The United Nations is at work within 193 countries, promoting economic development and encouraging peaceful means of resolving conflict in order to protect human rights and quality of life in every part of the world
Why the UN?
In the 1800’s the first of the Geneva Conventions established a set of international laws that would take effect during wartime, addressing matters such as the humane treatment of prisoners of war and the protection of unarmed civilians.
At the end of WWI, the League of Nations was created in an attempt to unite peaceful countries and to disarm stockpiles of weapons that were becoming increasingly dangerous. In the late 1930’s though, Germany, Japan, and Italy withdrew from the League, and these “Axis” countries gained power in Europe, extending their influence to the North American continent in 1941 with the attack on Pearl Harbor. The League of Nations dissolved after being unable to prevent a second world war.
The use of nuclear weapons after WWII proved that the devastating effects of war in the twentieth century would only get worse. Talks about an international peace organization resumed. The United Nations was formed in 1945, not only to prevent future wars but to maintain international law in the interest of protecting standards of living around the world.
UN Headquarters in NYC
On the East River in Manhattan, the United Nations Plaza is centered on 17 acres of land bordered by First Avenue to the west, East 42nd Street to the south, East 48th Street to the North, and the river to the east. The land and buildings contained on it are considered “extraterritorial” and under the jurisdiction of the United Nations according to a treaty signed with the U.S. Government.
Built in 1950, the buildings on the UN Plaza have been under renovation. The original structures were preserved and modernized by cleaning up dangerous asbestos and replacing antiquated heating/cooling systems with energy efficient ones.
The largest building on the plaza is the 39 story glass-sided tower facing the East River. During renovations, the windows were replaced with energy-efficient glass to lower heating, cooling, and lighting costs. Within it is the Secretariat branch with the newly refurbished offices of the Secretary-General, numerous diplomatic officials, and thousands of employees working for various UN agencies.
The building north of the tower contains the General Assembly Hall, the largest room in the complex. Well known from televised events, the hall features a green marble desk where dignitaries are welcomed to address the assembly. From June-November of 2013, the furniture from the hall was removed to be reconditioned and installed back in place. The assembly hall features glass booths along the walls where interpreters translate the events of the day.
Next is the conference building that houses the Security Council chambers. Decorated by designer Arnstein Arneberg, the room features a carefully restored mural of a rising phoenix on the east wall painted by Norwegian painter, Per Krogh. Desks are arranged in a horseshoe shape, and rows of chairs provide plenty of room for observers. In the same building, the Economic and Social Council chambers designed in 1947 by Swedish architect Sven Markelius received new backdrop curtains.
The Dag Hammarskjold Library is located on the south side of the plaza, and lining the East Avenue Parkway are the flags of the 193 member-states, in alphabetical order, as well as the flag of the United Nations.