Welcome to the United Nations
The Headquarters of the United Nations is located on an 18-acre site on the East side of Manhattan, New York City. It is an international zone belonging to all Member States. The United Nations has its own security force, fire department and postal administration. Visitors from all over the world often like to send postcards back home with United Nations stamps - these stamps can only be mailed from the United Nations.
The Headquarters consist of four main buildings: the General Assembly Building, the Conference Building, the 39-floor Secretariat Building, and the Dag Hammarskjöld Library, which was added in 1961. The complex was designed by an international team of 11 architects, led by Wallace K. Harrison from the United States.
Construction of the United Nations Headquarters (UNHQ) began in 1949. When the work was completed in 1952, the Complex included three buildings: the Secretariat, the General Assembly Building, and the Conference Building. The Dag Hammarskjöld Library was added in 1961. The Secretariat rises from the ruins of the slaughterhouses and breweries previously on the site.
The General Assembly
The General Assembly Hall is the largest room in the United Nations, with seating capacity for over 1,800 people. The design of the room was a collaborative effort by the team of 11 architects that designed Headquarters, and to emphasize the international character of the room it contains no gift from any Member State. The only gift in the General Assembly is anonymous: two abstract murals on each side of the Hall - designed by the French artist Fernand Leger - were given by an unnamed donor through the United Nations Association of the United States.
All 193 Member States of the Organization are represented in the General Assembly to discuss and work together on a wide array of international issues covered by the Charter of the United Nations. Every year in September, all the Member States meet in this unique forum at Headquarters in New York for the general debate: the opening of the General Assembly session.
Seating arrangements in the General Assembly Hall change for each session. During the 74th Session (2019-2020), Ghana occupies the first seat in the Hall, including in the Main Committees (followed by all the other countries, in English alphabetical order).
Learn about the current United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres:
The Security Council
The Security Council Chamber was a gift from Norway, designed by the Norwegian architect Arnstein Arneberg.
A central feature of the Security Council Chamber is the oil canvas mural painted by the Norwegian artist Per Krohg. It depicts a phoenix rising from its ashes, as a symbol of the world being rebuilt after the Second World War. Above the dark sinister colours at the bottom, different images in bright colours symbolize the hope for a better future. Equality is symbolized by a group of people weighing out grain for all to share.
The blue and gold silk tapestry on the walls and in the draperies by the East River windows was designed by Norwegian textile artist Else Poulsson and features the anchor of faith, the growing wheat of hope, and the heart of charity.
The Security Council consists of 5 permanent members and 10 non-permanent members. A representative of each of its members must be present at all times at UN Headquarters so that the Security Council can meet at any time as the need arises. The Charter gives the Security Council the main responsibility for maintaining international peace and security. As the "emergency room" of the UN, it has to be ready to meet at any time if there is a threat to peace.
The Trusteeship Council
The Trusteeship Council Chamber was a gift from Denmark to the United Nations. The Chamber, originally designed by Danish architect Finn Juhl in 1952, has been revamped in a close collaboration between the UN and the Government of Denmark, with new furniture by Danish designers Kasper Salto and Thomas Sigsgaard. The walls are lined with Ashwood for the purpose of enhancing the acoustics in the Chamber.
The Trusteeship Council was tasked to supervise the administration of trust territories under the Trusteeship System and to promote their progressive development towards self-government or independence. With the independence of Palau in 1994, the Council suspended operations.
The Economic and Social Council
The Economic and Social Council Chamber was a gift from Sweden. It was conceived by the Swedish architect Sven Markelius, one of the 11 architects in the international team that designed the UN Headquarters. Swedish pine wood has been used around the delegates area, and for the railings and doors.
A special feature of the room are the exposed pipes and ducts in the ceiling above the public gallery. The architect believed that anything useful could be left uncovered. The "unfinished” ceiling is commonly seen as a symbolic reminder that the economic and social work of the United Nations never finishes; there will always be something more that can be done to improve the living conditions of the world’s people.
The founders of the United Nations recognized that in order to have peace in the world, economic and social development and international cooperation was essential. The Charter gave the Economic and Social Council the task to work for economic and social progress and to promote universal respect for human rights. The Council coordinates the work of the United Nations system, which consists of over 30 programmes and specialized agencies.
