Monday, June 13, 2011

A Stronger U.N. for a Better World

As independence and self-reliance are two of the lessons that we are expected to learn about our trip, our charming chaperone Mrs. L. encouraged our cohort to research an important landmark that we would be visiting so that we can serve as our own tour guides at these locations when we arrive on the east coast.

Here is my presentation on the United Nations:

The United Nations was originally founded on October 24th, 1945 and 51 nations were originally represented. The organization’s meetings occurred the Sperry Gyroscope Corporation's building in Lake Success, New York, from 1946–1952, until they were moved to what is now the United Nations Headquarters building in Manhattan upon its completion.

Numerous other sites were considered to house the United Nations, including San Francisco, Chicago, Boston, and other cities. The Manhattan site was chosen as the best option after oil tycoon and philanthropist John D. Rockefeller Jr. offered 8.5 billion dollars to purchase the land. The cost of construction of the complex was later reported at a (mere) 65 million dollars, which was provided by an interest-free loan from the United States to the United Nations.

The United Nations Headquarters is officially considered international territory; no United States officer may enter with out permission from the Secretary-General. That being said, the U.N. agrees to not allow its headquarters to be used as a safe zone for individuals trying to avoid legal process or extradition.

Today, the United Nations has 192 members and the Headquarters hosts 700,000 visitors annually. The complex is made up of four main buildings: the Secretariat, the General Assembly, Conference Area and the Library. Wallace K. Harrison of the United States, who also designed Hines Library at Harvard University, the New York Hall of Science, and the “Fish Church” in Stamford Conneticut, served as chief architect for the project.

The Secretariat building contains the administrative functions of the UN, and the offices of ambassadors and delegates. It has 39 stories above and 3 stories below ground. The General Assembly building was built for the United Nations delegation, where representatives from the 192 member nations meet in the hope of achieving “a stronger U.N. for a better world.” The United Nations’ chief goals are to maintain peace, promote social progress and cultural understanding, and allow peoples human rights and improved living standards. The Conference Building connects the Secretariat and General Assembly buildings and contains the delegates’ dining room, as well as private dining rooms and a kitchen.

The United Nations maintains its own security force, fire department and postal service. As a result, as if the sheer political prestige of the building and the plethora of history and information inside is not enough to encourage a visit, many visitors enjoy sending mail back home with the special U.N. stamp; these letters can only be mailed from United Nations offices.

For me, it is still mind-boggling to understand that in a little over a week I will be visiting the United Nations and other astounding landmarks!