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Festive activities mark Vienna’s big day
31 August 2009 / 12:16

[Dateline: Vienna | Author: UNIS Vienna]

Secretary-General BAN Ki-moon last week graced the occasion of the 30th anniversary of the Vienna International Centre (VIC) as he joined staff and a host of high-level dignitaries at the UN Headquarters in Vienna, Austria to take part in the ongoing celebration.

About 1,000 people, including Austrian government officials, heads of Vienna-based UN organizations, diplomats, civil society representatives, media, the private sector and staff members attended the ceremony organized by the Austrian Government to mark the anniversary.

The Secretary-General gave the keynote speech and speaking in German, thanked the Austria government for its significant contribution to the United Nations. “When this Centre opened its doors in 1979, it was a bridge between East and West during the Cold War. Now it is a twenty-first century hub for addressing human security issues at the heart of a united Europe.”

The Secretary-General spoke of the importance of the work of all the Vienna-based UN organizations, saying, “From outer space to the human heart, this Vienna International Centre has done far more than witness history; it has brought great progress to our world.”

He also spoke of the Austrian spirit of service as exemplified by the story of a young Austrian United Nations Volunteer working in Somalia who continued with her work to help Somalis in need despite being attacked.

Austrian Pop Band, My Excellence, performed live and for the first time, played the new song titled, "Seal the Deal," composed to promote the Secretary-General’s ‘Seal the Deal!’ campaign on climate change. There were also musical performances of the Voices for Peace by Timna Brauer and Elias Meiri Ensemble featuring Marwan Abado.

The Secretary-General thanked the band for supporting his campaign to reach an effective agreement at the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen in December and met Vienna staff members in a town hall meeting after.

“Since becoming a member of the United Nations Austria has consistently endeavoured to support this organization in the best possible way and I can reassure you that the same will be the case in the future,” said the Austrian Federal President, Heinz Fischer.

He also spoke of Austria’s commitment to peacekeeping.

Welcoming the Secretary-General, the Austrian Federal Minister for European and International Affairs, Michael Spindelegger, said the day’s ceremony acknowledged both the achievements of the UN and its entities based in Vienna, and Austria’s commitment to the UN.

“Constructive dialogue and solution-oriented thinking - the so-called Vienna Spirit - have always been major characteristics of international organizations here in Vienna. You are all excellent examples of this spirit,” he said of the Vienna-based staff, and thanked them.

The UN building, known to the Viennese as ‘UNO-City’, has become a true landmark of Vienna, said the Mayor of Vienna, Michael Häupl, “The prominent building has shaped the skyline of modern Vienna from the very beginning. It is a symbol of Vienna as a modern and open minded city.”

After attending a working luncheon hosted by the Foreign Minister, the Secretary-General proceeded to the Austrian President’s summer residence in Muerzsteg before continuing his journey to deliver the opening statement at the European Forum Alpbach Political Symposium 2009, on the topic: Trust between individuals and states.

Facing Nations: a unique art project

As part of the celebrations for the 30th anniversary of the VIC, a unique art project initiated by the ORF (Austrian broadcasting corporation) Styria studio, and supported by UNIS Vienna is on display in the Rotunda of the VIC.

The exhibition, known as Facing Nations, was launched on the 60th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in Graz, Styria and will now be on display at the Rotunda until the end of the year. It is a unique artistic and social initiative of 124 persons from 124 different nationalities who live in the small Styrian city of Graz.

The larger-than-life portraits, by Austrian artist Oskar Stocker, combine in a 150-meter long circular panorama of humanity.  The portraits are accompanied with excerpts of interviews with the people who are depicted, giving each individual a voice and a face, aiming to show the diversity of humanity. The persons in the portraits come from all walks of life and represent not only many nations but also different colours, religions, political convictions, social groups and both genders.

The subjects were chosen at random and include opera singers, university professors, stay-at-home mothers as well as refugees and asylum seekers. The exhibition also focuses on the dignity and basic humanity that is shared by all.

All the portraits are displayed at the same level, allowing people to come face-to-face with a cross-section of the global population, all of who share the same rights as outlined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

The exhibition will be on public display until the end of the year with special daily guided tours beginning 7 September, accompanied by an informative catalogue and a booklet with interview excerpts.

The hope is to have the exhibition travel to other UN office headquarters and to add more portraits in order to have at least one representative from each of the 192 Member States.

UNIS Vienna is urging those whose countries are currently not represented to contact ORF Styria to sign up to have their portrait added. Please contact UNIS Vienna ( or ORF Styria directly via their dedicated web site: