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Massive bill for UN building renovations

The United Nations has estimated that repairs to its European headquarters in Geneva will cost upwards of SFr618 million ($675 million).

A technical study found that the Palais des Nations repairs were urgent as failings posed health and safety risks to delegates, staff, civil society and the tens of thousands of visitors each year.

The buildings do not meet fire protection, earthquake and explosion standards. Added to that are corrosive problems, asbestos, an aging electricity system, poor disabled access and thermal insulation.  “Limited corrective measures” would not be enough to avoid a disproportionate rise in costs, said the report.

Three options for renovations were put forward costing between SFr618-684 million. The cheapest – and the one recommended for action – will take over eight years to complete and limits the number of people who will have to be relocated during the work to 1,000.

A spokeswoman for the UN said work would ideally start in 2014 or 2015 although it would depend on decisions taken by member states.

An initial repair budget for $4.1 million was submitted to members of the General Assembly in New York for 2012-2013. The 1935 Palais building had reached a “critical state”, the UN said.

The contributions from the Swiss government and canton Geneva have yet to be decided.  Switzerland promised in June to spend around SFr50 million in 2012 on putting in double glazed windows in the Palais building to save energy.

The Palais des Nations has housed the League of Nations since 1936 and the European Office of the UN since 1946.

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SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR

SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR