17 May 2024 Urban biodiversity oasis in Geneva’s UN Headquarters

The Ariana Park, Home to UN Offices

The heart of the UN offices in Geneva, the Palais des Nations building complex, is found in Ariana park. This unexpectedly large green area of 46 hectares, equivalent to 65 football fields, is still within the city, overlooking Lake Geneva and the Mont-Blanc. 

There we find buildings and artifacts revealing the use of the park while still in the ownership of the Revilliod de Rive family. Their last descendant donated it to the city, which in turn made it available to the League of Nations, now United Nations, for as long as they exist. UN personnel work in 19th century villas that now host different entities and agencies and impressive buildings of the classicism and modernism architectural styles from the ‘30s and ‘70s. The latter are currently being renovated to accommodate modern day needs and accessibility requirements. The park is home also to numerous art works exposed in the open air. They were donated by countries to the United Nations to mark important moments in human history, such as the end of the World Wars and the conquest of space.

Urban Parks and Biodiversity 

Emblematic parks such as this one were traditionally groomed with certain aesthetics: fields of well-arranged grass lawn, annual flower beds , and an overall constructed nature that offered an uninterrupted human experience. Such interventions were not ideal for biodiversity and species seeking refuge in urban green areas. In the context of the triple planetary crisis, this model of green space is being challenged worldwide by movements and new legal frameworks that push towards forest gardens, reintroduction of more resilient native species and bans in the use of chemical pesticides.  

Current trends of biodiversity loss and ecosystem degradation undermine progress towards 80% of the assessed targets of the SDGs, also affecting directly human health, well-being, security, and economic development. The UN System released the Common approach to biodiversity and a supporting document with 50+ ways to integrate biodiversity and nature-based solutions.  

Ariana Park turns into a Hub for Biodiversity 

Thanks to the initiative of the Facilities Management Service, in charge of Ariana Park, as well as the support of the Director-General, a shift in the management of the park was achieved. Supporting biodiversity meant adapting techniques to help diverse flora and fauna to thrive within one of the largest decision-making centres in the world, that hosts about 8,000 meetings per year.  

A series of interventions took place: 

  • Avoiding synthetic pesticides in favour of natural controls; 

  • Allowing wild grass and flowers to grow and leavingareas of grass uncut when mowing as a refuge for insects; 

  • Installing nesting boxes, leaving dead wood for insects and other shelters for animals that require temporary protection or refuge; 

  • Reintroducing native flowers that are less dependent on water, significantly contributing to a 66% reduction in water consumption at the Palais. 

  • Circular use ofgarden waste through composting and mulching, as well as donation as animal feed. 

  • Change of lighting practices for fauna protection and energy savings 

In 2023, a biodiversity inventory was carried out with the help of a biodiversity consulting firm. This showed the impact of the measures in place, identifying 38 nesting birds, and a plethora of insect species, several of which are endangered and/or part of the list of national priority species of Switzerland. 

Image removed.

Next steps 

The biodiversity inventory will inform suitable management approaches for the park. , with the aim of adding to Ariana Park’s ecological value. 

Staff are encouraged to discover the biodiversity in the park and share their experience through video material, photos and articles. Every week a species from the park is introduced on the UNOG Intranet. Additionally, UNOG dedicated a plot of land to the UNOG Staff Gardening Club, where staff have the chance to plant their own vegetables and learn from each other. UNOG Gardeners also informally share their knowledge with the Gardening Club.

More information on the Ariana Park: 


Article written by Ilektra Papadaki from UNEP based on input and interviews with Henrik Distel and Chloe Brown from UNOG.

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