Tag Archives: GA

Geek out with the Architecture of Legislative Bodies.

Of course the UN General Assembly Hall is recognizable, but what does its semi-circle shape mean? Apparently, its one of the oldest–and a neoclassical go to for fostering consensus and democratic engagement.

The architecture of a legislative body tells a lot about how governance works in each respective body. A new book by Max Cohen de Lara and David Mulder van der Vegt explains, including their methodology:

To answer that question, we spent six years collecting the architectural layout for each one of those buildings. We’ve published our findings in our book “Parliament.” By comparing these plans in detail, we wanted to understand how a political culture is both shaped by and expressed through architecture. Organized as a lexicon, from Afghanistan to Zimbabwe, the book for the first time allows a comparison of all national parliaments in the world.We found a clear pattern. Although each of the 193 United Nations member states has a parliament of some kind — albeit with varying degrees of democracy — their plenary chambers have a very limited number of shapes. Most surprisingly, these buildings have hardly changed since the 19th century.

Source: These 5 architectural designs influence every legislature in the world — and tell you how each governs – The Washington Post

The regional parliament of Nordrhein Westphalia, Germany

Also, don’t miss the website for the book, Parliament, to see schematics of a number of UN Member State’s legislative body, and even the UN in Geneva and interactive photos, facts, and more. Great stuff for policy geeks, parliamentarians, and designers interested in civic engagement and proxemics.

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A New Take on UN Week in NYC

I have to admit, having been to my first UN General Assembly week in NYC for a few years–it was pretty exciting, for many of the reasons noted in this piece:

For years, there had been nothing to see at the General Assembly. It consisted almost solely of top diplomats meeting in back rooms while the press and the public stood behind security barriers. Now, there are numerous large events in which the public can participate.People could attend United Nations events by signing up for particular sessions or meetings. The Social Good Summit, founded six years ago, drew 1,800 participants, up from 1,600 last year. The Global Citizen Festival, which provided free tickets to the Central Park concert to those who had engaged in charitable efforts, attracted a crowd of 60,000.“It’s about turning U.N. week inside out,” said Pete Cashmore, founder and chief executive of Mashable, who helped start the Social Good Summit. “Rather than a few powerful people deciding the fate of the world, how do we get everyone involved and engaged in a dialogue?” For the first time, similar gatherings were held in Washington and London this year.

Source: Forget Coachella and Bonnaroo: The U.N. Is the Place to Be – The New York Times


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A “Serious” UN Meeting on anti-Semitism

Call this one a “win” for Israel at the UN (Samantha Power did), a venue that has rarely been favorable to the Jewish State:

The General Assembly has never before held a meeting devoted to anti-Semitism. An Israeli diplomat said Thursday that Israel was prompted to push for one in October after a spate of attacks in Europe, and that it was particularly troubled when the United Nations made no mention of anti-Semitism in condemning the attack on the Jewish Museum.

The United States pushed for the session too, which the American ambassador, Samantha Power, called an important step in an organization that she said had often been “a venue for the de-legitimization of Israel.”

via Modest Victory for Israel in Quest for International Meeting on Anti-Semitism – NYTimes.com.

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A UN HQ That You Never Knew

Visit the UN General Assembly’s headquarters…in Queens?  Yep, and now you can go and see the newly remodeled building:

Given that mix today, it makes symbolic sense, at least, that for four years, from 1946 to 1950, the United Nations General Assembly had its first headquarters in Queens, in a low, pale slab of a building designed to be New York City’s Pavilion for the 1939 World’s Fair. Set on an edge of what is now called Flushing Meadows-Corona Park, with the Grand Central Parkway streaming by, it proved itself a versatile premises, suited equally to athletics and aesthetics. For many years, half the building was a skating rink. The other half, beginning in 1972, was home to the Queens Museum of Art.

Several months ago, the museum closed fully to complete a two-year, $69 million renovation that mostly took place while the museum remained open.

via The Expanded Queens Museum Reopens – NYTimes.com.

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New Diplomatic Avenue Emerges, in 140-Character Bursts – NYTimes.com

Twitter diplomacy takes off at the #UNGA:

At the height of the diplomatic negotiations last week over a United Nations Security Council resolution that would require Syria to turn over its stockpile of chemical weapons, the American ambassador to the United Nations, Samantha Power, used Twitter to pre-empt criticism of the measure as lacking teeth because it had no automatic enforcement provision.

via New Diplomatic Avenue Emerges, in 140-Character Bursts – NYTimes.com.

Who else to follow?

