United Nations Office at Geneva – Palais des Nations

United Nations Offices at Geneva - Scott #257 (1994)
United Nations Office at Geneva – Scott #257 (1994)

The United Nations Office at Geneva (UNOG) is the second-largest of the four major office sites of the United Nations (second to the United Nations Headquarters in New York City). It is located in the Palais des Nations building constructed for the League of Nations between 1929 and 1938 at Geneva in Switzerland, and expanded in the early 1950s and late 1960s. On December 11, 1968, an agreement between the United Nations and the Swiss Postal Telephone and Telegraph Enterprise enabled the Geneva office of the United Nations Postal Administration (UNPA) to issue the first UN stamps in Swiss francs on October 4, 1969.

Besides United Nations administration, UNOG also hosts the offices for a number of programmes and funds such as the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development(UNCTAD), the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) and the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (ECE).

The United Nations and its specialized agencies, programmes and funds may have other offices or functions hosted outside the Palais des Nations, normally in office spaces provided by the Swiss Government.

UN specialized agencies and other UN entities with offices in Geneva hold bi-weekly briefings at the Palais des Nations, organized by the United Nations Information Service at Geneva.

The Celestial Sphere in the garden of the Palais des Nations, Geneva. presented to the United Nations by the Woodrow Wilson Foundation. Photo taken on February 25, 2005
The Celestial Sphere in the garden of the Palais des Nations, Geneva. presented to the United Nations by the Woodrow Wilson Foundation. Photo taken on February 25, 2005.

The Palace of Nations (Palais des Nations) was built between 1929 and 1938 to serve as the headquarters of the League of Nations. It has served as the home of the United Nations Office at Geneva since 1946 when the Secretary-General of the United Nations signed a Headquarters Agreement with the Swiss authorities, although Switzerland did not become a member of the United Nations until 2002.

In 2012 alone, the Palace of Nations hosted more than 10,000 intergovernmental meetings.

Building A of the Palace of Nations, housong the United Nations Office at Geneva, seen from the park (south). Photo taken on September 15, 2012.
Building A of the Palace of Nations, housong the United Nations Office at Geneva, seen from the park (south). Photo taken on September 15, 2012.

An architectural competition held in the 1920s to choose a design for the complex described the project as follows:

The Palace, whose construction is the object of the competition, is intended to house all the organs of the League of Nations in Geneva. It should be designed in such a way as to allow these organs to work, to preside and to hold discussions, independently and easily in the calm atmosphere which should prevail when dealing with problems of an international dimension.”

A jury of architects was selected to choose a final design from among three-hundred and thirty-seven entries but was unable to decide on a winner. Ultimately, the five architects behind the leading entries were chosen to collaborate on a final design: Julien Flegenheimer of Switzerland, Camille Lefèvre and Henri-Paul Nénot of France, Carlo Broggi of Italy and József Vágó of Hungary. Donations from League members were used in the interior. The Palace constituted at the time of completion (1936), volume wise, the second-largest building complex in Europe after Versailles (440,000 m3 or 15,500,000 cu ft) vs. 460,000 m3 or 16,200,000 cu ft) ). After its transfer to the United Nations, two extensions were added to the building, which considerably increased the size of the usable area of the building. Between 1950 and 1952, three floors were added to the “K” building, and the “D” building was constructed to house temporarily the World Health Organization. The “E” building (or “New” Building) was added between 1968 and 1973 as a conference facility (an additional eleven conference rooms and an extra volume of 380,000 m3 (13,400,000 cu ft)), with bringing the total of conference rooms to 34. With the additions, the complex is 600 metres (2,000 ft) long and holds 2,800 offices, with a total volume of 853,000 m3(30,100,000 cu ft).

In December 1988, in order to hear Yasser Arafat, the United Nations General Assembly moved its 29th session from the United Nations Headquarters in New York to the Palace of Nations.

The Assembly Hall in the Palais des Nations building in Geneva is used for large or major meetings such as the World Health Assembly. Photo taken on February 24, 2005, during the second preliminary session of the World Summit Information Society, plenary meeting
The Assembly Hall in the Palais des Nations building in Geneva is used for large or major meetings such as the World Health Assembly. Photo taken on February 24, 2005, during the second preliminary session of the World Summit Information Society, plenary meeting.

The Palace is located in Ariana Park, which was bequeathed to the City of Geneva in 1890 by Gustave de Revilliod de la Rive, on several conditions: i.e., that the park always remain accessible to the public and that he be buried in the park. The park also contains a 1668 chalet.

