18 September 1996

Press Release


19960918 Life and Works of United Nations Leader Commemorated In Exhibition Marking 35th Anniversary of His Death in Air Crash

This is the text of a statement by Secretary-General Boutros Boutros- Ghali today, when opening an exhibition in the Visitors' Lobby of the General Assembly building to mark the 35th anniversary of the death of Dag Hammarskjöld:

Welcome to the opening of "Markings and Milestones", a tribute to the inspiring life and works of Dag Hammarskjöld, my renowned predecessor as Secretary-General.

Dag Hammarskjöld died 35 years ago today on a mission of peace in Africa. Among the remains of the plane crash that killed him, his briefcase was found intact. Inside were the two items with which he always travelled: a New Testament and a United Nations Charter. These two documents -- one spiritual, the other legal but imbued with faith in humankind -- were the guiding forces of his life.

The New Testament gives us the "markings" of this exhibition's title. For "Markings" is also the title of a book by Hammarskjöld, published posthumously, which he described as "a sort of white book concerning my negotiations with myself and with God".

The Charter, meanwhile, gives us the "milestones". Indeed, there were many landmarks during Hammarskjöld's eight-and-a-half-year tenure. These included the advancement of United Nations peace-keeping; the resolution of the Suez Crisis; the victories of decolonization; and quiet diplomacy in every part of the world. For these and other efforts Dag Hammarskjöld, in 1961, was awarded a posthumous Nobel Peace Prize.

Dag Hammarskjöld was for many the epitome of a United Nations Secretary-General. As a youthful Organization was still finding its place in world affairs, he demonstrated the creative, often decisive, role it could play in responding to crises and in otherwise fulfilling the goals of the Charter. Just as important, he defended the impartial, international character of the Secretariat and infused the office of Secretary-General with dynamism and relevance.

- 2 - Press Release SG/SM/6058 18 September 1996

His accomplishments, his innovations, and his vision are a great inspiration. I have sought, within the framework of my own experience and of this moment in time, to uphold the standards he put into place. He served, as I do, at a time of great global change and upheaval, when Member States were actively debating the future direction of their instrument, this world organization known as the United Nations.

This exhibit was produced in 1995 to mark the 90th anniversary of Hammarskjöld's birth. Ambassador Peter Osvald, the Permanent Representative of Sweden to the United Nations, proposed its installation here at Headquarters. To him and to the Swedish Government, we say thank you for their ongoing support of the United Nations.

The panels trace Dag Hammarskjöld's childhood in Uppsala; his upbringing in a family steeped in the traditions of diplomacy and international law; his long career as a distinguished civil servant in Sweden; his years as Secretary-General; and his interest in literature, art, music and photography.

I invite you to view the exhibit, and to remember and honour the invaluable contribution that this exceptional statesman made to the United Nations and to the peoples of the world in whose name it serves. Thank you.

* *** *

For information media. Not an official record.