Open Day at Palais Wilson: Born Free and Equal?

The Palais Wilson serves today as the OHCHR’s Headquarters (that’s the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights). At its founding it was a hotel which went bust in the interwar period and later on became the base of the League of Nations (the precursor to the United Nations we know today).

F and I had been wanting to see inside this classic building for a while and jumped at the opportunity to visit it a few Saturdays ago when they hosted an open day to celebrate the 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) and the 25th anniversary of the UN Human Rights Office. Some parts of the building were not open to the public, since they serve as offices for OHCHR staff, but the bits that we saw were very beautifully preserved. Located right across from Lake Geneva, the view is pretty amazing from the Palais.

The day was planned with families in mind. There was an old printing press that kids could take turns pressing words onto paper with, and a photo booth-like setting where you could take photos free of charge. Smiling families of all shapes, colors, and sizes lined up to have their portrait taken.

There was also a tent set up in the backyard courtyard that housed various OHCHR publications, like booklets with the UDHR in the six official UN languages, as well as posters, pins, and bracelets with various campaign slogans. The staff working the tent were giving out black totes that featured the organization’s name and the words, “Born Free and Equal.” I thought perhaps this made a reference to the millions living in unfree conditions but the organization’s website show the slogan is part of a LGBT rights campaign.

My favorite part was the main meeting room on the second floor and the colorful prints with excerpts from the UDHR that lined its walls.

I leave you with a couple of statements I’d like to highlight:

  1. Everyone has the right to freedom of movement and residence within the borders of each state.
  2. Everyone has the right to leave any country, including his own, and to return to his country.

All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.

 

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