Folke Bernadotte, First UN Mediator, Assassinated on This Day in 1948

The pioneering Swedish diplomat’s legacy is alive and well, continuing to inspire generations of United Nations peacemakers.

Before Security Council meeting to report on Palestine, Count Folke
Bernadotte, United Nations Palestine Mediator (left), talks with Philip C. Jessup, Assistant on Judicial
Organization of the United States (right), as Ralph Bunche, Principal Secretary of UN Palestine
Commission and representative of the Secretary-General looks on. Photo credit: UN Photo.

I n May 1948, the General Assembly appointed Count Folke Bernadotte of Sweden as the first-ever United Nations mediator to promote “a peaceful adjustment of the future situation of Palestine.” This was in the wake of the hostilities that broke out between Jews and Arabs earlier that year following the presentation of the UN Partition Plan for Palestine. After his initial proposal based on the Plan did not gain wide acceptance by the sides concerned, Bernadotte produced a revised proposal. He was assassinated by members of the Jewish paramilitary group Lehi (“The Stern Gang”) on 17 September 1948 before he could present it, although the General Assembly went on to consider it.

The initiative Bernadotte led is considered to be the UN’s first Special Political Mission (SPM). Today, SPMs are managed by the Department of Political and Peacebuilding Affairs (DPPA).

Trygve Lie, Secretary-General of the United Nations, greets Count Folke
Bernadotte, United Nations Palestine Mediator, and spouse Estelle Manville-Bernadotte, upon their
arrival at La Guardia Airport. Photo: UN Photo.

Bernadotte’s work also led to the deployment of military monitors on the ground, laying the groundwork for the UN Truce Supervision Organization (UNTSO), the first UN peacekeeping mission.

To find out more about the UN’s mediation work and Special Political Missions, view DPPA’s “The Work of Peace” virtual exhibit by clicking here.

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The online magazine of the United Nations Department of Political and Peacebuilding Affairs