Art for human rights

On 18 November, the ‘Human Rights and Alliance of Civilizations’ room was inaugurated by King Juan Carlos and Queen Sofia of Spain and United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon at the Palais des Nations in Geneva. A unique ceiling painting was created by Spanish abstract artist Miquel Barceló for the room which will be the home of the Human Rights Council.

Inauguration of ‘Human Rights and Alliance of Civilizations’ room at the United Nations in Geneva, home of the Human Rights Council. © Jean-Marc FERRE©UNPhotoSome 700 invited guests attended the opening ceremony, which was also addressed by Switzerland’s Federal President Pascal Couchepin, Spain’s Prime Minister José Luis Rodriguez Zapatero, Turkey’s Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and the Foreign Minister of Spain, Miguel Angel Moratinos.

The renovation of the room, which includes state-of-the-art technology equipment, and the dome sculpture were funded through ONUART Foundation, a Spanish non-profit, public-private partnership established by the Spanish Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Cooperation aimed at promoting the use of contemporary Spanish art to promote dialogue and multilateralism.

Accepting the gift on behalf of the Organization, the Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon welcomed the name given to the chamber. “Human rights are a fundamental part of the work of the United Nations and of the Organization’s very identity,” he said. “The Alliance of Civilizations, for its part, is a very important and practical initiative that is linked intrinsically to human rights, and which has already succeeded in overcoming barriers of distrust.”

King Juan Carlos of Spain during the inauguration of the new ‘Human Rights and Alliance of Civilizations’ room at the United Nations in Geneva. © Jean-Marc FERRE©UNPhotoThe Secretary-General said he was pleased to be inaugurating this room on the eve of the 60th anniversary of the Universal Declaration on Human Rights. “The anniversary is an opportunity to reaffirm our commitment to the principles of the Declaration and to redouble our efforts to make them a reality for all,” he added.

The Alliance of Civilization was established in 2005, at the initiative of the Governments of Spain and Turkey, under the auspices of the United Nations. A High-level Group of experts was formed by former Secretary-General Kofi Annan to explore the roots of polarization between cultures today, and to recommend a practical programme of action to address this issue.

The new dome consists of many layers of paint of different colours, composed of pigments from across the globe and sprayed onto the ceiling to create stalactites whose colours vary according to the different perspectives. More than 30 tonnes of paint were used to cover the 1,500-square-meter dome ceiling. “All of it is a sea upside down, but it is also a cave,” Barceló said. “The complete union of opposites, the ocean surface of the Earth and its most concealed cavities.”

November 2008