  • @AmbassadorPower
  • @LyallGrant
  • @PanakajPachuari
  • @HassanRouhani
  • @StateDept


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At Kennedy Airport, a Complex Dance Over a U.N. Meeting – NYTimes.com

Transporting world leaders to the GA last week requires some planning at New York’s largest airport, JFK:

Some years can be more complicated than others. When Iran’s former president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad attended the General Assembly, he would have the pilots turn off their plane’s transponder as it approached the airport, causing it to disappear from the screen used in the command center to track aircraft, Lieutenant Lomonaco said. Or his plane would veer north away from the city “trying to be a little evasive” before landing, he added.

via At Kennedy Airport, a Complex Dance Over a U.N. Meeting – NYTimes.com.

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Thomas Friedman | Hassan Does Manhattan

Select media and Iran experts had a rare face-to-face with the Iranian president last week.  Fareed Zakaria mentioned it on his Sunday GPS program.  Here, Friedman gives his takeaway on what to think about Iran’s President Rouhani:

1) He’s not here by accident. That is, this Iranian charm offensive is not because Rouhani, unlike his predecessor, went to charm school. Powerful domestic pressures have driven him here.

2) We are finally going to see a serious, face-to-face negotiation between top Iranian and American diplomats over Iran’s nuclear program.

3) I have no clue and would not dare predict whether these negotiations will lead to a peaceful resolution of the Iranian nuclear crisis.

4) The fact that we’re now going to see serious negotiations raises the stakes considerably. It means that if talks fail, President Obama will face a real choice between military action and permanent sanctions that could help turn Iran into a giant failed state.

5) Pray that option 2 succeeds.

via Hassan Does Manhattan – NYTimes.com.

Which leads to the question–Is Rouhani sincere?  Can we know now?

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What to Watch during UN General Assembly Week

Not in NY this week? Globtrotter and media guru Aaron Sherinian of the UN Foundation points out how to stay connected to the General Assembly this week, including which hashtags to track:

While the conversations may start in New York, they’ll be happening everywhere as citizens gather around kitchen tables and through social media to share their ideas and thoughts on how we can build a better future.

I’m especially looking forward to all of the great discussions that are planned around the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), the world’s “to-do” list to reduce poverty and improve the lives of millions.

With so much going on next week, we’ve pulled together a list of events you can join even if you’re not in New York.

via United Nations Foundation – What to Watch during UN General Assembly Week.

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Is Samantha Power Up to the Task?

The future of Syria is in her hands.  America’s newest UN diplomat has a big job and some wonder if her proximity to President Obama, achievement as an human rights author will be enough to stand tough against Russia, China, and Syria at the United Nations General Assembly this week:

“Most diplomats in a career of 40 years would never get this kind of opportunity to make such a difference at such a critical moment,” said Edward C. Luck, the dean of the School of Peace Studies at the University of San Diego and a former senior United Nations adviser on peacekeeping issues. “The stakes could not be higher.”

At the United Nations headquarters last week, where security was tight in preparation for Monday’s meeting of world leaders, Ms. Power, who turned 43 on Saturday, looked harried as she swept through the corridors with her entourage. In brief comments to reporters, she deflected questions about how she would handle Russia’s resistance to authorizing the use of force if Mr. Assad refused to comply.

“We are determined to have an enforceable and binding resolution,” Ms. Power said, in the kind of bland, bureaucratic language she might have shunned as a writer for The New Yorker, which she once was. Beyond that, “I think I’m not going to comment.” She declined to be interviewed for this article.

via A New U.S. Player, Put on World Stage by Syria – NYTimes.com.



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Denouncing Serbian Tilt, U.S. Boycotts U.N. Meeting – NYTimes.com

A US walkout at the General Assembly over Serbia’s (mis)use of the Presidency:

Canada and Jordan joined the United States in the boycott of the two-day meeting, which included a General Assembly debate and panel discussion, while some other nations also criticized the meeting and sent low-level representatives. The event seemed to reopen emotional scabs about responsibility for ethnic slaughters committed in the Balkans conflicts of the 1990s, including the Srebrenica massacre, Europe’s worst mass killing since the Holocaust.

Critics took offense that the General Assembly president, Vuk Jeremic, whose antipathy toward the Yugoslavia tribunal is well known, had invited as keynote speaker the like-minded president of Serbia, Tomislav Nikolic, but not the victims of Balkans atrocities who have found some measure of redress from the tribunal’s prosecution

via Denouncing Serbian Tilt, U.S. Boycotts U.N. Meeting – NYTimes.com.

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