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Updated on 3 April 2019


Section 9:   Place of meeting at Headquarters


Germany convenes meeting in Chamber with open curtains, after decades of caution owing to 1964 bazooka firing


On 3 April 2019, in a striking symbol of transparency, the German presidency of the Security Council convened two back-to-back meetings[1] in the Council Chamber with the curtains fully open. 


It had long been the practice, primarily for security reasons, for the curtains at the Chamber’s immense floor-to-ceiling windows to be closed virtually around the clock, and particularly during official meetings.  As was described by the author in another book, The Security Council Chamber,[2] keeping the curtains in place to help block any shattering glass was not just a theoretical precaution.  In 1964, when Che Guevara was addressing the General Assembly, Cuban exiles fired a 3.5-inch bazooka at the United Nations from across the East River.  Fortunately, the shell fell about 200 yards from shore, merely sending up a 15-foot geyser of water and scattering a flock of seagulls.  However, a later investigation determined that had the bazooka been properly aimed, its shell would have penetrated the UN building, especially if it had struck a window.


Although no recent Council presidency had opened the curtains during a formal Council meeting, the German initiative was made feasible by an upgrade undertaken during the Capital Master Plan renovations of the Security Council Chamber, completed in 2013.  At that time, replacement windows of shatter-resistant glass were installed, lessening, although not completely eliminating, security concerns. 


The previous year, during the Netherlands March 2018 Council presidency, that delegation broke the ice at least a little by opening the curtains in the Council’s nearby Consultations Room,[3] which also had previously been drawn as a security precaution.


(This update supplements pages 61-62 of the procedure book.)


[1] S/PV.8501 and S/PV.8502.

[2] Loraine Sievers, “The Security Council Chamber through the Eyes of Those Who Meet There”, in The Security Council Chamber, Jørn Holme, ed., Oslo, Forlaget Press, 2108, p. 188.  This book, on page 182, also has a striking photo of Che Guevara, during that same visit to New York, leaning against the Council Chamber wall with a lighted cigar in his hand.




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