It is now fifty years since Dag Hammarskjöld left the world and the United Nations behind. Yet, with every passing year since his death, his stature grows and his worth along with his contribution becomes more apparent and meaningful.
When Hammarskjöld was at its helm the United Nations was still a relatively young organization, finding its way in a post-war world that had entered a new phase, the cold war, for which there was no roadmap. He was a surprise choice as Secretary-General, a so-called “safe” choice as there was little expectation that this former Swedish civil servant would be more than a competent caretaker.
Few imagined that Dag Hammarskjöld would embrace his destiny with such passion and independence and even fewer could have foreseen that he would give his life in service to his passion. But as Hammarskjöld himself stated: “Destiny is something not to be desired and not to be avoided – a mystery not contrary to reason, for it implies that the world, and the course of human history, have meaning.” That statement sums up his world view.
This is a volume of memoirs written by people who knew Hammarskjöld. We hope that these memories succeed in imparting to those who never knew or worked with Dag Hammarskjöld the intrinsic flavour of this unusual, highly intelligent, highly complex individual who believed deeply in the ability of people, especially their ability to affect the world in which they live. He once reflected: “Everything will be all right – you know when? When people, just people, stop thinking of the United Nations as a weird Picasso abstraction and see it as a drawing they made themselves.” Today that advice rings as true as ever.