Focusing on the theme “One Earth, One United Nations,” the world body hopes to showcase the breadth of its work at its state-of-the-art pavilion the World Exposition in Shanghai, China, which kicked off today and is expected to draw 70 million people.
“We will present the positive image of the UN family, and allow visitors to know our objectives, missions and activities,” Awni Behnam, Commissioner General of the UN Pavilion, has said about the 32,000-square-foot pavilion.
Divided into three main areas, the building was designed to be a spectacle of LCD monitors, colourful multi-media technological exhibits and UN product displays.
Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon will deliver two video messages on some of the screens.
The theme of the Expo is “Better City, Better Life,” recognizing that more than half of the world's population in now urban and growing rapidly, and has particular significance for China, home to nearly one quarter of the world's 1,000 largest cities.
This year's Expo is the first to be held in a developing country.
Given its ties with the overarching theme, the UN Human Settlements Programme (UN-HABITAT), the agency leading the world body's effort on sustainable urban development, is coordinating its presence at the Expo.
UN-HABITAT Executive Director Anna Tibaijuka and Mr. Behnam were slated to cut the ribbon officially opening the pavilion today.
Over the next few days, they will be joined in presentations and on panels by General Assembly President Ali Treki Irina Bokova, Director-General of the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) award-winning actor and climate change advocate Forest Whitaker and World Food Programme (WFP) Ambassador Against Hunger Li Ning.
One of the sections of the pavilion contains 192 chairs, representing all of the UN Member States, reminiscent of the General Assembly Hall in New York where representatives gather to discuss world issues.
This year at the high-level opening of the General Assembly in New York, the Secretary-General will host a summit on speeding up progress towards reaching the universally agreed-upon Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), eight anti-poverty targets, by their 2015 deadline.
Similarly, participants at the Shanghai Expo can attend meetings and talks in the UN Pavilion forum area, the only non-invitation one at the Expo.
“This is an opportunity for people from all walks of life, from civil society to world leaders, from students to celebrities, to come together to debate how best to tackle these issues so that everyone can benefit from urban life,” Jeanette Elsworth, Public Information Officer for the UN Pavilion, told the UN News Centre.
“Dialogue is what the UN is all about and we hope to welcome as many people as possible to the Pavilion to share their views.”
One of the biggest exhibits in the pavilion is called “6 Billion Others.” Featuring hundreds of television screens showing clips from a film by Yann Arthus-Bertrand, it shows how more than 600 people and communities in 17 countries are confronting climate challenge.
“I fear the sea. The sea is my only fear. Where will we go? The water is coming closer every day, the country is worsening day by day. I have never seen this before,” a fisherman in Bangladesh tells the camera.
The testimonies are based on questions from the Nobel Peace Prize-winning Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), which was set up by the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) and the World Meteorological Organization (WMO).