UNO Geneva Director-General Michael Møller has signed a framework agreement with the new Portail des Nations foundation, set up by Geneva philanthropist Ivan Pictet, with the ultimate aim of building a new reception and information facility for the UN and its place in international Geneva.
The Portail des Nations project proposes to provide the United Nations Office in Geneva with a new infrastructure of over 3,000m2 dedicated to welcoming visitors, informing and educating the general public about multilateralism and the work carried out by the UN family.
The project, estimated to cost 27.5 million Swiss francs, will be financed by a donation from the Fondation Portail des Nations, which was established thanks to commitments from the Fondation Pictet pour le Développement, another Geneva-based private entity, and the Loterie romande.
"The Portail des Nations project represents an extraordinary opportunity to strengthen our communications and forge closer links with the general public," said Mr. Møller, whose term of office ends on Sunday.
"At a time when mistrust of public institutions reigns, UNO Geneva must resolutely choose openness and find new ways of spreading the fundamental message of the United Nations. I'm delighted to have been able to help set this new project in motion. Michael Møller , Director General of the United Nations Office at Geneva
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres will report on the project's progress in his annual report on the Strategic Plan for Heritage Preservation of the Palais des Nations, which he will submit to the General Assembly in the autumn.
For Ivan Pictet, founder and President of the Fondation Portail des Nations, the project will help to better inform a broad public about the issues and challenges facing the world, and to promote the benefits of multilateralism as embodied by the United Nations and other international organizations in Geneva.
" The UN has chosen a very strong symbolic location for its new space - in a country recognized throughout the world for its neutrality, in Geneva, which claims to be the cradle of multilateralism, and in the Palais des Nations, the UN's operational center that fosters dialogue between all countries." Yvan Pictet
For his part, Valentin Zellweger, Permanent Representative of Switzerland to the United Nations in Geneva, recalled that "Switzerland encourages and supports the United Nations in its desire to be accessible to the population, and considers it very important that Geneva's work for the world be known and understood. Ultimately, the United Nations belongs to the peoples of our planet", he stressed.
Finally, Antonio Hodgers, President of the Conseil d'Etat, believes that "this project will open the doors of the Palais des Nations to the general public and to visitors". He is delighted by "the opportunity it should give everyone to be more closely involved in the important decisions taken in international Geneva."
Exhibitions and interactive tour
The proposed project involves the construction of a pavilion building, with a new entrance for visitors overlooking the Place des Nations. The visitor center could welcome 300,000 visitors a year, and would offer an immersive, interactive exhibition trail of over 800m2 on the world's challenges and the solutions provided by the United Nations family in Geneva. An additional 400m2 would be dedicated to multilateral diplomacy, with the possibility of offering interactive workshops, conferences and debates, or temporary exhibitions.
Guided tours of the historic halls of the Palais des Nations, which currently welcome over 100,000 visitors a year, would be maintained and modernized.
If the necessary conditions for this project are confirmed, the UN will be the sole owner of the future complex, known as the Portail des Nations. Opening to the public is scheduled for 2023.