A New United Nations City
BY “AWAKE!” CORRESPONDENT IN AUSTRIA
FOR decades certain Austrians have desired to stress the neutrality of this country by making it a crossroads between East, West, North and South. In recent years considerable efforts have been made to establish at Vienna a “U.N. City” as a place of operation for various organizations of the United Nations.
Steps toward that goal have been under way since 1957, when the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) set up permanent headquarters at Vienna. Ten years later, Vienna was chosen as headquarters for the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO). In the same year (1967), the Federal Government of Austria offered to build permanent headquarters buildings for the IAEA and UNIDO, as well as for several other U.N. organizations, whose transfer to Vienna has now been decided.
The U.N.-City complex, construction on which began in April 1973, provides office space for 4,700 employees. This is about 1,000 office spaces more than are available at the world headquarters building of the United Nations in New York city.
Who Will Move In?
The following U.N. organizations that are already located in Vienna will move into the buildings: UNIDO, IAEA, UNRWA (United Nations Relief and Works Agency), UNHCR (United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees) and UNSCEAR (United Nations Scientific Community on the Effects of Atomic Radiation).
Besides these, the following U.N. units will be transferred to Vienna from either New York or Geneva: Center for Social Development and Human Affairs, Social Affairs Division, Center for International Trade Law, Division of Narcotic Drugs, International Narcotics Control Board and Fund for Drug Abuse Control.
Reports indicate that a number of U.N. employees resisted the move to Vienna. During weeks preceding the 33rd General Assembly on December 21, 1978, an anonymous leaflet was circulated in New York’s U.N. building with various arguments against the transfer. In spite of this, with 83 Yes votes and eight votes of abstention the General Assembly decided in favor of the full use of the Vienna facilities.
In addition to the medical center already located at U.N. City, there are plans to build a private hospital for employees in the vicinity. The project is expected to cost 300 million AS (an Austrian shilling is currently worth about 7c [U.S.]). For the protection of employees, it is planned that 100 to 120 armed policemen serve with unarmed U.N. security guards. Services for U.N. employees also include an association called “Wien International.” This organization provides language courses and assistance in matters such as housing, finance, legal rights and health. Available too will be around-the-clock telephone service, a four-language information circular, and other services.
During a time of economic stagnation the construction project has had good effects on local business. Of 466 orders, only 13 were given to non-Austrian firms. The project proved to be a sizable contribution to job security. More than 90 percent of construction expenditures remained within the country.
Though thousands of U.N. employees living in Vienna get paid in foreign currency, most of them spend it within Austria—the equivalent of one billion AS a year. Also, U.N. organizations give many orders for projects in the “third world” to Austrian firms. Economic benefits will increase as Vienna is tied in more and more with the permanent conference calendar of the U.N.
An inauguration program is planned for August 23 to September 25, 1979. Those in attendance will include delegations from an estimated 140 countries. The program will be broadcast live around the world by satellite.
What about the United Nations building in New York? It will remain the center of most U.N. functions. But as United Nations activities continue to expand and require increased personnel, plenty of use will be made of U.N. City at Vienna.