Vienna is host to one of four United Nations offices in the world, besides New York, Geneva and Nairobi. The office here was established in 1980, though the International Atomic Energy Agency had established their headquarters in Vienna as early as 1957, followed by the United Nations Industrial Development Organization in 1967. Vienna is a logical place for some of the UN work due to its neutral status and central location in Europe.
The UN office in Vienna is housed in the Vienna International Centre, a massive khaki and orange complex not far from the Danube River. The complex is owned by the Austrian government, but the UN pays a symbolic rent of €1 per year. Austrian law provides squatter’s rights to anyone living in a place without paying rent for 30 years, so this symbolic rent maintains Austrian ownership of the facilities.
The United Nations currently has 193 member states and two non-member states (Holy See and Palestine). Art in the complex reflects this multiculturalism, with pieces donated from all over the world.
Visits to the UN are open to anyone – I went with my cohort mates one afternoon and was fascinated to see the inside of such an important organization.
Title quote: Just one part of the Preamble to the UN Charter, 1945. Read the whole charter here.