Beneath the Palace’s foundation stone is a time capsule containing a document listing the names of the League of Nations member states, a copy of the Covenant of the League, and specimen coins of all the countries represented at the league’s Tenth Assembly. A medal showing the Palace of Nations with the Jura Mountains in the background was struck in silvered bronze.

The building overlooks Lake Geneva and has a clear view of the French Alps.

Ariana Park with Lake Geneva in the background. Photo taken on February 24, 2005
Ariana Park with Lake Geneva in the background. Photo taken on February 24, 2005.
The Allée des Nations, with the flags of the member countries at the Palais des Nations, Geneva. Photo taken on October 8, 2016.
The Allée des Nations, with the flags of the member countries at the Palais des Nations, Geneva. Photo taken on October 8, 2016.

The United Nations Postal Administration began issuing stamps for its headquarters in New York in 1951. The issues have themes pertaining to the activities of the United Nations. The stamps issued are designed and printed by renowned designers and printers from around the world. A local issue appeared for use in the United Nations pavilion in Expo ’67 in Montreal  issued in the Canadian currency.

The United Nations Office in Geneva issued its first stamps in 1969 and the headquarters in Vienna began issuing its own stamps in 1979. The UN headquarters in Nairobi has no stamp issuing policy. Aside from the issues by the headquarters, stamps are also issued for use by a number of the United Nations main organs and special agencies. While the headquarters are commonly listed as separate stamp issuing entities, the issues for the main organs and special agencies are listed as official stamps issued by the host country. Thus, stamps for United Nations are issued by France – UNESCO, the Netherlands – the International Court of Justice – and Switzerland – the United Nations headquarters until 1969 and the offices for eight of the special agencies.

In addition to these, stamps were issued for all of the United Nations trust territories, with the exception of the Pacific Islands Trust Territory. In the Pacific Islands, stamps of the United States were used. In the advent of independence, Palau started issuing stamps in 1981  and  the Marshall Islands and Micronesia in 1981. Stamps were issued by United Nations transitional governments in West New Guinea — the former Netherlands New Guinea, Cambodia, East Timor and Kosovo. India issued stamps for its forces deployed on UN peacekeeping missions in Korea (1953), Cambodia (1954-1962), Laos (1954-1965), Vietnam (1954-1965), Laos & Vietnam (1965-1968), Congo Kinshasa (1962), and Egypt (1965). Finally, United Nations buildings, activities and themes have been portrayed on numerous stamps issued by countries around the world.

Building A of the Palace of Nations, United Nations Office at Geneva. Photo taken in November 2001
Building A of the Palace of Nations, United Nations Office at Geneva. Photo taken in November 2001.

United Nations stamps are issued simultaneously at the UN offices in New York , Geneva and Vienna . Each issue carries a related design theme, with different denominations for each office. The stamps are available from UNPA offices in person or by mail, and from stamp dealers. They are valid for postage when used on mail from the UN offices in New York , Geneva and Vienna.

Under its guidelines, the United Nations Postal Administration is confined to selling mint stamps and postal stationery. Usually six new commemorative issues are released each year and remain on sale for 12 months only. After that date, any remaining stocks are destroyed. Commemorative stamps are so named because they commemorate a certain theme. They are never reprinted, even if they are sold out before the end of the 12-month sale period. Definitive stamps have an indefinite sale period and carry denominations necessary for general postal needs. Definitive stamps can be reprinted as necessary.

UN stamps are printed all over the world by security printers, both government printing offices and private security printing firms. UN stamps are produced under the same security controls used for the printing of bank notes. Collectors appreciate the high quality of the stamps, which undergo many quality controls and are screened by UNPA for any flaws. This makes the UN one of the highest-quality producers of stamps among postal administrations.

Until recently, I only had one stamp from the United Nations in my collection, that from the New York headquarters I used on its stamp issuers’ profile last year. Earlier this month, purchased a few lots of UN stamps from New York, Geneva and Vienna, mostly used, a few of which will be featured on ASAD.

Scott #257 from the United Nations Office in Geneva is a 1.80-Swiss franc stamp released on September 1, 1994, portraying Building A of the Palais des Nations. The photograph used was taken by Nori Mahdi and adapted as a stamp by designer Rocco Callari. Printed using the offset lithography process by The House of Questa (United Kingdom) in sheets of 50, the stamp has perforations measuring 14.3 x 14.5. A total quantity of 1,075,000 was released by the UNPA.

Flag of the United Nations
Flag of the United Nations
.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.