Statements by Dag Hammarskjöld

From his intimate poems in Markings to his passionate speeches at the UN, Dag Hammarskjöld’s words still serve as an inspiration more than 60 years after his death. Down below you can take part of statements drawn from three of his many speeches.


In India, 1956:

'The United Nations – Its Ideology and Activities'

“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.



At Cambridge University, 1958:

'The Walls of Distrust'

“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.

Dag Hammarskjöld


In Lund, 1959:

'Asia, Africa, and the West'

 “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.

Dag in Lund 1959