For we, the peoples ... revisiting Dag Hammarskjold's legacy in applying and adapting the Charter for a stronger and more effective United Nations.

Author:Hammargren, Henrik
Position:The United Nations at 70

In October 2015, the United Nations commemorates its 70th anniversary, and on this occasion it is appropriate to consider the relevance of the founding document, the Charter of the United Nations. The Organization has evolved with a changing world and it is up to Member States to keep strengthening its capabilities and recommit to the purposes and principles of the Charter. The visions and values articulated by the second Secretary-General of the United Nations, Dag Hammarskjold, are still relevant for this purpose.

The Charter is a brave declaration, exceptional in content and aspiration, and its purposes and principles remain relevant in addressing today's complex global challenges. In his Introduction to the Annual Report presented to the United Nations General Assembly on 17 August 1961, less than five weeks before his tragic death, Hammarskjold summarized the document's relevance in the following way: "[I]n the Preamble to the Charter it is stated to be a principle and purpose of the Organization 'to establish conditions under which justice and respect for the obligations arising from treaties and other sources of international law can be maintained.' In these words ... it gives expression to another basic democratic principle, that of the rule of law." (1)

While the Charter is unique, it has not been applied evenhandedly to its full potential and meaning by the Member States. The 70th anniversary of the founding of the United Nations provides an important opportunity to take stock and reaffirm commitment to the Charter. A discussion on how to revitalize the Charter will need to both address how commitments to its purposes and principles can be reaffirmed and realized; and to identify to what extent amendments are needed to adapt to the demands of a changing world.

Dag Hammarskjold's integrity, determination and tireless work to adapt the Organization and find solutions through constructive application of the Charter remains a source of inspiration and a guiding compass. In his last Annual Report to the General Assembly in 1961 Hammarskjold argued that the objectives of the Charter should be progressively achieved through the realization of four fundamental principles:

* Equal political rights, both in terms of sovereign equality and individual respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms.

* Equal economic opportunities, thereby promoting higher standards of living through the creation of conditions conducive to development and economic and social advancement.

* A firm rule of law framework underlying the actions and activities of the international...

To continue reading