Despite curfews and other restrictions related to the COVID-19 pandemic, nearly 300 iconic buildings and landmarks were illuminated in blue across Europe on the evening of 24 October for United Nations Day, reminding people of their attachment to the values and objectives of the UN.
At the initiative of the United Nations Regional Information Centre, UNRIC, more than 200 cities and institutions in 22 countries chose to mark the 75th anniversary of the adoption of the United Nations Charter in 1945 by lighting up one or more emblematic buildings and landmarks in blue.
The waters under bridges, such as the Mostar bridge in Bosnia-Herzegovina, the Øresund between Denmark and Sweden, or the Vittorio, Umberto, Isabella and Balbis bridges in Turin, Italy over the Po River all shimmered in blue.
City halls, such as in Brussels, Malaga or Sarajevo joined. Diverse monuments and buildings, such as the Gateway to the Commercial Square in Lisbon, the Millennium Dome in Valladolid, Stockholm Cathedral, Hadrian’s Wall in the United Kingdom, the Centre Mondial de la Paix in Verdun, France and the Law Courts in Lyon lit up the night in blue. Institutions such as the Peace Palace in The Hague, which houses the International Court of Justice, and the Palais des Nations in Geneva also marked the occasion.
Showing its support for the close partnership with the UN, a joint commitment to multilateralism and the shared values of the two organisations, the European Union lit it up the EU Council, the EU Commission and the European External Action Service.
From small villages in Portugal to Rome, Madrid, Athens or Geneva, hundreds of people have mobilized to organize this pan-European event, to which have been added some emblematic places in the rest of the world, such as the Empire State Building in New York or the ruins of Petra in Jordan.
A blue symbol of peace, justice and clean air
“The UN blue represents clear unclouded skies, and symbolises peace, justice, clean air and a Covid-free world. It is a joy to see its calming effect on people when projected on iconic buildings in Europe, such as the Peace Palace in the Hague.”, said the President of the International Court of Justice, Judge Abdulqawi A. Yusuf.
“We decided to open up to the world and we celebrate the 75th Anniversary of the United Nations acknowledging that only through the communion of intents and objectives we can overcome this difficult global situation,” said Chiara Appendino, the mayor of Turin, where four historic bridges were illuminated.
“Especially in these difficult times, it is very useful to reflect on the importance of international cooperation”, added Jan van Zanen, Mayor of The Hague. No less than 80 buildings were illuminated across the Netherlands, including the Scheveningen quay in The Hague, the medieval Loevestein castle, the Eye Film museum in Amsterdam and the Van Nelle factory in Rotterdam.
On this UN Day the Greeks, among other Europeans, embraced the global message of the United Nations, during these uncertain times said Mrs Marina Patouli – Stavraki, President of the SDG17 network in Greece, where at least 50 cities participated in the initiative.
In Portugal, over 50 monuments and buildings were lit up in blue, north to south in continental Portugal and also far out in the Atlantic Ocean in the Azores Islands.
As in 2015, for the 70th anniversary of the UN, the Centre Mondial de la Paix, in Verdun, which works to bring people closer together, also took part in the illuminations. “In a multipolar world with unstable actors or sometimes tempted by simplistic responses, multilateralism and the United Nations are essential for lasting solutions accepted by all,” commented the Centre’s director, Philippe Hansch.
Also in France, the Perret Tower in Grenoble and the Palais de Justice in Lyon were lit in blue.
In the United Kingdom, from Whitehall and the Canadian High Commission in London to the Millennium Centre in Cardiff, Hadrian’s Wall in Northumberland, Manchester Central and the SSE Hydro building in Glasgow, famous landmarks lit up in blue. In Northern Ireland, the Stormont Parliament building and City Hall were illuminated, along with many other council and civic buildings, and in Ireland, Dublin Castle looked magnificent against the night sky.
Places where peace was once elusive joined.
“I am especially pleased that Northern Ireland’s Parliament Buildings will be lit in blue to mark the 75th Anniversary of the United Nations. In Northern Ireland we have seen following difficult times in our local history, the benefit of people working together for the greater good. It is most fitting that we recognize the international efforts of the United Nations in this regard,” John Blair, MLA for the Alliance Party, Northern Ireland, said of the initiative.
The Mayor of Sarajevo, Abdulah Skaka, for his part, said that “By joining the cities across Europe, we remind of the universal value of peace, sustainable development and human rights in these challenging times”.
There were those who expressed hope for the future.
On the occasion of the illumination of the Olympic Museum in Lausanne, the President of the International Olympic Committee, Thomas Bach, addressed his thanks directly to the UN Secretary-General, António Guterres: “Thank you for everything you are doing to make the world a better place. In our uncertain times, this UN Day sends an important message of hope to the world: we are always stronger together.”
In the northern reaches of Europe, the Arctic University of Norway list its campus in Alta in blue.
“Congratulations to the UN on its 75th anniversary. The UN’s commitment to human rights is summarized in Agenda 2030 and the sustainability goals. The world needs strong, international humanitarian organizations,” said Anne Huse, rector of UIT, the Arctic University of Norway. The world needs the UN”