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18 sept Dag Hammarskjold minnes i Uppsala
Henning Melber, director at the Dag Hammarskjold Foundation in Uppsala, Sweden, gave this introductory speech at the annual Dga Hammarskjold Foundation 's Memorial seremony. Key-note speaker was previous Finnish president Marrti Ahrtisaari, which we will come back to. Soon...

Around midnight from September 17th to 18th 1961 a plane approached Ndola in then Northern Rhodesia on a mission to negotiate peace in the Congo. The plane never arrived. Twenty minutes past midnight, on this very day 47 years ago, the flight recorder stopped ticking.

Only late morning of the 18th a search team discovered the wreckage. None of the almost twenty people on board ultimately survived the crash, which until today - despite official versions of an accident - continues to be clouded in mystery. The then Secretary General of the United Nations, Dag Hammarskjöld, supposedly died a few hours before the rescue mission arrived to the scene. Not only Sweden had lost a meticulous, committed international civil servant. The world mourned the loss of a  true human being.

The Dag Hammarskjöld Foundation was founded in 1962. It was the ordinary Swedish people, who rendered support to its establishment as an autonomous institution. Since then we remain committed to the legacy of Hammarskjöld and seek to promote the values and norms he represented and lived. Our Centre is situated in between the Uppsala Castle, where Dag spent his childhood and youth, and the old cemetery, where his body was put to rest in the family grave.

In collaboration with Uppsala University, and in particular the Department of Peace and Conflict Research and its holder of the Dag Hammarskjöld Chair, Professor Peter Wallensteen, we annually organise the Dag Hammarskjöld Lecture. Speakers are selected on the basis of their merits in the tradition and mindset of Hammarskjöld’s legacy. I believe we could not have made a better choice for this year. Details of his distinguished career as statesman and diplomat are in the flyer and for the sake of saving time I will not indulge in repeating those. Let me instead point to the aspect, which was substantive for our choice: Being a Head of State (or Foreign Minister, for that matter) is in itself anything but a qualification for being invited to present the Dag Hammarskjöld Lecture. It needs more, and Martti Ahtisaari has that to offer. All too often, politicians and political office bearers are part of the problem, instead of contributing to solutions. Not so Martti Ahtisaari: As a broker and mediator he assisted
numerous people in their efforts to seek security and ultimately peace in various parts of this world before and after serving the Finnish people.

Martti Ahtisaari’s track record since taking office as President of Finland is on record in the biographical note included in the leaflet announcing the lecture. Let me therefore add another dimension, which admittedly has a personal component to which the two of us relate and pre-dates his career as Finnish statesman. Ahtisaari has served a total of five Secretary Generals in various missions, not least so he contributed relentlessly to finding an end for the continued occupation of Namibia by South Africa ever  since the late 1970s. As a German-speaking member of the anti-colonial liberation movement, being exiled for 15 years, I was able to return finally to Namibia under the arrangements for the implementation of UN Security Council Resolution 435(1979). Martti Ahtisaari was in charge of the UN supervised implementation process resulting in Namibia’s Independence in March 1990.

Given the fact that after 25 years of a violent conflict hardly any politically motivated murder has been recorded since then, one can truly conclude that this was a mission accomplished. Our distinguished presenter of this year’s Dag Hammarskjöld Lecture certainly qualifies to be categorised as one among those who successfully followed the footsteps of the late Dag Hammarskjöld.

As part of the established practice, we combine the Lecture with a small internal seminar to benefit from the accumulated experiences of the speaker as much as to share with him the competence and insight of other invited participants. This is why we are gathered here, and I wish to welcome you all on behalf of the Foundation – and the University - for what I trust will be a fruitful and stimulating exchange.

“Mediation and Mediators” was the theme of a seminar, which took place yesterday morning in the Castle to honour the 60th anniversary of the assassination of Count Folke Bernadotte. Today, 47 years on the day after the untimely death of Dag Hammarskjöld, we have chosen a related theme on “Conflict Mediation – Experiences and Practice”.

Every successful mediator has to find a genuine solution to genuine cases. There are no standard recipes. But there are fundamental values and norms, which should guide a successful mediation process. Dag Hammarskjöld was a successful mediator himself, and he was guided by strong personal values, which have maintained relevance until today. What could therefore be more opportune for me in closing these welcoming remarks, than sharing with you some of the thoughts, which Dag Hammarskjöld noted in his diary. It was posthumously published as “Vägmärken” (“Markings”). The entry  towards the end of 1955, with which I would like to end, reads as follows:

It is more important to be aware of the grounds for your own behavior than to
understand the motives of another. The others “face” is more important than your own. If, while pleasing another’s cause, you are at the same time seeking something for yourself, you cannot hope to succeed.

You can only hope to find a lasting solution to a conflict if you have learned to see the other objectively, but, at the same time, to experience his difficulties subjectively. The man who “likes people” disposes once and for all of the man who despises them. All first-hand experience is valuable, and he who has given up looking for it will one day find – that he lacks what he needs: a closed mind is a weakness, and he who approaches persons or painting or poetry without the useful ambition to learn a new language and so gain access to someone else’s perspective of life, let him beware.

A successful lie is doubly a lie, an error which has to be corrected is a heavier burden than truth: only an uncompromising “honesty” can reach the bedrock of decency which you should always expect to find, even under deep layers of evil. Diplomatic “finesse” must never be another word for fear of being unpopular: that is to seek the appearance of influence at the cost of its reality.

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