Dag Hammarskjöld and the United Nations
A Dynamic Approach to International Law and Cooperation under the UN Charter1
Av professor OVE BRING
At a time when the present Secretary-General of the United Nations is on his way out, and when the discussions on who should be his successor are in full swing, it could be appropriate also to reflect on UN history. This presentation will deal with the second Secretary-General of the United Nations,
Dag Hammarskjöld. He was in office from 1953 until his premature death in 1961.
Dag Hammarskjöld has obviously gone down in history as an inspiring international personality, injecting a dose of moral leadership and personal integrity into a world of power politics. He succeeded the Norwegian Trygve
Lie as Secretary-General in April 1953, in the midst of the Cold War. In addition to East-West rivalry he was confronted with Third World problems and the agonizing birth of the new Republic of Congo, a tumultuous crisis, during which he lost his life in the Ndola air crash of September 1961.
1 Background and personal philosophy.
Dag Hammarskjöld had a flexible and dynamic approach to international law and cooperation. On the one hand, he strongly relied on the principles of the UN Charter, on the other, he used a flexible and balanced ad hoc technique, taking into account values and policy factors whenever possible, to resolve concrete problems. Hammarskjöld was inclined to express basic principles in terms of opposing tendencies, stressing for example that the observance of human rights was balanced by the concept of non-intervention, or the concept of intervention by national sovereignty, and recognizing that principles and precepts could not provide automatic answers in concrete cases. Rather, such norms would serve “as criteria which had to be weighed and balanced in order to achieve a rational solution of the particular problem”.2 Very often it worked.
1 Texten grundar sig på ett föredrag hållet av författaren på svenska ambassaden i Tokyo den 1 april 2016 inom ramen för ett seminarium om Hammarskjöld och FN anordnat av ambassaden. 2 Oscar Schachter, “Dag Hammarskjold and the Relation of Law to Politics”, 56 American Journal of International Law (AJIL) 1962, pp. 2–5. Quotation from p. 5. Hammarskjöld recognized that there was a tension between principles and concrete needs; by taking account of both, he sought to achieve (in his own words) “that combination of steadfastness of purpose and flexibility of approach which