Some time this month, in an early landmark during the United Nations’ 60th anniversary year, a man, woman or child will become the 38 millionth visitor to take a guided tour of the UN’s New York Headquarters in a series that began 52 years ago to bring home to the general public the importance of the world body’s role.
“Our guided tours not only become treasured memories for people visiting New York from around the world, but they also play an important role in shaping people’s perceptions of the world body,” UN Under-Secretary-General for Communications and Public Information Shashi Tharoor says.
The United Nations is one of New York City’s most visited destinations where world politics, history, renowned architecture and art converge and the guides are the most direct link between it and the general public.
During this anniversary year, when the UN is focused on renewal – on new international threats and challenges, and ways to ensure the international system is up to the task of dealing with them – the tours provide answers to questions from the public about the wide range of UN activities around the world.
Ten young women began giving tours in November 1952, and traffic on the route grew quickly, reaching its peak in 1964 during the World’s Fair with over 1.2 million visitors. The UN suspended the tours following the 11 September 2001 terrorist attacks on New York, shortly after receiving its 37 millionth visitor, but resumed them a month later as part of an effort to keep Headquarters accessible to the public.
A new group of 21 multilingual guides will be trained next month to supplement the existing team of 32, who are gearing up for the “spring rush,” when thousands of school groups descend upon UN Headquarters on their field trips. Children and students constitute over 40 per cent of visitors.