Thousands of people joined the team of the 26 offices of the UN in Brussels in celebrating UN Day on Grand Place, Sunday 20 October.
There was a true birthday party atmosphere on Grand Place, which was fitting since UN Day marks the world organization´s birthday albeit celebrated 4 days ahead of the actual date of October 24.
Among the thousands, who happened to be on the Grand Place during the celebration was an unexpected but very welcome guest, the Nobel Peace Prize Winner Aung San Suu Kyi, the Burmese campaigner, who was visting Brussels.
The drums of peace played by UNRIC staff provided the soundtrack to the festivities. The sunshine joined in and at times adorned the guilded buildings on the UNESCO heritage site Grand Place.
UN staff chatted with visitors on current issues, while others enjoyed photo and poster exhbitions, games, quizzes and sustainable food.
An American tourist expressed his surprise to see a photo of Che Guevara addressing the General Asembly, while a Belgian lady hummed John Lennon´s Imagine, whose words were displayed alongside other poems on peace by such authors as Bertolt Brecht and Raymond Queneau.
French artist Georges-Pascal Ricordeau came from Paris, with his “White Flag”. “I created it as the Drapeau Blanc - a white flag for the white nights (Nuits Blanches) celebrations in Paris, out of plastic bags that I had picked up from the streets,” Ricordeau told the website. “The white flag of course stands for peace and it is appropriate to display it on UN day.”
UNEP, the Environment Programme, challenged visitors to guess how much food goes to waste in the world and many were astonished to hear the correct answer: over 30%.
FAO has declared 2013 the year of Quinoa and delicacies and recipes made of the Andean seeds were popular with visitors. So were the many quizzes on offer. Some promoted the Millennium Development Goals and with a throw of a dice it was decided, if a player would enjoy the advanttages of being born in the Democrratic Republic of Congo, which at number 186 is the last country on UNDP´s Human Development Index; India at 136,; Belgium at 17; or the world champions, Norway at number 1.
One of the most popular games was to create your own peace dove or Unigami, although at least one visitor said the instructions reminded him of a DIY instruction manual : Easier said than done!
The UNHCR´s big tent served as a reminder of the plight of the world´s millions of refugees and lest we forget, the UNRWA staff were there to remind us of the 5 million Palestinians, whose needs are largely taken care of by the UN agency.
There was also a strong focus on the UN´s role in peacekeeping, with over 100,000 peacekeepers woldwide, in providing humanitarian aid and in protecting Human Rights, just to mention a few of the subjects raised by the UN during its lively birthday celebrations on Grand Pace.
The UN celebrated UN Day for the fourth year in a row on Grand Place. “It is important that the people can come to the UN and feel that the UN is theirs, that it does not only belong to the governments and the members states. alone,” said UN Director Vigilante. “The UN is all the people, so they have to come close to us, they have to talk to us, and criticize us , but they have to support us as well. We need more and more interaction like this. “
The Brussels based United Nations Regional Information Centre for Western Europe - UNRIC provides information on UN activities to the countries of the region. It also provides liaison with institutions of the European Union in the field of information. Its outreach activities extend to all segments of society and joint campaigns, projects and events are organized with partners including the EU, governments, the media, NGOs, schools and local authorities.
United Nations Regional Information Centre for Western Europe (UNRIC Brussels)
Residence Palace, Rue de la Loi/Wetstraat 155, Block C2,7th and 8th floor, Brussels 1040, Belgium
Tel.: +32 2 788 8484 / Fax: 32 2 788 8485