There is plenty of culture to be found in Paris, whether it be in the art galleries of the Louvre or Museé D’Orsay, the Opera Garnier, or even in one of the city’s hundreds of parks. But there is another place where you can find culture and so much more….UNESCO. It shouldn’t come as a surprise, afterall, UNESCO stands for United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization. I was well-aware that plenty of people work everyday to protect and advance cultural heritage worldwide but was unaware that I would be so exposed to it every day. The building itself houses its own private art collection. From the Picasso mural that takes up the entire wall near the main meeting rooms, to the Calder mobiles that dot the lawn next to the Japanese Garden, the place is covered in art. There are statues everywhere, both inside and out.
In my first week of my internship I got to witness the dedication of a Golden Buddha statue donated to UNESCO by the Government of Nepal. The ceremony was overseen by the Director General of UNESCO, Irina Bokova and included chanting by Sumatran Monks.
The following week, the delegation from Belarus hosted a troupe of dancers, backed by an orchestra for a live demonstration of an 18th century costume ball in the main hallway.
There have been exhibits on the Syrian Refugee crisis in Turkey and modern art by female African artists. In July we even had a visit by the President of Mexico, Enrique Peña Nieto, who was there to accept the certificate of inscription to the World Heritage List of Mexico’s Aqueduct of Padre Tembleque Hydraulic System.Tomorrow evening I am set to attend an after-hours performance of Bafopaz Ballet presented by a dance troupe from Bolivia.
Of course I would be remiss if I failed to mention the Scientific meetings and conferences that have been occurring this summer and leading up to COP21 this December. July 7-10 UNESCO hosted the International Scientific Conference: Our Common Future Under Climate Change.
Thousands of policy experts, scientists and members of various COP21 Working Groups came together too share their findings most relevant to the upcoming Climate Summit on all topics under the sun related to Climate Change. One of the perks of being a UNESCO intern is that with the badge comes access to these Panels. As I technically had a job to do, I couldn’t go crazy and attend every panel that I would have liked to, but I attended four over the course of the week: Climate Change and Ocean Systems Impacts and Feedback, Observing the Changing Ocean Climate, Ecosystem-based Adaptation & Biodiversity Conservation, and Inequalities, Responsibilities & Equity in Global Climate Policy. The science in a couple of them was way over my head but overall they were very interesting and reinforced a lot of the learnings from Year One at MIIS (particularly Professor Langholz’s Applied Conservation Science course!) At the end of July (which I was not able to attend) UNESCO played host to the meeting of the Open-Ended Ad Hoc Working Group of the Parties to the Montreal Protocol. Now that it is August, the building is much quieter as most people are enjoying their month-long summer holiday outside of Paris.