Dag Hammarskjöld's legacy
Former NAI research director Henning Melber is co-editor of ‘Peace Diplomacy, Global Justice and International Agency – Rethinking Human Security and Ethics in the Spirit of Dag Hammarskjöld’. The book brings together scholarly contributions and perspectives on Hammarskjöld's direct work and approaches, as well as his guiding principles, values and ethics, but also seeks to translate his legacy into the challenges of today, such as the Responsibility to Protect. It aspires to set new standards in the recognition of this remarkable person and acknowledges his relevance also for today's world.
– Maybe the most outstanding personal attributes one would like to stress when it comes to Hammarskjöld's legacy are his ability to respect otherness while maintaining absolute integrity and faithfulness to principle values and norms he considered as universal in a world of relativism. He was always trying to seek common ground without imposing own beliefs, but never abandoned his ethical fundaments. He also showed that when you are firmly rooted in a specific culture and having an identity anchored in basic values, you have a good reference point for your engagements in the wider world with all its diversities.
Hammarskjöld during his time in office was directly witnessing and involved in the decolonisation processes of African countries. As a trained economist he was aware of the need to address economic imbalances and injustices created by colonialism and imperialism. He firmly believed that without economic justice and a decent living - both between and in countries - no sustainable peace could be achieved, says Henning Melber.
– Hammarskjöld was what one today might qualify as 'anti-hegemonic'. He never surrendered his authority to the interests of individual countries, as powerful as these were, and no matter on which side they stood in the Cold War. He would also have never accepted that any other authority than the office of the Secretary General (such as NATO) would be in ultimate charge of UN peacekeeping operations. If the big powers would have known in 1953, when they considered the unknown Swedish diplomat as a good compromise candidate for the post, what they learnt about him during his terms in office, he would most likely never stood a chance to be appointed. And ever since then someone of a similar caliber to Hammarskjöld would not be considered as 'suitable' for the office, for being far too autonomous and guided only by the principles of the UN Charter, states Henning Melber.