Chapter 1

drawing from the past 


For 100 years, multilateral activities in Geneva have been key to working for global peace, rights and well-being. Held throughout 2019, the #Multilateralism100 campaign was organized to mark the centenary of international cooperation in the Capital of Peace.

“As we celebrate 100 years of multilateralism this year and  the seventy-fifth anniversary of the United Nations next year, we need, more than ever, to strongly support multilateralism,” said UN Geneva Director-General Tatiana Valovaya. “We need a more modern approach to multilateralism, one that is inclusive and collaborative. In today’s interconnected and interdependent world, governments and intergovernmental organizations alone cannot effectively address complex global challenges such as climate change, conflicts, development and migration.”

Through discussions, events, exhibitions, and archival photos and documents, the #Multilateralism100 campaign transmitted stories on the growth and evolution of multilateralism over the years and important messages about the ever-present need to strengthen the multilateral system in Geneva.

historical places

Building upon our foundation

The date 7 September 2019 marked the ninetieth anniversary of the laying of the foundation stone of the Palais des Nations. The building stands today as a monument to multilateralism. It represents international cooperation and all the decisions made here that have helped shape world history. Since 1929, the Palais des Nations has not only witnessed the advancement of peace and the promotion of human rights, but it has also played a role in their realization. The Strategic Heritage Plan construction and renovation project now under way will ensure that the Palais des Nations continues to serve the next generation in a safe, cost-effective and sustainable manner to support the UN’s mission of working for peace, rights and well-being.

“The Palais ties together the lessons of history, the efforts of today and our vision for a better tomorrow. It is our shared heritage, and it is our collective responsibility to preserve it,” said David McCuaig, Project Director of the Strategic Heritage Plan.

Watch the 1929 ceremony of the laying
of the foundation stone of the Palais des Nations.



  • The initial layout of the building included four areas: the Secretariat (S Building), the Council (C Building), the Assemblies (A Building) and the Library (B Building).
  • The buildings were erected between 1929 and 1938 and donations from Member States contributed greatly to their interior design.
  • The foundation stone itself contains a time capsule with a list of the Member States of the League of Nations, a copy of the Covenant of the League of Nations and coins from each of the 54 Member States present at the tenth Assembly.
  • In 1946, the United Nations moved into the Palais des Nations and, over the years, continued to expand the campus to meet the growing needs of the Organization. Between 1950 and 1952, three floors were added to the S Building and the D Building was constructed.
  • Between 1968 and 1973, the E building was constructed to host the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development and to provide more conference facilities. It was designed by a team of five architects led by Eugène Beaudoin, of France.
  • Construction of the H Building began in 2017. This building will support UN Geneva efforts to become a more modern and sustainable organization, and will be open in 2020.
  • The overall Palais des Nations complex is nearly 1 km long, and includes 34 conference rooms and 2,800 offices, making it the second-largest United Nations centre after Headquarters in New York.
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© UN Archives Geneva

Chap1_Building upon foundation_2

© UN Archives Geneva

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© UN Archives Geneva


evolution of research and international understanding


© UN Photo - Josie Bauman

The UN Library Geneva is the oldest in the United Nations system. This centre for learning and knowledge was established in 1919 as the League of Nations Library. It later received an endowment from John D. Rockefeller Jr., and ultimately moved to the Palais des Nations. Becoming part of the UN in 1946, the Library has grown to serve staff, diplomats and a global research community.

Celebrating its 100th anniversary in 2019, the Library continues to evolve and to broaden its offerings, which include the custodial preservation of the Organization’s historical archives and of its collection of artwork. The Library also represents the cultural diplomacy arm of UN Geneva and is home to the UN Museum Geneva. By supporting the Knowledge and Learning Commons, the Library empowers staff and diplomats to develop their skills, creating a more sustainable organization.

Expanding on its mission, the Library continues to grow as an international centre for research, offering an extensive resource collection to ensure that academic lessons learned through multilateralism and cooperation are easily accessible all around the world.

Watch the celebration of the 100th anniversary of the Library

See three different periods in the history of the UN Library Geneva


© UN Photo - Adam Kane

historical places

The sarcophagus of Revilliod 

01-5a-UN Photo-Adam Kane

© UN Archives Geneva

Gustave Revilliod, born in 1817, was the last descendant of an affluent French family that settled in Geneva in the sixteenth century. He spent much of his life travelling the world collecting art, which he housed in the Ariana Museum. He was the founder of the museum, and named it after his mother.

He passed away in Egypt in 1890. Having a special affection for Geneva, he requested that his final resting place be an unmarked grave in a grove of oak trees on his property, Ariana Park. In his will, he bequeathed the expansive park to the City of Geneva. Years later, the City allowed the League of Nations and then the United Nations to construct their offices on the land and be the caretakers of the park.

To this day, tucked away within a hedge of common yew at the foot of an oak tree, behind the UN Library Geneva, rests the sarcophagus of Gustave Revilliod.

Records management

ensuring the preservation of another 100 years of institutional memory

Chap1_Record Management

© UN Library Geneva - Alyni Lima

Maintaining and preserving United Nations records is vital to the future evolution and growth of the multilateral system. Records tell the story of how the United Nations carries out its work, and how it is developing its role of supporting international cooperation.

The UN Library Geneva provides advice, research assistance and services relating to records and information management to ensure the continued preservation and longevity of these vital documents.

The extensive collection is housed in more than 8 linear kilometres of physical records in 17 repositories, and comprises almost 1 terabyte of electronic records.

Seeking to remind staff about the value of preserving records, the Library conducted a series of training sessions throughout 2019 and collaborated on events such as the Library Fair and UN Geneva’s Clean Desk Day.

UN Museum Geneva

successes in a century of multilateralism

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© UN Photo - Adam Kane

The essence of 100 Years of Multilateralism in Geneva was captured through an exhibition installed in the UN Museum Geneva. The exhibition was one of three in Geneva in 2019, coordinated as part of a collaboration between the Fondation Martin Bodmer, the International Committee of the Red Cross and UN Geneva. A book featuring a foreword by the Secretary-General of the United Nations, António Guterres, was published to record the exhibitions and highlight the unique artefacts on display.

The exhibition at the UN Museum Geneva focused specifically on the evolution of multilateralism over the past 100 years, stretching from the establishment of the League of Nations to the transition and growth of the United Nations in Geneva. Historical objects and archival documents depicting various aspects of multilateral cooperation were displayed through physical pieces and archival documents, some of which were being shown publicly
for the first time.

The exhibition depicted the developments that have occurred in Geneva over the past century that have led it to becoming known as the Capital of Peace. On display were several Nobel Peace Prizes, including the Nobel Peace Prize awarded in 2001 to Secretary-General Kofi Annan and the United Nations, early drafts from the San Francisco Conference, documents from the Locarno Treaties, a Nansen passport for refugees, and letters and handwritten notes by dignitaries such as Nelson Mandela, Woodrow Wilson, Henri Dunant, Alfred Nobel and Trygve Lie.

100 years of multilateralism