Trudeau announces $6.2-billion relocation of United Nations headquarters to Toronto
As a middle power, Canada no longer wants to sit on the sidelines, and Toronto’s place as the “centre of the universe” could have a whole new meaning.
In an unprecedented show of support for renewed internationalism and multilateralism — rejecting the rising global tide of unilateralism and protectionism — Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced this morning Canada has submitted a formal proposal to the United Nations (UN) to have its headquarters moved from New York City to a new secure, state-of-the-art campus dubbed the ‘Global Village’ on a Lake Ontario waterfront site on the Portlands, just east of downtown Toronto.
This will effectively turn Toronto into the world’s capital city. The federal government will fund the construction of the $6.2-billion headquarters campus at no cost to the UN, as well as cover annual operations and maintenance costs of the complex.
“Canada has begun the process of signalling a new era for the United Nations by providing the organization with
a new fully-funded central headquarters near downtown Toronto,” Trudeau said in a release.
“Our government is promising openness and new Canadian leadership on matters that relate to all Canadians and contributes to our country’s standing in the world. We believe in the collective goal of creating a world that is better and safer, and more sustainable, prosperous, and just. Canada’s resolve for supporting and enforcing the principles of the United Nations has never been greater.”
Additionally, if the UN moves to Toronto, the Canadian federal government will sign an agreement to provide the UN’s regular budget with a significant boost in annual funding that is 30 times larger than Canada’s most recent annual contribution of $76.23 million in 2019.
Trudeau will provide the UN with $2.8 billion annually, starting on the year the UN finalizes the agreement to move the 193-member intergovernmental organization’s headquarters to Canada’s largest city.
Normally, member states contribute an amount that is based on the country’s capability to pay, with a formula that takes into account gross national income, debt, and per capita income. This plan proposed by Canada requires extensive consultation amongst the member nations, UN staff, and a vote in the General Assembly. A formal announcement on the details of the plan will be made at the existing UN headquarters in New York City later today.
A media backgrounder indicates a 60-acre waterfront industrial parcel on the southwest corner of the Portlands will be redeveloped into a 4.5 million sq. ft. headquarters for over 16,000 employees with the UN Community that are currently working at the East River complex in NYC.
These employees work for the UN’s specialized agencies, programmes, funds, affiliates, and missions. A number of green design features—such as a district utility system, rainwater capture system for irrigation and to flush toilets, superior insulation, and passive heating and cooling—will earn the campus a LEED Platinum environmental certification.
The potential exists to integrate some of the headquarters’ utilities and infrastructure with Google’s Sidewalk Labs, which could potentially expand beyond the Quayside district and include a large portion of the Portlands to border the UN headquarters.
The Canadian government assumes the UN will retain ownership of its 1952-built, Rockefeller-funded, 18-acre NYC headquarters, which recently completed a $2-billion renovation. The UN could retain a small portion of its original headquarters office space after the move to Canada, and lease out the building’s remaining spaces to non-profit and nongovernmental organizations or even corporations, providing the UN with a major new source of revenue to help support its programs.
The entire headquarters site in Toronto will be fenced off, declared an international territory that will no longer belong to Canada, and exempt from property taxes.Ample plaza and green spaces between the campus buildings and the perimeter will provide a spacious security buffer.
However, there will be a major publicly accessible component on the periphery of the headquarters site on the northeast corner, where a 180,000-sq-ft, state-of-theart UN history museum and educational centre—named the Kofi Annan United Nations Museum—will be built. This will also be the staging area for regular guided tours of the campus.
Preliminary conceptual artistic rendering of the new United Nations headquarters in the Portlands of Toronto. Not the final design. (Government of Canada).