The New York newspapers called him “Dag,” but no one else dared to address the Secretary General of the United Nations by any but his father’s name. In referring to him, diplomats, personnel, newspapermen, and underlings knowingly said “the G.S.” or reverently “He.” For eight years the lonesome man, aloof on the 38th floor of the East River palace, who had been hired to run the technical apparatus of the world diplomatic meeting place, was everything the United Nations may ever stand for. His vision went far beyond his mandate and he construed the Charter, the resolutions of the Security Council and his job in broader terms than the founders dared write into the articles. The Secretariat itself under him became—from a refuge for New Deal and Popular Front survivors—the nucleus of an international civil service whose members have forgotten which country they came from. The membership of nations all but doubled and nearly realized the Secretary’s principle of “universality,” shifting the power balance in the Assembly from the bigger, older, more advanced nations to the smaller, younger, less developed countries. He hoped that in the long run this development, despite its initial unpleasantness, would free the Secretary from big power dictation, and the United Nations from being the cockpit of big power antagonisms.
HIS SYSTEMATIC effort to strengthen the voice and weight of the small, uncommitted nations received involuntary help from the frequent stalemates in the Security Council where the big power veto eventually defeated its purpose. It happened that after such an inconclusive Council meeting the G.S. simply would announce what he was going to do, with or without much of a mandate, and the big powers, afraid of the responsibility, were glad that he assumed the role which they eventually came to begrudge him. Thus he gave the small nations, which of themselves have little power, an opportunity to impose their moral pressure for causes often transcending their narrow interests. While he was using them to give the Secretary functions he never was intended to have, he educated them in their wise use. To make them stronger for the role he had assigned to them, the G. S. created an economic underpinning which at the same time armed the Secretariat with some sinews of war— money to spend for projects of industrial development. He also created the first international police forces under international command.
The details may be controversial and the result dubious, but the principle of a UN force—as used in Sinai and in the Congo—was established. This is what counted for Hammarskjold. He even went ‘farther: his action against Lumumba and his action against Tshombe constituted direct intervention by the UN in the internal affairs of a country. In defending Hammarskjold, Madame Bandaranaike, prime minister of Ceylon, said: “The UN had no choice … t...
For just $19.95 a year, get access to new issues and decades' worth of archives on our site.
Print + Online
For $29.95 a year, get new issues delivered to your door and access to our full online archives.