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The International Civil Servant in Law and in Fact

This is a reprint of the lecture delivered by Dag Hammarskjöld at Oxford in May 1961 with a new foreword by Henrik Hammargren, Executive Director of the Foundation.

Publication details

Publication:The International Civil Servant in Law and in Fact
Type:100 years of International Civil Service
Issue:4
Author:Dag Hammarskjöld
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On 30 May 1961, Dag Hammarskjöld, the second Secretary-General of the United Nations, delivered a notable lecture at Oxford University. In the speech, Hammarskjöld details the legal principles for the international civil service and underscores the importance of its international character and independence. He warns that if these principles are compromised, internationalism will in effect be abandoned and that the price to be paid may well be peace.

During this centennial year of the international civil service, and as the UN prepares to celebrate its 75th anniversary next year, it is particularly important to revisit the Oxford speech. It is an opportunity to reflect on the essential values and principles underscored by Hammarskjöld during the early and defining moments of the Organisation. We are therefore publishing the speech in full here to ensure it reaches international civil servants of today, hoping to inspire with Hammarskjöld’s precise and meaningful words.

100 years of International Civil Service


This publication is part of a series issued by the Dag Hammarskjöld Foundation commemorating 100 years of international civil service, which originated in 1919 with the birth of the League of Nations.

The series features inspirational and reflective think pieces on the concept of the international civil service by former and present United Nations’ officials, as well as representatives from civil society and academia.

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