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The UN is a rather pathetic organization these days, a bloated talking shop set up so no decisions are ever taken to do something positive with the world, creating more chaos if the truth be told. The noisy democracy in downtown Manhattan actually allows countries to abscond from their responsibilities. I suppose if a condition of joining the UN meant the big players actually had to do something about wars and conflict they wouldn't join the UN. This organization simply allows countries to put their heads in the sand and do nothing so they can turn around and say its no my fault. As much as America slate the UN they once paid for most of it and when military action is sanctioned its usually favorable to their foreign policy, why it is still based on American soil, one presumes. The cringing sight of Colin Powell, the black American defense secretary, reading out lie after lie to force a devastating attack on Iraq that would cost hundreds of thousands of lives, and when the rest of the UN knew it was bo**ocks yet went along with it, should have been the end of the UN. To see the 'democracy' in action they run tours in the New York City Head Office, usually around an hour long although small kids under five are not allowed, presumably as their bawling might wake up the diplomats after along session in the local eateries. When I was there the then head of the UN gave a recorded welcome over the PA system when you enter the tour area (well, you cant expect the boss to do it individually) and then you are led into the iconic General Assembly Hall that you see on TV where all the politicians sit with their headphones on listening to translators. You can have the audio tour option as you visit the various exhibits and museums and departments around the 39 storey Secriat complex aside the East River. The queues are ok and the guides ready and waiting. If you take the full tour you can ask questions although the guides stick to the script to keep it moving. It's closed on these dates... 2012 2 January New Year's Day 20 February Presidents' Day 6 April Good Friday 28 May Memorial Day 4 July Independence Day 20 August Eid al-Fitr 3 September Labour Day 17-28 Sep. General Assembly Meeting 26 October Eid al-Adha 22 November Thanksgiving Day 25 December Christmas Day It's open at.... Sunday 10:00 AM-04:15 PM Monday 09:00 AM-04:45 PM Tuesday 09:00 AM-04:45 PM Wednesday 09:00 AM-04:45 PM Thursday 09:00 AM-04:45 PM Friday 09:00 AM-04:45 PM Saturday 10:00 AM-04:15 PM Event Prices..... *Adult $16.00 *Child (5-12 yrs) $9.00 *Senior (60+ yrs) $11.00 *Student (13+) with ID $11.00 I wasn't security screened when I was there but you are much more these days and they have more lockdowns than ever before when the big beast of world politics are speaking, like this week when the Iranian President delivered his annual rant about America and Israel and Cameron had the bloody cheek to say the UN has blood on its hands over Syria, the same man who went to the Middle East last year to encourage huge arms deals to those very same repressive regimes. In fact the big five countries that make up the five members of the security council who have the final say on armed intervention are the worlds five biggest arms producers. I think you can see the conflict here. A million people tour a year so you may have to book ahead if you are in the city for a short time. Bizarrely there are no refunds if you can't make it. As big and bombastic New York looks and feels there isn't as much to do there as you might think. The skyscrapers are spectacular to walk under but apart from that it's quite a grubby and obnoxious place and its mostly free museums and expensive bars and cafes to keep you busy when it rains and so the UN tour rises to the top of the list. They were in session when I was there and you can view the main hall or the smaller rooms to watch the debates. In those exhibition spaces it's the usual stuff that shows the UNs positive work around the world, like UNICIF and their aid division but really its just people taking for an hour and then shooting off to New York's many swanky eateries and bars on expenses to run up their parking tickets. Nothing really gets done here but its better to be seen doing something than seen doing nothing.
The United Nations was founded in 1945 after World War II with the aim of promoting and attempting to bring about world peace. It originally had 51 member nations, but now boasts some 180. The New York headquarters of the UN, located on 1st Avenue, was built when John D Rockefeller Jr donated 8.5 million dollars for the purchase of the site. The 18 acre site is now no longer US territory, and is designated an international zone. It even has its own stamps and post office that you can visit at the end of the tour. Guided tours take place hourly throughout the Summer, and are fascinating. Depending on which councils are in session, the tours visit as many of the council meeting rooms as possible. There are three councils – the Security Council, where delegates discuss UN military action; the Trusteeship Council, where decisions are made about the readiness of nations to be given independence; and the Economic and Social Council. The guided tour also visits the General Assembly, which is the only part of the United Nations which all the member nations are allowed to attend - this is the room that you often see on television when statements are made at the United Nations. On the tour, you also see some of the gifts that member nations have made to the site. Britain's contribution is a sculpture by Henry Moore ("Reclining Figure"), Luxembourg's is a sculpture of a gun with a knot tied in the barrel ("Non Violence"), and China's is an intricate "Willow pattern" sculpture unfortunately carved out of politically-incorrect ivory. There is also a Peace Bell, rung once per year by the Secretary General, which was cast from the coins of 60 nations. In order to go round the United Nations building, you must go on a guided tour. They are, however, relatively cheap, and the staff are extremely well informed and friendly. Oh, and while I think of it, you have to go through a metal detector to get in.
GOVERNMENT CENTER. Architect: Wallace K. Harrison