The Swiss president, Joseph Deiss, has officially opened Switzerland’s accession gift to the United Nations in New York – a set of renovated rooms forming the backstage of the General Assembly.
The rooms, known under the sober name of GA-200, will serve as a reminder of Switzerland’s entry into the UN as a full member two years ago.
Deiss was accompanied at the ceremony on Monday by Swiss foreign minister Micheline Calmy-Rey.
“The gift had to meet a genuine need on the part of the UN and reflect Switzerland’s creative spirit and its capabilities for innovation,” Deiss said.
“And it had to be somehow unique.” It was a symbol of the fact that Switzerland was the only country in the world where UN accession came about after a popular vote, he added.
It is a tradition that new members offer the UN a gift that culturally represents the country. Most countries give works of art such as sculptures, pictures or tapestries, which often stand or hang in the corridors of the main building.
Stepping out of line
With the renovation and redesign of the 200 square metres of rooms, Switzerland is stepping out of line - but in the nicest possible way. The GA-200 had not been altered since 1952.
Located directly behind the General Assembly Hall, the GA-200 serves a useful purpose.
Heads of state, prime ministers and foreign ministers wait there before addressing the General Assembly.
President Bush is expected to be one of the first to use the rooms before he addresses the UN on Tuesday.
The GA-200 contains conference and meeting rooms for the secretary-general and the president of the General Assembly, as well as a waiting and preparation room for state representatives.
It also includes workspaces, toilets, copying facilities, a kitchen, and a place with the UN logo for photo sessions.
All this had to be taken into consideration by the partners of the INLAY project team, which included the architectural firms mlzd of Biel, Buchner Bründler from Basel and the RELAX Artist group.
The interior conversion work was prepared and installed at the UN headquarters by Swiss craftsmen working under the guidance of carpenters from canton Thurgau.
The total cost of the project was SFr3.25 million ($2.55 million).
According to the Swiss mission at the UN, the materials chosen are noble yet discreet. They include walnut, anodised aluminium, coloured glass and grey wool carpet. The furniture, specially designed for the available space, is characterised by simple elegance.
The word “peace” in the six official languages of the UN (Arabic, Chinese, French, English, Russian and Spanish) is inlaid on various surfaces in 12 places within the overall GA-200 space and its furnishings.
Diamonds and gold
The materials used for the inlays, which are no longer than an inch, are diamonds, gold, white gold, tantalum and exotic woods.
Use of such precious materials is meant to provoke thought about the real value of peace and how costly it can be.
This message is directly aimed at those in power who will speak in front of the General Assembly.
After the official opening of the rooms, only UN representatives and invited speakers will have access to them. Protocol forbids entry to anyone else.
swissinfo, Philippe Kropf
The GA-200 rooms at the United Nations headquarters had not been renovated for more than 50 years.
The work cost Switzerland a total of SFr3.25 million ($2.55 million).
Switzerland officially joined the UN as a full member on September 10, 2002.
Switzerland has renovated a set of rooms at the United Nations in New York that serve as a backstage to the General Assembly.
Heads of state prepare themselves in the G-A 200 rooms for giving speeches in the General Assembly.
Architects, designers and craftsmen from Switzerland worked on the project.