World at a Glance: The Broken Chair of Geneva

Broken chair in front of UN headquarters, Geneva

As this is published, I’m on my way to Geneva for a closer look at some of Switzerland’s heritage sites. I haven’t been in town for about four years now, but during my civil servant days, I was frequently in Geneva, participating in various UN committees. Then, on my way to work every morning, I’d stop and have a look at this broken chair across the street from the UN headquarters, Palais des Nations.

It’s a substantial sculpture: 12 metres high and made of more than 5 tonnes of wood. It’s also a sculpture fraught with symbolism, showing opposition to cluster bombs and land mines.

Originally set up in connection with the Ottawa Treaty on banning land mines in 1997, it was meant to remain in place for three months until the treaty was signed. Some countries have yet to sign the mine-ban treaty, including most of the permanent members of the Security Council.

The chair was taken down in 2005 for renovation works at the UN, but put back up two years later in connection with the convention on banning cluster bombs, signed in 2008 in Oslo. 84 countries are party to the convention, again (unsurprisingly perhaps) lacking some of the major players.

Sadly appropriate then, that the sculpture still stands.

World at a Glance is a series of short articles here on Sophie’s World, with a single photo, portraying curious, evocative, happy, sad or wondrous unexpected little encounters.



10 Responses to “World at a Glance: The Broken Chair of Geneva”

  1. Muza-chan 15 May 2014 0708 #

    Interesting story…

    • Anne-Sophie Redisch 25 May 2014 2319 #

      Interesting and sad.

  2. Maria Falvey 15 May 2014 0754 #

    Great when a work of public art offers perspective as this one can. Kudos for the find and the share.

    • Anne-Sophie Redisch 25 May 2014 2321 #

      I like that people working at the UN, from all countries, can see this chair every day – and hopefully be inspired to take the message back to their home countries.

  3. Lisa Goodmurphy 16 May 2014 2222 #

    We saw the Broken Chair as we were driving through Geneva on a brief visit a couple of years ago. It’s such a poignant memorial to land mine victims and it’s really hard to believe that so many countries are unwilling to sign the treaty to ban land mines.

    • Anne-Sophie Redisch 25 May 2014 2322 #

      Politics – and business. Sad.

  4. Cathy Sweeney 17 May 2014 0052 #

    Yes, that is very sad that the ban has not been signed by all. I somehow missed this sculpture when I was in Geneva – very interesting and profound symbolism.

    • Anne-Sophie Redisch 25 May 2014 2323 #

      It’s out by the UN, so not exactly in the city centre.

  5. Marcia 17 May 2014 1305 #

    A very poignant symbol. Sadly, it doesn’t surprise me to see who’s not on the list. It just makes you wonder why, what’s the rationale for not being part of something so straightforward and simple.
    There was a time when working for the UN was my main goal. Then I realized how frustrating it’d be to work for an organization whose ideals most of its members only pay lip service to.

    • Anne-Sophie Redisch 25 May 2014 2325 #

      I know what you mean. Frustrating work, but very necessary.

Leave a Reply