This week is the 76th United Nations General Assembly High Level Week – a pretty long name, I know. We normally just call it UNGA. I have been fortunate enough to be with the State Department’s team on the ground here in New York City to support all of our principals participating in bilateral meetings, side events, and other activities during UNGA’s High Level Week. This week many U.S. government officials are engaging with world leaders on a range of shared global challenges including fighting COVID-19, combatting the climate crisis, protecting human rights, and defending democracy.
UNGA is hosted at the United Nations Headquarters in New York City. The UN Headquarters turns into a microcosm of the world as delegations from all over the globe gather in person and virtually. Earlier this week President Biden addressed the delegates and spoke about U.S. priorities at UNGA.
On Thursday, Secretary Blinken spoke to the press about our busy few days in New York. Secretary Blinken said “We believe it makes a difference when the United States shows up, listens, leads; gives us a unique platform to bring others together in tackling the great challenges of our time.” At the Department, we were glad to be at the 76th UN General Assembly.
The breadth of countries in the United Nations can be seen in one of the most notable sites at the UN Headquarters – the 194 flags that fly outside the complex! The flags represent all 193 Member States and the UN Flag.
Speaking of which, do you know why the UN Flag is a light blue? It was chosen at the time because no other Member State had it on its flag. The color is now even named “UN Blue.” The flag dons a pair of olive tree branches and a map of the world, which represent peace.
Another notable site is the UN General Assembly Hall. It is large enough that it can accommodate the delegations of all 193 Member States. You might recognize the marble wall which is often seen behind world leaders as they address the world.
How about some of the other sites? This is the Knotted Gun Statue which is one of the first statues you’ll see when you visit the UN Headquarters. The statue is titled “Non-Violence” and symbolizes the UN’s dedication and commitment to world peace.
Another important landmark here at the Headquarters is the Ark of Return. This is the United Nation’s Permanent Memorial to the Victims of Slavery and Transatlantic Slave Trade. This memorial acknowledges and remembers one of the most horrific tragedies of modern history. It reminds us of the more than 18 million people who were forcefully removed from Africa to the Americas and Europe. I am humbled to be here and reflect on the continued importance of fighting racism and prejudice today.
Lastly, and perhaps one of the most important parts of the United Nations is the amazing people who work here. When it comes down to it, diplomacy, and especially public diplomacy is based on those person-to-person connections. I would be remiss if I did not acknowledge all the hard work that all the UN spokespeople do to keep the media apprised of the latest developments at the United Nations. Equally, I would like to thank our hard-working colleagues over at the U.S. Mission to the United Nations. We are here for the week, but they work year-round to strengthen our relations with our partners and allies.
About the Author: Jalina Porter is the Principal Deputy Spokesperson for the Department of State.