Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Happy United Nations Day!

Today is United Nations Day, the day in which the UN Charter came into effect, with the ratification and signatures of the majority of its original members.

I have a long history with the United Nations.  I spent many days on the UN tour of the New York City campus, shepherding girl scouts and girl guides through the buildings.  It was always fun to - at the conclusion of the tour - send a postcard from the UN post office, which by agreement is on international territory, despite being in the middle of New York City.

In high school, I was a member of the Model United Nations club - and spent time traveling to Model UN conferences at various colleges and universities, where our members would be assigned a country and given a role to debate at various meetings of the bodies of the UN.

At one conference, held at Yale University, one of my classmates was assigned as the United States representative to the Security Council.  In the middle of the night, with the approval of the teacher / chaperons, the students were awakened in the middle of the night with the scenario that East and West Germany had reunified (before they actually did so), re-armed themselves, and were preparing to march across Europe again.  The Security Council needed to meet in emergency session to resolve the crisis.

The following year, I, and another classmate, were serving as the Soviet Union's representatives to the Security Council.  We filled our role very well - vetoing things that came up for a vote that were not in the best interests of the Soviet Union.  Then we broke for lunch.  Both of us were delayed getting back from lunch and the rest of the Security Council drafted and passed a resolution kicking the Soviets out of Afghanistan and other areas where Soviet troops were stationed and levied sanctions against the USSR.  Needless to say - we didn't win any awards at the conference that year.

At my first archives job, working for the Rockefeller Archive Center, I learned more about the Rockefeller connection to the United Nations.  Nelson Rockefeller was heavily involved in the UN Conference in San Francisco in 1945, and was responsible for keeping the nations of Latin America at the conference, when they threatened to walk out.  Of course, it was John D. Rockefeller, Jr. - Nelson's father - who donated the land in New York City for the headquarters of the UN.

Later, while working at the International Monetary Fund Archives, I led a committee of staff from the IMF and the World Bank to create an exhibition on the Bretton Woods Conference, from which the IMF and the Bank were created as a financial counterpoint to the United Nations.  The exhibition still lives, virtually and can be seen here.

I am leaning toward a new Thursday series for 2014, which will be devoted to the countries of the world- as defined by the UN Member States (currently at 193 members).  Look for it starting in January 2014!

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