Special features, Monkey diplomacy

Monkey at the UN

No Comments 10 October 2010

Monkey at the UN

Though he’s soft-spoken and prefers to lead by example, the Monkey is not averse to entering the corridors of power to lay down the law. Here, he takes you on a tour of the United Nations Headquarters in New York.

UN Secretariat Tower
After its creation in 1945, the United Nations needed a headquarters. John D. Rockefeller, Jr. donated an 18-acre plot along the East River in Manhattan, and the land was internationalized so that no country could claim “possession” of the UN Headquarters. The UN drew together some of the leading lights of international architecture—chief among them William Harrison, Oscar Niemayer (who later designed Brasilia), and Le Corbusier—to design its headquarters facilities. The result was a striking collection of buildings in the Modern (International) style.

In this shot you see the curving roofline of the General Assembly Hall, and behind it, the sleek Secretariat Building, New York City’s first glass-curtain walled skyscraper.

Mies van der Rohe chair, United Nations
Inside, too, the UN Headquarters’ design reflected the shining stars of the Modern movement and the international character of the institution. In this photo, the Monkey relaxes in one of Mies van der Rohe’s iconic Barcelona chairs, originally designed for his German Pavilion at the 1929 Barcelona International Exhibition. Out the window you can see part of the structure that houses the Japanese Peace Bell, donated by Japan in 1954 and cast from coins from 60 countries.

General Assembly, United Nations
The Monkey in the Hall of the UN General Assembly, where every nation-state has an opportunity to air its grievances and ideas. Its newest members are Switzerland and East Timor (2002), leaving the Holy See (the Vatican) as the only state that is not a permanent member of the UN (though it does have observer status).

Sputnik at the United Nations
In the atrium of the visitors’ entrance to the UN Headquarters, the Monkey spotted a replica of Sputnik, the spherical Soviet space probe that first saw the human race enter the heavens. As demure as it looks, Sputnik is a symbol of the heights of human achievement.

UN non-violence sculpture
Beside the UN General Assembly Building is a small sculpture garden with a number of symbolic works. In this photo, the Monkey examines “Non-Violence,” a sculpture by Karl Fredrik. Luxembourg gave the sculpture to the United Nations as a gift in 1988.

Monkey with earpiece at UN Security Council
The Monkey tunes into simultaneous translation during a session of the Security Council. The United Nations has six official languages: Arabic, Mandarin Chinese, English, French, Russian, and Spanish. English and French, the traditional languages of international diplomacy, are the most commonly used. Most UN staff are at least bilingual.

Office in Secretariat Building, with view of U Thant Island
The Monkey stares out over the East River toward Queens (reverse shot here) from his office in the UN Secretariat Building. The Secretariat is the administrative body of the UN, with a staff drawn from its member states and responsible for the day to day operational functions necessary to carry out the policies put forth by the Security Council and General Assembly.

The head of the Secretariat is the Secretary-General, currently Ban Ki-moon of South Korea. The small island in the center of river in this photo is U Thant Island, a UN-administered territory named for the third UN Secretary-General, U Thant of Burma.

U Thant and the Monkey
Former UN Secretary-General U Thant and the Monkey.

This Monkey adventure has been viewed 1757 times since the 2010 website relaunch.

United Nations


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192 member states

Land area:

The area of the original plot for the UN Headquarters is about 0.073 sq. km. Additional properties are leased as necessary.


The UN Headquarters are on international territory in New York City, New York, United States. Additional offices are located in cities around the world.


The UN is funded by a combination of voluntary contributions and member “dues” in the form of assessments based on the relative capacity of member states to pay (with preset floor and ceiling rates). While monetary contributions are critical, the UN also accepts contributions in the form of commodities which can be put to operational use (such as foodstuffs which can feed refugees).

Main language(s):

Arabic, Mandarin Chinese, English, French, Spanish, and Russian

Monkey's name:

El Qrd, Hóuzi, The Monkey, Le Singe, El Mono, Obezyana

Fun fact:

An introduction to the United Nations

U.S. President Franklin Roosevelt proposed the creation of the United Nations at the end of the Second World War as a replacement to the ineffectual League of Nations, which had failed to prevent the outbreak of war in 1939. The UN Charter was signed by the 50 original member states on 26 June 1945 in San Francisco, California. On 24 October that year the Charter was ratified by the five permanent members of its Security Council (Britain, China, France, the Soviet Union, and the United States) and a majority of the other member states, and the United Nations came into existence.

The primary goal of the UN is to maintain global peace and security, something it attempts to do through dialogue and mediation as well as through the active deployment of member state-supplied forces for observer and peacekeeping missions. In 1948, it ratified the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, an ambitious doctrine that for the first time in human history drew up a legal system to define the rights of all humankind.

Since its founding, the UN has expanded its activities to include conflict resolution and the provision of humanitarian aid to refugees and victims of conflict; promoting democracy, development, and labor and human rights; fighting disease, poverty, starvation, pollution, environmental degradation, and nuclear proliferation; strengthening the rule of international law; reducing child mortality rates; improving literacy rates; protecting global cultural and historical sites and relics; collection of all manner of data; and a slew of other aims from clearing landmines to ensuring orderly travel on the sea and in the air.

Though rarely perfect in its handling of the plethora of problems and crises it faces, the UN remains the most inclusive, respected, and far-reaching organization on the planet and its work is incomparable. Like the governments of its member states, it can be slow to reform when necessary and is certainly capable of making mistakes, but the best argument in the oft-criticized UN’s favor is simply to consider how many more decisions would be made at gunpoint without it.

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