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Dag Hammarskjöld

Dag Hammarskjöld (1905-1961) was a Swedish diplomat who served as Secretary-General of the United Nations from April 1953 until his death in September 1961.

Dag Hammarskjöld was born July 29, 1905 in Jönköping, Sweden, although he lived most of childhood in Uppsala. He was a fourth and youngest son of the Hjalmar Hammarskjöld, Prime Minister of Sweden (1914-1917). His ancestors had served the Swedish Crown since the 17th century. He studied in the Uppsala University where he graduated with Master's degree in political economy and a Bachelor of Law Degree. He then moved to Stockholm.

In 1930-1934 he was a secretary of a governmental committee on unemployment. He also wrote his economics thesis Konjunkturspridningen (The Spread of the Business Cycle) and received his Doctorate from Stockholm University in 1933. In 1936 Hammarskjöld became a secretary in the Bank of Sweden and soon he was a undersecretary of finance. In 1941-1948 he served as a chairman of the Bank of Sweden.

After World War II Hammarskjöld began to work as Under-secretary in the Swedish Ministry of Foreign Affairs and coordinated, for example, government plans to alleviate the economic problems of the post-war period.

In 1947 Hammarskjöld was appointed to the Foreign Office and 1949 became a Secretary-General of the Foreign Office. He was a delegate in the Paris conference that established the Marshall Plan. In 1948 he was again in Paris I conference for the Organization for European Economic Cooperation. In 1950 he became a head of Sweden delegation to UNISCAN. In 1951, he became a cabinet minister without portfolio and in effect Deputy Foreign Minister. Although Hammarskjöld served with a cabinet dominated by the Social Democrats, he never officially joined any political party. On December 20 1954 he was elected to take his father's vacated seat in the Swedish Academy. In 1951 Hammarskjöld became vice chairman of Swedish delegation to the United Nations General Assembly in Paris. He became the chairman of the General Assembly in 1952 in New York. When Trygve Lie resigned from his post as UN Secretary General in 1953, the Security Council decided to recommend Hammarskjöld to the post. It came as a surprise to him. He was selected in March 31 with the majority of 10 out of eleven states. UN General assembly elected him in session in April 7-10 with votes of 57 out of 60. In 1957 he was re-elected.

Hammarskjöld started his term by establishing his own secretariat of 4,000 administrators. He set up regulations that defined their responsibilities. He insisted that the secretary-general should be able to take emergency action without the prior approval of the Security Council or the General Assembly.

During his terms, Hammarskjöld tried to soothe relations between Israel and the Arab states. In 1956 he went to mainland China to negotiate a release of 15 US pilots who had served in the Korean War and been captured by the Chinese. In 1956 he established the United Stations Emergency Force (UNEF). In 1957 he intervened in the Suez Crisis.

In 1960 the newly independent Congo asked for UN aid in defusing the escalating civil strife. Hammarskjöld made four trips to Congo. In September 1960 the Soviet Union denounced his decision to send a UN force to keep the peace. They demanded his resignation and replacement of the office of secretary general with a three-man troika.

In September 1961 he found out about the fighting between non-combatant UN forces and Katanga troops of Moise Tsombe. He was enroute to negotiate a cease-fire on the night of September 17-18 when his plane crashed near Ndola, Northern Rhodesia (now Zambia). He and fifteen others perished. There is still speculation as to the cause of the crash.

Hammarskjöld received posthumously the Nobel Prize for Peace in 1961. His only book Vägmärken (Markings) was published in 1963.

Preceded by:
Trygve Lie
United Nations Secretaries-General Succeeded by:
U Thant