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Remembering two Swedish international civil servants
18 September 2008 / 03:52

[Dateline:  New York | Author:  iSeek]

Over the past two days, two Swedish international civil servants who died in service to the United Nations were honoured in New York:  Secretary-General Dag Hammarskjöld and mediator Count Folke Bernadotte.

Secretary-General Dag Hammarskjöld

SG at wreath-laying ceremony | Credit: Fred Fath (iSeek) On Thursday morning, a wreath-laying ceremony marking the 47th anniversary of Dag Hammarskjöld's death took place in the Visitor’s Lobby outside the Meditation Room.  Participating at the event were Secretary-General BAN Ki-moon and Mrs. BAN, Deputy Secretary-General Asha-Rose Migiro, General Assembly President Miguel d’Escoto Brockmann (Nicaragua), President of the Security Council Alain Yoda (Burkina Faso), and Permanent Representative of Sweden Anders Lidén.

After the wreath laying, participants entered the Meditation Room, the creation of which was personally planned and supervised by Dag Hammarskjold, writing:

This house, dedicated to work and debate in the service of peace, should have one room dedicated to silence in the outward sense and stillness in the inner sense. 

The new Secretary-General, 13 April 1953 | UN Photo (40253)It has been the aim to create in this small room a place where the doors may be open to the infinite lands of thought and prayer. 

People of many faiths will meet here, and for that reason none of the symbols to which we are accustomed in our meditation could be used.

In his efforts to create the room, he was supported by an inter-faith group, the "Friends of the UN Meditation Room", who combined their efforts and provided the money for a room worthy of a world organization. 

As Secretary-General, Mr. Hammarskjöld used his good offices in a range of situations to prevent war and serve the other aims of the Charter.  He held the office from 10 April 1953 until 18 September 1961 when he died in a plane crash while on a peace mission in the Congo.

Additional information about Mr. Hammarskjöld's service to the UN is available online.  

Mediator Folke Bernadotte

Count Folke Bernadotte | Credit: UN Photo To commemorate the 60th anniversary of the assassination of Count Folke Bernadotte, the first UN mediator, the Permanent Mission of Sweden held a panel discussion on the role of the UN in mediation on Wednesday in the Dag Hammarskjöld Library Auditorium.

Folke Bernadotte was a Swedish Diplomat who may be best known for negotiating the release of some 15,000 prisoners from Nazi concentration camps during World War II. In May 1948, he was appointed as the first United Nations mediator. He was assassinated in Jerusalem on September 17, 1948, while pursuing his mission in the Middle East.

Panelists included:

  • Sir Brian Urquhart, former Under-Secretary-General,
  • Mr. Ibrahim Gambari, Under-Secretary-General, Special Adviser to the Secretary-General, and  
  • Ms. Theresa Whitfield, Center on International Cooperation, New York University.

The discussion was moderated by Anders Lidén, Permanent Representative of Sweden.