Information, art, food and fun during UN Day celebration in Brussels

Oct 23, 2013

UN flag being displayed at the Grand Place in Brussels during UN Day celebrations (20 October 2013). Photo: UNRIC.

On Sunday, 20 October 2013, there was a true birthday party atmosphere on Grand Place in Brussels, as the UN Team celebrated the UN Day.


UN/UNDP Brussels Director, Antonio Vigilante said he was delighted by the turnout: “This is an event, which makes people feel part of the UN and makes us feel closer to people.” Among the thousands, who happened to be on the Grand Place during the celebration was an unexpected but very welcome guest, the Nobel Peace Prize Winner Aung San Suu Kyi, the Burmese campaigner, who was visiting Brussels.


The drums of peace played by UNRIC staff provided the soundtrack to the festivities. The sunshine joined in and at times adorned the gilded buildings on the UNESCO World Heritage Site Grand Place. UN staff chatted with visitors on current issues, while others enjoyed photo and poster exhibitions, games, quizzes and sustainable food.


An American tourist expressed his surprise to see a photo of Che Guevara addressing the UN General Assembly, while a Belgian lady hummed John Lennon’s Imagine, whose words were displayed alongside other poems on peace by such authors as Bertolt Brecht and Raymond Queneau.


French artist Georges-Pascal Ricordeau came from Paris, with his “White Flag”. “I created it as the Drapeau Blanc - a white flag for the white nights (Nuits Blanches) celebrations in Paris, out of plastic bags that I had picked up from the streets”, Ricordeau told UNRIC. “The white flag of course stands for peace and it is appropriate to display it on UN Day.”


UNEP, the UN Environment Programme, challenged visitors to guess how much food goes to waste in the world and many were astonished to hear the correct answer: over 30%. FAO has declared 2013 the year of Quinoa and delicacies and recipes made of the Andean seeds were popular with visitors. So were the many quizzes on offer.


UNDP promoted the Millennium Development Goals and with a throw of a dice it was decided, if a player would enjoy the advantages of being born in the Democratic Republic of Congo, which at number 186 is the last country on UNDP´s Human Development Index; India at 136; Belgium at 17; or the world champions, Norway at number 1.


One of the most popular games was to create your own peace dove or “Unigami”, although at least one visitor said the instructions reminded him of a DIY instruction manual: Easier said than done!


A UNHCR´s big tent served as a reminder of the plight of the world´s millions of refugees and lest we forget, the UNRWA staff were there to remind us of the 5 million Palestinians, whose needs are largely taken care of by the UN agency. There was also a strong focus on the UN´s role in peacekeeping, with over 100,000 peacekeepers worldwide, in providing humanitarian aid and in protecting Human Rights, just to mention a few of the subjects raised by the UN during its lively birthday celebrations.


The UN celebrated UN Day for the fourth year in a row on Grand Place. “It is important that the people can come to the UN and feel that the UN is theirs, that it does not only belong to the governments and the members states alone,” said UN/UNDP Director Antonio Vigilante. “The UN is all the people, so they have to come close to us, they have to talk to us, and criticize us, but they have to support us as well. We need more and more interaction like this”.


The UN Day was jointly organized by the 26 offices of the UN in Brussels under the coordination of the United Nations Regional Information Center (UNRIC) and in partnership with the City of Brussels and Brussels Majors Events (BME).