On April 22 António Guterres became the 19th honouree to deliver the Dag Hammarskjöld Lecture. Hosted together with Uppsala University, the lecture is given annually in memory of Dag Hammarskjöld, the second Secretary-General of the United Nations, and in recognition of the values that inspired him as Secretary-General.
‘Dag Hammarskjöld is my reference and my inspiration in the work I try to do as UN Secretary-General’, said Mr Guterres, speaking from the podium in Uppsala Castle, Hammarskjöld’s childhood home. He went on to explain that Hammarskjöld, who sacrificed his life in the line of duty, should be viewed as the “central reference” point for the whole United Nations ideal today.
Listening in the audience were Crown Princess Victoria, members of the Swedish government, diplomatic corps and UN family, civil society groups, and more than 300 university students. To them Mr Guterres noted that Hammarskjöld was not only a man of action and a sophisticated diplomat but also ‘a man of culture’. He added that this ‘allowed him to a have a universal view and perspective…to promote tolerance and dialogue and find solutions for the world’s most difficult diplomatic problems’.
The Secretary-General then went on to outline some of the fundamental problems facing society today, including instability in the Middle East, disregard for the refugee protection regime and threats from cyberwar, nuclear proliferation and climate change. He noted that one of our greatest trials is to build trust in the idea that there are solutions to the world’s current problems.
‘The problems of our times are global problems that can only be solved with global solutions, but there is a certain trend for isolationism that was mentioned by Dag Hammarskjöld with all the consequences were are witnessing today,’ said Mr Guterres. He urged that we put multilateralism back in the centre and thanked Sweden for its commitment to the UN and international solidarity.
At the end of the lecture the Secretary-General was presented with the Dag Hammarskjöld Lecture medal by Henrik Hammargren, Executive Director of the Dag Hammarskjöld Foundation and Eva Åkesson, Vice-Chancellor of Uppsala University.
‘Renewed efforts are needed to sustain and advance multilateral solutions and institutions, particularly the UN. This calls for courage, integrity and resolute leadership of the United Nations, qualities we have already seen from the current Secretary-General,’ explained Mr Hammargren as he presented the medal.
As the Dag Hammarskjöld lecturer, Mr Guterres was also invited to join the International Honorary Committee of the Dag Hammarskjöld Foundation, which includes former lecturers Jan Eliasson, Mary Robinson and Noeleen Heyzer, among others.