The Emerging Leaders Advisory Board visits the UN
The opinions expressed in this blog post are those of its author and do not necessarily reflect the policies, positions, or work of Human Rights First.
By Marvelous Maeze
Human Rights First’s Emerging Leaders Advisory Board (ELAB) hosted an in-person tour of the United Nations Headquarters in Manhattan, NY to commemorate International Human Rights Day. The global holiday, observed annually on December 10, memorializes the date that the United Nations General Assembly adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. This year marks the 75th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
The tour was the second event in a series hosted by ELAB to connect young professionals passionate about human rights. Upon arrival, we were greeted by the full staff flags of the 195 UN Member States and Observer States waving resiliently above us–a somber reminder that we were now on international territory. We raised our hats (by way of taking selfies!) to famed landmarks, like Carl Fredrik Reuterswärd’s ‘Non-Violence’ sculpture, expertly positioned across the courtyard’s grounds as we excitedly made our way into the Secretariat Building.
The tour began with an overview of the formation of the United Nations (UN). The historical account outlined the objectives of the UN’s six main organs — the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC), the General Assembly, the International Court of Justice, the Secretariat, the Security Council, and the Trusteeship Council. Our fantastic tour guide Stephanie discussed the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) with us. She shared how the world’s largest intergovernmental organization is actively taking steps to underpin initiatives intent on ending poverty, improving education, and supporting climate action by focusing on humanitarian aid and peacekeeping missions.
We visited the Security Council Chamber, which was designed by Norwegian architect Arnstein Rynning Arneberg. Next, we briefly spent time in The Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) Chamber, which features the orange and white curtain ‘Diaologos’ by Ann Edholm and a ceiling that the artist/architect left unfinished to symbolize the ongoing need to work towards international peace. Our tour guide then proceeded to usher us through fascinating exhibits on nuclear disarmament, peace and security, and weapons of mass destruction. Lastly, we made our way to General Assembly Hall where a closed-session plenary meeting on strengthening the coordination of humanitarian and disaster relief assistance of the United Nations had just ended. This grand room–in its enormity of size, scope, and significance–was a fitting conclusion to the tour.
While a few of ELAB’s board members have had the privilege to work at the United Nations in our professions, it was truly awe-inspirng to witness the hopeful wonderment emanating from many members of our tour group who were visiting the UNHQ for the first time. Their optimism about the future reinforced the pivotal role that emerging leaders play in safeguarding civil liberties both at home and abroad.
The United Nations remains a symbol of international cooperation, peace, and security. This tour affirmed our shared belief that the work of Human Rights First plays an instrumental role in righting human wrongs and protecting human rights.
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