The United Nations Office at Geneva (UNOG) inherited a considerable number of works of art from the League of Nations, whose headquarters were located in the same building, the Palais des Nations. Since the Second World War, and especially during the past decade, this collection has been enlarged to a remarkable extent, thanks to many generous donations from the United Nations Member States. Today, the collection comprises a large number of works of art, including sculptures, frescoes, stained glass panels, tapestries, paintings, portrait drawings, engravings, prints, posters and even caricatures. The work of some artists is characterized by the use of unique or unusual materials and techniques.
The UNOG art collection as a whole is unique. Whilst most museums concentrate on certain historical periods or particular schools of art, UNOG is not bound by such limitations. Here at the Palais des Nations the collection reflects an infinite variety, including works by contemporary artists from many different countries, examples of traditional national art, pieces of ancient art and paintings and murals in the European classical tradition. In fact, the UNOG art collection has its own system of “vertical and horizontal coordinates”: a very long period of time is covered and many of the cultures of the world are represented.
Within the United Nations, art does not exist only for its aesthetic values. It also serves one of the Organization's major goals, the promotion of the unity of humankind in all its cultural diversity. On 3 March 1997, the United Nations General Assembly proclaimed the year 2000 as International Year for the Culture of Peace. On 4 November 1998, the General Assembly adopted another important resolution, which proclaimed the year 2001 as the United Nations Year of Dialogue among Civilizations. This resolution reaffirmed the purposes and principles embodied in the Charter of the United Nations, recognized the diverse achievements of human civilizations as evidence of cultural pluralism and creative human diversity, emphasized the importance of tolerance in international relations, noted that tolerance and respect for diversity facilitate universal promotion and protection of human rights, and reaffirmed that the achievements of civilization constitute humanity's collective heritage.
It is, indeed, the cultural pluralism of the modern world, the differences between national cultures, that ultimately encourages the peoples of our planet to share common values.