Our final day in Geneva we wanted to catch a train to Montreux…but we still hadn’t done the United Nations tour, and that was, after all, one of the main reasons we came to Geneva! (For anyone who doesn’t know, Paige is majoring in International Affairs and French, and taking a class in human rights violations next semester, so this was something she really wanted to do.) Also, the nasty little bug she picked up was really wearing her down, so we decided to do the U.N. tour, walk around town a bit, and then retire early and get packed and ready for our early start the next day.
We thoroughly enjoyed the tour and learned so much. We learned about the history of The Palais des Nations. It was built after World War I to serve as the headquarters for the League of Nations. The grounds are quite lovely. It’s located in Ariana Park, which was bequeathed to the city of Geneva in 1890 by a man named Gustave de Revilliod de la Rive, on the conditions that the park always be open to the public and that he be buried there. Geneva honored his conditions. His grave is grave is there, and we saw (and heard) several peacocks strolling by.
We had the opportunity to walk through a couple of the assembly and conference halls, and were even able to observe a conference on human rights, poverty and access to seeds (I think?)
We learned about the sculptures in the park, as well. The central piece is the Celestial Sphere, which was donated by the Woodrow Wilson Foundation. (President Woodrow Wilson won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1919 for his efforts to promote and establish the League of Nations.) The Celestial Sphere gilt has eroded and it no longer turns, but it’s still quite impressive.
Behind Celestial Sphere is Rebirth, three circles of 193 stones representing the 193 member states of the United Nations. The design is supposed to represent the infinity sign, and the three circles represent the worlds of nature, technology, and a world where people can work together to promote peace, bridge differences, find sustainable development and create dialogue.
There are other sculptures throughout the park, including one dedicated to the conquerors of space and one for Ghandi, which was a gift from the Indian government. And of course, there’s the famous Broken Chair.
The tour was fascinating, inspiring and heartening. It is a bit embarrassing though, as an American, to hear that we still do not have an Ambassador in Geneva. Or Paris…Brussels…well, basically anywhere, really. One would hope, after several months in his new job, that our president would have realized the importance of diplomacy and of the State Department and the United Nations.
And the U.N. is important. The dialogue between the member states is critical. The work they do on human rights, sustainable development, disarmament, and gender equality are admirable. We’re so happy we did this tour.