Learn about the Sustainable Development Goals:
Dag Hammarskjöld Library
Norman Rockwell Mosaic
On the occasion of the fortieth anniversary of the United Nations in 1985, this mosaic was presented to the United Nations by Mrs. Nancy Reagan, the then First Lady, on behalf of the United States.
It is based on a painting by the American artist Norman Rockwell called the Golden Rule. Rockwell wanted to illustrate how the Golden Rule was a common theme of all the major religions of the world, and depicted people of every race, creed and colour with dignity and respect. The mosaic contains the inscription "Do unto Others as You Would Have Them Do unto You". It was executed by Venetian artists specializing in mosaic works.
Japanese Peace Bell
The Japanese Peace Bell was presented to the United Nations in June 1954 by the United Nations Association of Japan. It was cast from coins collected by people from 60 different countries including children, and housed in a typically Japanese structure, resembling a Shinto shrine, made of cypress wood.
It has become a tradition to ring the bell twice a year: on the first day of Spring, at the Vernal Equinox, and on 21 September to coincide with the opening of the General Assembly. In 2002, the General Assembly set 21 September as the permanent date for the International Day of Peace.
In 1994, there was a special ceremony marking the fortieth anniversary of the Japanese Peace Bell. On that occasion, Secretary-General Boutros Boutros-Ghali said: “whenever it has sounded, this Japanese Peace Bell has sent a clear message. The message is addressed to all humanity. Peace is precious. It is not enough to yearn for peace. Peace requires work? Long, hard, difficult work."
Swords Into Plowshares
The United Nations garden contains several sculptures and statues that have been donated by different countries. This one is called "Let Us Beat Swords into Plowshares" and was a gift from the then Soviet Union presented in 1959. Made by Evgeniy Vuchetich, the bronze statue represents the figure of a man holding a hammer in one hand and, in the other, a sword which he is making into a plowshare, symbolizing man’s desire to put an end to war and convert the means of destruction into creative tools for the benefit of all mankind.
The Knotted Gun
The sculpture Non-Violence is also known as “the knotted gun”. It was originally created as a memorial tribute by Swedish artist Carl Fredrik Reuterswärd.
The idea behind the knotted gun was a vision of a world at peace. Initially, the sculpture was placed in the Strawberry Fields memorial in Central Park, NYC. In 1988, the Government of Luxembourg donated the bronze sculpture to the United Nations. It was placed outside the United Nations Headquarters in New York and Kofi Annan, the UN seventh Secretary-General and Nobel Peace Laureate, stated at the 10 year anniversary:
“The sculpture Non-Violence has not only endowed the United Nations with a cherished work of art; it has enriched the consciousness of humanity with a powerful symbol that encapsulates, in a few simple curves, the greatest prayer of man; that which asks not for victory, but for peace.”
Replicas have been placed at more than 30 strategic places around the world, including the Olympic Museum in Lausanne, at the Waterfront in Cape Town and in the Peace Park in Beijing.
Chagall Stained Glass Window
The staff of the United Nations and Marc Chagall donated a stained glass panel designed by the French artist as a memorial to Dag Hammarskjöld and 15 others who died in a plane crash in Africa, 17 September 1961, while on a peace mission.
The panel is 15 feet wide and 12 feet high. It is predominantly blue in colour. In it, Chagall sought to express the simplicity and beauty of the ideals of peace and brotherhood for which the UN was founded. Symbols of peace and love can be found throughout the panel. In the centre is the figure of a young child being kissed on the cheek by an angelic face which emerges from a mass of flowers; the right-hand side suggests mankind's yearning for peace, its prophets and its victims, and symbols of law. On the left are depicted motherhood and people struggling for peace.
José Vela-Zanetti Mural
Mankind’s struggle for lasting peace is the theme of Spanish artist Jose Vela Zanetti’s mural at United Nations Headquarters. The huge mural - 20 yards long and nearly 4 yards high - depicts mankind’s struggle for a lasting peace, beginning with the destruction of a family and ending with the resurrection, showing a bright-eyed child looking toward a generation of peace. Concentration camps, bombings and all the agony of modern war are symbolized in the painting, in the centre of which a gigantic four-armed figure (seen in the photo) is implanting the emblem of the United Nations, as mankind reconstructs a war-torn world.