The flag of the United Nations will fly over Newcastle’s civic centre to mark the newly forged relationship between the city and the global organisation’s Institute for Training and Research (UNITAR).
Newcastle became the 15th city in the world to host a UNITAR centre, a research and training hub, following the signing of an agreement in Geneva, Switzerland, in November. The centre is the first in Australasia and makes Newcastle an official ‘UN city’.
A UN ensign was presented to Lord Mayor Nuatali Nelmes and University of Newcastle Vice-Chancellor Professor Caroline McMillen by UNITAR director Alexander Mejia on Thursday.
"Newcastle is receiving today the United Nations flag as a testament to its commitment to the future of our planet," Mr Mejia said.
The Newcastle centre will focus on disaster preparedness and reconstruction, sustainable development and urban resilience.
The flag was raised in Civic Park but will fly over city hall once restoration of the building is complete.
Cr Nelmes said it was a proud day for Newcastle.
"Other cities hosting training centres for future leaders include Atlanta, Geneva and Shanghai, so to be mentioned among them is a testament to the collective strength of Newcastle's port, airport, defence, university and industrial sectors.
“Newcastle has proven its resilience in natural disasters. We pulled through the 1989 earthquake and Pasha Bulker storm, bounced back strongly from the closure of part of the BHP's steelworks and coalmining downturn, and as a council we recognise the capacity of industry and organisations clustered in and around our city to help mitigate the effects of natural disasters and industrial downturns in the Asia-Pacific.”
The Newcastle UNITAR centre will draw on the strengths of the university’s School of Architecture and Built Environment in the fields of disaster preparedness and sustainable development.
Professor McMillen said the centre would cement Newcastle and the Hunter’s position as a globally engaged hub.
“It will enable us to be part of a network of centres that are focused on tackling some of the world’s key challenges," she said.
“The centre will build on the academic strengths of the university in disaster recovery disciplines and help our researchers and partners shape cutting-edge programs that make a real difference to communities around the world coping with the aftermath of disaster."
Mr Mejia said the UNITAR hub would put Newcastle at the centre of the UN’s 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.
"The ideals that this flag represent are embraced here and we present our respects to its citizens. The 21st century will be the century of cities and of city-to-city diplomacy,” he said.
"Newcastle is now part of a network of cities that will not only take diplomacy to a new level, but that will be at the centre of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development."