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Outside the UN headquarters in Geneva, the flags of the member states are flown in the 'Allée des Drapeaux'. However, looking at photos of the flags, they never appear to be flown in the same order.

Consider the following two photos; according to Google Streetview the left was captured in 2017, while the right was captured in 2019. The flags shown at the front in both images separated from the others appear to be those of Vatican City & Palestine, which makes sense as they are observer members of the body rather than full members. Behind them, however, appear to be the flags of Belize and Benin in the left-hand image, and the flags of Gambia and Georgia in the right-hand image.

I presume it's something to do with alphabetical order, as the UN FAQ states:

Q: How are the flags raised outside the UN Headquarters in New York?

A: The flags are raised manually by UN Security officers every weekday morning at approximately 8am and lowered every weekday at around 4pm, except in the cases of bad weather. The flags are organized in English alphabetical order from north to south. On weekends, only the UN flag is raised.

What are the rules for the arrangement of the flags in Geneva?

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    Is it possible that they follow the same convention used for seating in the UN General Assembly, namely: alphabetical order in English, but with the occupant of the "first" seat chosen at random every year, so that countries end up sitting in a different part of the chamber every year (link)? Dec 22, 2022 at 11:50
  • @SteveMelnikoff something like that would definitely explain it... I wonder if the problem with my google-fu is that the regulations are written in French rather than English
    – CDJB
    Dec 22, 2022 at 11:54
  • A quick search in french gives me this. The title says: UN headquarters. Members flag, in alphabetical order. New York city. United states (fast translation by me). I cannot find anything else. Dec 22, 2022 at 12:14
  • I would have thought it was by order of signing on board to be member of the UN - with some nuance for founding members. Not sure though....
    – ouflak
    Dec 23, 2022 at 13:22

1 Answer 1

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In the absence of a definitive source on the web, I contacted the United Nations Office at Geneva, and received the following reply:

E-mail from the UN

Transcript of the relevant part:

The order of the flags in the flag Allee is set up alphabetically.

And yes, the order changes every year as per the GA [UN General Assembly] seating.  So this year the first flag is BELIZE.

"Allee" refers to the Allée des Nations, i.e. the lines of flags which appear in the photos above.

Note that "as per the GA" is literal: as of the 2022-2023 General Assembly session, Belize is the first flag here, and also occupies the first desk at the GA (list of "first" countries).

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