It must have seemed like a good idea at the time – redesigning the UN logo to mark the 60th anniversary of the world’s most translated document, the UN Human Rights declaration.
After a long search for a new design, a South African artist was commissioned after the UN decided to ditch its blue and white logo in favour of one which the high commissioner for human rights, Louise Arbour, believed would have more resonance in the developing world.
The successful design was unveiled in December last year, when the UN launched a year-long promotion for the 60th anniversary, which is to culminate with ceremonies on 10 December. Nobody noticed any particular significance of the orange and amber logo, showing a person with outstretched arms. When the design was unveiled the artist, Yolande Mulke, said: “I think what the UN likes about it is the continuity of using the wreath device from the UN logo and the feeling of peace and welcoming that the man with his arms wide open projects.”
But four months later, after weeks of protests by the amber-robed Buddhist monks in Tibet as China prepares to hold the Beijing Olympics, the UN has been embarrassed by the logo’s distinctive colours which are also those favoured by the Dalai Lama, the symbol of Tibetan resistance. “It’s a complete accident, we had no idea that the colours were those of Tibet,” said a UN official. The problem for the UN – which recognises China as the ruler of Tibet – is that the logo has been chosen to replace the official UN Human Rights one not only throughout this year but on a permanent basis.
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