Quotes

Dag Hammarskjöld is still being quoted very often. He serves as a role model for many international workers, especially civil servants, more than 50 years after his death.


“Never look down to test the ground before taking your next step;
only he who keeps his eye fixed on the far horizon will find the right road.”
– from his book “Markings”.

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“The longest journey is the journey inward.”
– from his book “Markings”.

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“Never measure the height of a mountain until you have reached the top. Then you will see how low it was.”
– from his book “Markings”.

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“Only he deserves power that everyday justifies it.”
– from his book “Markings”.

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“Never for the sake of peace and quiet deny your convictions.”
– from his book “Markings”.

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“The concept of loyalty is distorted when it is understood to mean blind acceptance. It is correctly interpreted when it is assumed to cover honest criticism.”
– From speech by Dag Hammarskjöld at the Johns Hopkins University, 14 June 1955

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“The very rules of the game, and the specific position of the Secretariat inside the system, force the Secretariat in its activities as representative of the Organization as a whole to apply what is now often called quiet diplomacy. […] In the General Assembly, as well as in the Councils, open debate is the rule. […] They have introduced a new instrument of negotiation, that of conference diplomacy. This instrument has many advantages. […] But it has, also, weaknesses. There is the temptation to play to the gallery at the expense of solid construction. And there is the risk that positions once taken publicly become frozen, making a compromise more difficult.”
– From speech by Dag Hammarskjöld at the University of California, Berkeley, 25 June 1955

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“The principles of [the Charter of the United Nations] are, by far, greater than the Organization in which they are embodied, and the aims which they are to safeguard are holier than the policies of any single nation or people.”
– Statement by Dag Hammarskjöld in the General Assembly, 31 October 1956

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“We should, rather, recognize the United Nations for what it is – an admittedly imperfect but indispensable instrument of nations working for a peace evolution towards a more just and secure world order.”
– Dag Hammarskjöld’s words from the introduction to the UN annual report 1956/1957

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“It is not the Soviet Union or, indeed, any other big powers who need the United Nations for their protection; it is all the others. In this sense 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. I shall remain in my post during the term of my office as a servant of the Organization in the interests of all those other nations, as long as they wish me to do so.”
– From statement by Dag Hammarskjöld in the General Assembly in response to the Soviet Union’s accusations that he was biased and did not have the courage to resign, 3 October 1960

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Statements by Dag Hammarskjöld

“With respect to the United Nations as a symbol of faith, it may […] be said that to every man it stands as a kind of ‘yes’ to the ability of man to form his own destiny, and form his own destiny so as to create a world where the dignity of man can come fully into its own.” […]

“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’. In: Andrew W. Cordier/Wilder Foote (eds), Public Papers of the Secretaries-General of the United Nations. Volume II: Dag Hammarskjöld 1953-1956. New York and London 1972, pp. 660 and 661.

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“The widening of our political horizons to embrace in a new sense the whole of the world, should have meant an approach to the ideal sung in Schiller’s ‘Ode to Joy,’ but it has, paradoxically, led to new conflicts and to new difficulties to establish even simple human contact and communication.”[…]

“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. In: Andrew W. Cordier/Wilder Foote (eds), Public Papers of the Secretaries-General of the United Nations. Volume IV, Dag Hammarskjöld 1958-1960. New York: Columbia University Press 1974, pp. 90f and 91f.

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 “The health and strength of a community depend on every citizen’s feeling of solidarity with the other citizens, and on his willingness, in the name of this solidarity, to shoulder his part of the burdens and responsibilities of the community. The same is of course true of humanity as a whole. And just that it cannot be argued that within a community an economic upper class holds its favored position by virtue of greater ability, as a quality which is, as it were, vested in the group by nature, so it is, of course, impossible to maintain this in regard to nations in their mutual relationships.” […]

“We thus live in a world where, no more internationally than nationally, any distinct group can claim superiority in mental gifts and potentialities of development. (…) Those democratic ideals which demand equal opportunities for all should be applied also to peoples and races. (…) no nation or group of nations can base its future on a claim of supremacy.”

Dag Hammarskjöld, “Asia, Africa, and the West.” Address Before the Academic Association of the University of Lund. Lund, Sweden, May 4, 1959 (UN Press Release SG/813, May 4, 1959). In: Andrew W. Cordier/Wilder Foote (eds), Public Papers of the Secretaries-General of the United Nations. Volume IV: Dag Hammarskjöld 1958-1960. New York and London: Columbia University Press 1974, pp. 383 and 384.