the UN Mission in Kosovo under the direct supervision of Roland Nilsson, who was senior Advisor of the Swedish Rescue Services Agency ( foto below). He was a man of integrity and kindness, we admired how he deals with staff, combining his rules with strong discipline and caring attention to all of us. On his advice, I was twice to Stockholm, to get my study on Emergency management and Demilitarisation and Demobilisation of Ex-combattants/DDR program in the famous Swedish Defence college.

And of course, I must tell today and devote my story to the memory of a great man, a proud of the Swedish nation Dag Hammarskjöld. He began his term as Secretary-General of the United Nations in 1953 – a challenging time when two superpowers were always on the top of the international agenda, creating standards against which his successors continue to be measured, see the site of Dag Hammarskjöld Foundation (https://www.daghammarskjold.se/dag-hammarskjold/ ). He was one who insisted on the independence of his office, which became a lasting legacy of the role and responsibilities of the international civil servant.

Dag Hammarskjöld was born on n29 July 1905 in Jönköping, Sweden. He was the fourth son of Agnes and Hjalmar Hammarskjöld, Prime Minister of Sweden during World War I. Hammarskjöld’s upbringing and parents’ influence had a great impact on his future career: This is what he stated From generations of soldiers and government officials on my father’s side I inherited a belief that no life was more satisfactory than one of selfless service to your country – or humanity. From scholars and clergymen on my mother’s side, I inherited a belief that, in the very radical sense of the Gospels, all men were equals as children of God, and should be met and treated by us as our masters in God.

Hammarskjöld’s most notable achievements include restructuring the UN to make it more effective, creating the basis for UN peacekeeping operations, and introducing his “preventive diplomacy” in crises from the Middle East to China. His most commonly cited diplomatic successes include the release of American soldiers captured by the Chinese in the Korean War, the resolution of the 1956 Suez Canal crisis and the 1958 withdrawal of American and British troops in Lebanon and Jordan. On the night of 17-18 September 1961, during a UN mission to try to negotiate peace in the Congo, Dag Hammarskjöld’s plane crashed near Ndola airport in Northern Rhodesia (now Zambia). All of the 16 passengers and crew perished. For his service with the utmost courage and integrity from 1953 till his death in 1961, he was posthumously awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.

Actually, what makes me write this post today is the legacy of not only his contribution to the establishment of the UN institution but his great personality and world visions as well… these are some statements by Dag Hammarskjöld published by Dag Hammarskjöld Foundation:  “It is no news to anybody, but we sense it in different degrees, that our world of today is more than ever before one world. The weakness of one is the weakness of all, and the strength of one – not the military strength, but the real strength, the economic and social strength, the happiness of people – is indirectly the strength of all. Through various developments which are familiar to all, world solidarity has, so to say, been forced upon us. This is no longer a choice of enlightened spirits; it is something which those whose temperament leads them in the direction of isolationism have also to accept.” Dag Hammarskjöld, ‘The United Nations – Its Ideology and Activities. Address before the Indian Council of World Affairs 3 February 1956’.

“The conflict to different approaches to the liberty of man and mind or between different views of human dignity and the right of the individual is continuous. The dividing line goes within ourselves, within our own peoples, and also within other nations. It does not coincide with any political or geographical boundaries. The ultimate fight is one between the human and the subhuman. We are on dangerous ground if we believe that any individual, any nation, or any ideology has a monopoly on rightness, liberty, and human dignity.” Dag Hammarskjöld, ”The Walls of Distrust”. Address at Cambridge University, June 5, 1958. 

I must state that our world desperately needs man of his stage!

Dr. Rizvana Sadykova, scientist, PhD and lecturer MA (Diplomatic Academy, Moscow), LLM (Amsterdam University), taught in Academy of Public Administration, Kazakh University of the Humanity and Law in Astana. From 1992 was Head of World University Service in CIS and Switzerland, from 1999 served as Civil Affairs officer in UN Mission in Kosovo, former Yougoslavia/UNMIK, in 2004 was Emergency coordinator in Darfur, Sudan, for Regional office of World Health Organisation in Cairo, Egypt.

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