The United Nations (UN) is an international organization aimed at facilitating co-operation between the world's countries on a wide variety of topics. This travel topic covers the variety of interesting UN headquarters and sights all over the globe.
The United Nations was founded in the aftermath of World War II by the victorious powers, as a de facto replacement of the League of Nations, which had been founded after World War I with initially a much broader mission, but failed due to, among other things, its less than universal membership (the US never joined and Germany, Japan and the Soviet Union were not members during its entire existence). The UN's structure and bylaws still reflect that fact, as is evidenced by their seat in New York, and the composition of the Security Council.
Most countries have some presence at the UN, even if they have relatively little other diplomatic presence abroad. Conspicuous by their absence are Taiwan (excluded to appease mainland China), Kosovo, and a few small entities which lack any widespread international recognition as nations. Some other entities enjoy observer status, including a few which do not claim or have territory in the usual sense, such as the Sovereign Order of Malta or the Holy See (not Vatican City, although the two are often confused due to both being headed by the Pope). This relatively broad base means that consensus is rare; on the UN Security Council, any of the five permanent members (USA, Russia, China, UK, France) may veto any substantive action on pressing international issues. Nonetheless, many UN agencies operate behind the scenes to establish global standards (such as the International Civil Aeronautics Organisation for passports or the Universal Postal Union for postal service) which affect travel and communication worldwide. A frequent criticism leveled at the UN is that there is - aside from the five permanent members of the Security Council - no distinction between members either by their economic power, or by their population or by their form of government. As such, most non-permanent positions are de facto assigned on geographic rotation, leading to openly proclaimed one party states and absolute monarchies sitting on the Human Rights Council and so on.
Although generally regarded as more successful than its predecessor, the UN has often been criticised for being powerless to stop blatant violations of international law by more powerful nations like the United States, China and Russia.
UNESCO, the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation, maintains the UNESCO World Heritage List of more than a thousand global destinations, along with lists of creative cities and intangible cultural heritage.
- 1 UN Headquarters New York, 1st Ave at 46th St, New York City, USA, ☎ . The UN HQ sits on an 18-acre site between 42nd and 48th Streets, and between First Avenue and the East River. It is noted for its gardens and outdoor sculptures. There is a charge for the tours of the General Assembly and Secretariat but you can visit the Visitor's Lobby for free (although you do have to pass through a security checkpoint). There are two levels to the lobby area which includes a gallery, a gift shop, and a bookshop. If just visiting the lobby, don't join any queues once you're in the lobby—just find your way around. There is little in the way of signs to tell you where you can go—this is the UN: well-meaning but not well organized. Free; guided tours $11.50 adults, $8.50 seniors, $7.50 students, $6.50 children (6-14).
- 2 Palais des Nations (UN Office at Geneva), 14 Avenue de la Paix, Geneva, Switzerland, ☎ , e-mail: email@example.com. Open daily Apr-Oct 10AM-noon and 2PM-4PM; Jul-Aug 10AM-5PM; the rest of the year M-F 10AM-noon and 2PM-4PM (except over the Christmas period). It was built to house the League of Nations. The Palais is worth visiting just to take in the magnificent Assembly Hall, in addition to the large collection of public art, the library, and the landscaped grounds. It is the second-largest UN Headquarters in the world. Fr. 12 each for adults. (groups of 20 adults or more qualify for a 20% discount; private tour of 1-14 adults Fr. 127.50; Fr. 10 each for students, senior citizens, and disabled persons; Fr. 4 for schoolchildren; free for children under six years old). Passports are required for entry.
- 3 UN Office at Vienna, Vienna, Austria, ☎ . The home of many UN organisations, including the International Atomic Energy Agency. Guided tours are offered in English or German three times a day, and there's a chance you may get to observe a meeting in progress. You'll need photo identification (ie, passport) to be allowed inside.
- 4 UN Office at Nairobi (UN Complex Gigiri), United Nations Ave, Nairobi, Kenya, ☎ , e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. Sitting between the Karura Forest and the US Embassy, it houses international organisations such as the UN Environmental Programme, UN-HABITAT and is the basis of all UN operations in Africa. Africa's first completely carbon- and water-neutral building was opened here in 2011. Guided tours allow tourists to see the major buildings and gifts from member states and walk along a nearby nature trail, while learning about the history and work of the UN.
- 1 Peace Palace, Carnegieplein 2, The Hague, Netherlands, ☎ , e-mail: email@example.com. The Peace Palace was built in 1913, to house the Permanent Court of Arbitration, which was hoped to provide a means to legally settle international disputes. World War I broke out just a year later. Today the Peace Palace also houses the International Court of Justice, the principal judicial body of the UN, which settles disputes between countries only. €9.50 for guided tour. Visitors Center and audio tour is free.
- 2 UNESCO House, Place de Fontenoy, Paris, France. Headquarters of UNESCO, the organisation which designates World Heritage sites. There is a museum on-site, and there are occasionally temporary exhibitions about international culture and heritage.
- 3 United Nations Memorial Cemetery (재한유엔기념공원), 93, UNpyeonghwa-ro, Nam-gu, Busan, South Korea 부산광역시 남구 유엔평화로 93. The only official United Nations cemetery in the world, it serves to honor the memory of soldiers from 16 nations who fought and died under the UN.