Halls of Power
I took this at the United Nations Office at Geneva (with the beautiful acronym UNOG – doesn’t the lilt of “uh-nog” inspire thoughts of people stuck in mud or something like that? Maybe just because it rhymes with “bog”). Although this is in Geneva, it is technically international territory and a passport is needed to get inside for the tour. The oldest buildings on site were originially built for the League of Nations. Two of the more prominent UN agencies headquartered in Geneva are the UNHCHR, the United Nations High Commisioner for Human Rights, and the UNHCR, the United Nations High Commisioner for Refugees. Genevans are understandably proud of the many international organizations they host, and I saw UNHCR flags flown on both trams and on the Pont du Mont Blanc bridge (these flags all seemed coordinated by the city and are periodically rotated with different messages). The UNHCHR has a very fancy looking conference room (one of those big round rooms with rows of nice circular desks and headphones with translations) which I have a picture of that is slated for later posting.
As an interesting side note, the Swiss are so dedicated to being neutral and not joining in any renegade axis of evil that they didn’t even join the UN until 2002, making them the 190th nation to join. I guess if every single country on the planet but yours is in an organization, then the most neutral thing you can do is join the organization. Two more countries have joined since then; Timor-Leste joined 17 days later and Montenegro joined in 2006. My tour guide claimed that the only country not a member of the UN is The Vatican, but I find that to be a rather confusing statement by definition. Different organizations and countries disagree on what the countries are, so how can you say there is only one country not in the club? This isn’t abstract – Kosovo’s declaration of independence was ruled not invalid by the International Court of Justice (leave it to lawyers to refuse to go so far as to say “valid”) and (*checks wikipedia*) it’s recognized by 71 UN member states (including the U.S.), but it is not itself a member state. That means I count at least two places that lots of people recognize as countries that aren’t members of the UN.