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A Dream Come True

“How significant is the United Nations (UN) to you” quizzed the very distinguished and knowledgeable tour guide. All of us (a group of twenty) looked at each other and were rather taken aback by the question. “In our daily life, we take peace for granted” she continued, “We take sustainability, development and education for granted. Little do we realize the stellar role played by the UN in guaranteeing all these for us.”

The visit to the UN headquarters at New York, very close to the residence of my daughter Swati and her husband Anand was indeed an eye opener for me and Usha. A guided tour of the UN headquarters at New York (First Avenue, 59th Street), begins with the online booking of the tour tickets (US$ 20 per adult, with a discount of US$ 3 for Senior Citizens).

After a comprehensive security check, one is ushered into the grand campus of the UN, so green and clean and beautifully designed by Wallace Harrison and his team which was completed in 1952.

“The three fundamental objectives of the UN are; Peace, Human Rights and Sustainable Development” announced our tour guide, in a stentorian voice. “It operates through six main organs; The General Assembly, The Security Council, The Economic and Social Council, The Trusteeship Council, The International Court of Justice (ICJ) and the Secretariat.”

What followed was a fascinating visit to the assembly halls of four of the above organs (the ICJ is in Hague and the Secretariat is under security protection). Standing in the galleries of the empty General Assembly hall, one could feel the reverberations of the discussions of the various UN members. One could visualize the international stalwarts speaking at the olive-green granite podium, mesmerizing the audience and conveying their strong messages. One could experience the strong ripples that would have emanated when resolutions were passed, particularly those that approved of sanctions and military action!

The General Assembly Hall
UN Headquarters – New York
The Trusteeship Council Hall
The Security Council Hall

“Can you tell me what these balloons stand for?” demanded the guide. We were looking at a huge chart depicting three bubbles, the first a small one, the next, a slightly bigger one and the third, a very huge one. We racked our brains but couldn’t guess what they stood for. Then came the shocker! The smallest bubble represented the normal UN annual budget which was US 2.3 billion, the slightly bigger one indicated the annual peacekeeping budget which was US$ 6.7 billion and the massive bubble showed the world’s expenditure on military spending which stood at a whopping US$ 1.9 trillion; a good 2.4% of the World GDP! The UN expenditure stood dwarfed by over 200 times and pales to insignificance when compared to the military spend! Imagine, what a difference it would make if even a fraction of that amount was spent on sustainable development, we could make the world a much better place to live in!

The UN Flag – UN Headquarters – New York
With the statue of the former Secretary General Mr. Kofi Anan
– UN Headquarters New York

Rounding off the tour, the guide (Mona) was choking with emotion when she explained that “Its all very well for the 193 countries to send their members to attend the assembly sessions, discuss various issues and pass many well intended resolutions. The fact of the matter ladies and gentlemen is, do their Governments really implement what has been passed. Do their Governments give the UN its due respect?”

I did not have an answer to this…. I could see tears welling in Mona’s eyes.

I could not thank Anand and Swati enough, for making this dream come true!!!

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