The United Nations Office at Geneva (UNOG) is the second largest United Nations centre after the Headquarters in New York. UNOG is housed in the Palais des Nations, an outstanding testimony to twentieth century architecture, situated in a beautiful park overlooking Lake Geneva, with a splendid view of the Alps and, on a clear day, Mont Blanc.
The League of Nations was established in 1919 following the devastation caused by the First World War. It was decided to erect a building at par with the League’s aspirations for the creation of a more stable world. The Palais was erected between 1929 and 1938 and donations from Member States have largely contributed to its interior design.
The Palais stands in the 45-hectare Ariana Park among majestic trees many of which are over 100 years old. The City of Geneva has made the park available to the United Nations for its offices for as long as the United Nations exists.
Along with New York, Geneva and Nairobi, Vienna is one of the four headquarters of the United Nations. The Vienna International Centre (VIC), commonly known as "UN City", was designed by Austrian architect Johann Staber and construction costs were borne by the host country. Opened on 23 August 1979, it has been rented to the United Nations for 99 years at a symbolic rate of 1 Austrian schilling (7 Euro cents) annually.
The VIC complex, which covers an area of 180,000 m², has extraterritorial status; it accommodates about 4,200 international civil servants from over 100 countries and its 14 conference rooms host an average of 2,000 conferences annually. Located at the Centre are the United Nations Office at Vienna (UNOV), the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), the Preparatory Commission for the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organization (CTBTO PrepCom), the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO), the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), the United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs (UNOOSA), as well as a number of smaller UN Offices and entities.
On daily guided tours, visitors can learn about the work of the United Nations and experience the Vienna International Centre's striking architecture and vibrant, cosmopolitan atmosphere. Special programmes for children and school groups are available and visitors can also book a lecture or specialized tour on the art on display at the VIC.
Established in 1996, the United Nations Office in Nairobi (UNON) is the only UN Headquarters in Africa and in the global south. The United Nations compound is located in Gigiri, on the outskirts of Kenya’s capital city, Nairobi, which is said to enjoy an almost perfect climate with warm sunny days and cool evenings.
The UN presence in Kenya dates back to the 1950s when Kenya was still a colony of the United Kingdom. After Kenya gained its independence in 1963, the UN expanded its presence in the country, especially when it became host to the fledgling United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) in 1973. Originally located at Uchumi House in the Nairobi city centre, UNEP was soon moved to the Kenyatta Conference Centre in 1974, before moving to its current location in Gigiri in 1975. In 1978, United Nations Centre for Human Settlements, now known as United Nations Human Settlements Programme (UN-Habitat) also joined UNEP in Gigiri.
The Visitors’ Service in Nairobi conducts guided tours on Mondays to Fridays, year-round. Visitors are briefed on the role of the United Nations as well as the functions of its funds, programmes and specialized agencies, especially those based in Nairobi. Special briefings by representatives of various UN offices in Kenya are also offered upon request. Following the briefing, visitors enjoy a walking tour of the complex which includes stops at various symbolic gifts donated to the UN, including the 1998 Bomb-blast Memorial Garden, which pays tribute to the innocent lives that were lost in 1998 when two US Embassies were bombed by terrorists in Kenya and Tanzania.
One of the main attractions of UNON is its bountiful lush green landscaped area. The 140-acre complex includes hundreds of indigenous plant species and a remarkable variety of wildlife, including monkeys and crested cranes, which can still be observed in the area in spite of the significant environmental transformations that have taken place in the last decades.
A visit to the New Office Facility, commonly referred to as NOF is a must-see. The newly constructed climate-neutral buildings (“Green Buildings”) house the headquarters of both UNEP and UN-Habitat. With 6,000 square meters of solar panels, energy saving lighting, natural ventilation systems and other green features, the office is designed to generate as much electricity as its 1,200 occupants consume. The buildings serve as a showcase of "green construction" and are among the first of their kind in sub-Saharan Africa.
League of Nations
The League of Nations was an intergovernmental organization founded as a result of the Treaty of Versailles in 1919-1920 (one of the treaties that sanctioned the end of World War I), and the precursor to the United Nations.
The diplomatic philosophy behind the League represented a fundamental shift in thought from the preceding hundred years. The League's primary goals as stated in its Covenant included preventing war through collective security, disarmament, and settling international disputes through negotiation and arbitration. Other goals in this and related treaties included labor conditions, just treatment of native inhabitants, eliminating the traffick in persons and drugs, arms trade, global health, prisoners of war, and protection of minorities in Europe.
The League held its first council meeting in Paris on 16 January 1920, six days after the Versailles Treaty came into force. In November, the headquarters of the League moved to Geneva. From 28 September 1934 to 23 February 1935, it had 58 members.
Language and Emblem
The official languages of the League of Nations, in 1920, were French, English and Spanish.
In 1939, a semi-official emblem emerged: 2 five-pointed stars within a blue pentagon symbolizing the five continents and the five races of mankind. The flag had the names in English (League of Nations) and in French (Société des Nations) inscribed in the bows at the top and bottom of the emblem.
Demise and Legacy
After a number of notable successes and some early failures in the 1920s, the League ultimately proved incapable of preventing aggression. The onset of World War II showed that the League had failed its primary purpose, which was to avoid any future world wars.
The United Nations replaced it after the end of the WWII and inherited a number of agencies and organizations founded by the League such as: the International Labour Organization; the Permanent Court of International Justice now known as the International Court of Justice; and the Health Organization now called World Health Organization.