Portrait of Mr. Dag Hammarskjöld, Secretary-General of the United Nations. 01 June 1959 United Nations, New York Photo # 60998
UN Photo/JO

The United Nations Secretary-General is the head of the Secretariat and, at the same time, the political leader of the whole organization. This role is considered to be the most influential one within the United Nations. 

The role of the Secretary-General

The Secretary-General is appointed by the General Assembly on the recommendation of the Security Council to serve for a renewable term of five years. Under the Secretary-General there are several levels of leaders who manage the daily work.

Beside the administrative tasks, the Secretary-General fulfills tasks which are entrusted to him or her by the Charter or by other principal organs. Some examples are

  • to bring to the attention of the Security Council any matter which may threaten the maintenance of international peace and security
  • to raise and initiate discussions in the General Assembly and other UN organs
  • to offer mediation services to conflicting parties, and on demand from the Security Council
  • to provide the Council with information as a basis for its own initiatives with regard to a particular conflict.

More on the Secretary-General

  • The Secretary-General is required to submit an annual report to the General Assembly - a summarized overview of the work of the Organization. It is issued as no 1 in the documentary series Supplements to the Official Records of the General Assembly, Annual report on the Work of the Organization.
  • Speeches, reports and press releases, official travel and program, biography and background information can be retrieved from the Secretary-General website.
  • Reports of the Secretary-General. Research guide by Dag Hammarskjöld Library.
  • Short biographies of the former Secretaries-General can be accessed through the UN website, Former Secretaries-General.

The former Secretary-General Dag Hammarskjöld

Nobel Peace Prize

Dag Hammarskjöld was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize posthumously 1961.

The United Nations and the Secretary-General Kofi Annan was jointly awarded the Nobel Peace Prize 2001 "for their work for a better organized and more peaceful world."

Uppsala's Dag Hammarskjöld

The memories of Uppsala remained close to the former Secretary-General Dag Hammarskjöld throughout his whole life. This is where he spent his childhood and his years as a young student, and this also became his final resting place.

This documentary about Dag Hammarskjöld's time in Uppsala connects his story with the town of today.

UN documents and publications in catalogues and databases

  • United Nations Digital Library offers UN documents and open access publications, UN voting data and speeches, UN maps, Content in 6+ languages. Replaces the traditional online catalogue UNBISnet.
  • UN iLibrary UN publications online covering different topics.
  • ODS full-text UN documents published from 1993 onward and scanned documents published between 1946 and 1993 in the official languages of the UN.
  • Daily list of documents (ODS). Documents published for the day, with full text links, can be found in the United Nations full text database ODS.
  • UNBIS Thesaurus a multilingual database of the controlled vocabulary used to describe UN documents.
  • Index to proceedings is an annual bibliographic guide to the proceedings and documentation of the major UN organs. The index includes:
    • a list of all documents
    • a comprehensive subject index
    • an index to speeches
    • a voting chart of resolutions
  • United Nations Documents Index (United Nations Digital Library) References to all documents by subject area are published. A collection of indexes is held by the Dag Hammarskjöld and Law Library, Uppsala, and the Libraries at UN Headquarters in New York and Geneva.
UN Documents available online
Last modified: 2024-03-08