The Dag Hammarskjöld Foundation honours the memory of Sir Brian Urquhart, who passed away earlier this month at the age of 101.
Brian Urquhart started his United Nations career as personal assistant to the organisation’s first Secretary-General, Trygve Lie, and later became one of Dag Hammarskjöld’s advisors.
During his time at the UN, Brian played a central role in developing the UN Peacekeeping Force and conceptualizing the Blue Helmets. He oversaw operations in response to conflicts in Lebanon, Cyprus, Namibia and the Congo, among others. Urquhart retired in 1986, ending his career as the Under-Secretary-General for Special Political Affairs.
As the author of the biography Hammarskjöld (1972), Urquhart painted a portrait of the late Secretary-General with a personal touch, while admitting that he didn’t know Hammarskjöld well, despite working with him for many years.
Urquhart also made a number of significant contributions to the work of the Dag Hammarskjöld Foundation. He edited several issues of Development Dialogue, including A World in Need of Leadership: Tomorrow’s United Nations (1990, with Erskine Childers) and Towards a More Effective United Nations: Two Studies (1991, also with Erskine Childers).
In 2000, Sir Brian delivered the Dag Hammarskjöld Lecture, on the theme ‘Between Sovereignty and Globalisation: Where does the United Nations fit in?’. In it, he emphasised the importance of the UN system:
In our current preoccupation with financial and market globalisation, it is well to remember that global problems are precisely what the UN was set up to deal with. International peace and security has been a global concern since 1945, and there is an international order of sorts, based on the UN Charter and the Security Council. It is not always effective, but it is established and recognised.
He also contributed personal reflections to the volume Dag Hammarskjöld Remembered: A Collection of Personal Memories.
As one of the first staff members of the United Nations, Sir Brian Urquhart was involved in the UN’s history from its inception and was an integral part of its development during the subsequent decades, becoming one of the most well-known international civil servants. He will always hold a special place in the organisation.
The Foundation extends its condolences to Sir Brian’s family.