Friday, 22 January 2016

United Nations

The United Nations (UN) flag and emblem is perhaps one of the most famous and well known flags in the modern world, and is seen as a symbol of international cooperation and the strive for world peace. However from a Vexillology view I don't think its actually good flag for a worldwide international organization in fact it isn't really much better than a seal/shield on a bed sheet design commonly found in municipal flags, rather than an international flag of a form of world government. Of course it is extremely difficult to create a flag like the UN flag. Such a flag has to be relevant to all member states which currently number 193 sovereign nations plus two observers who are not members. It can't have any religious symbols, or any references to political systems. Also different regions of the world have different heraldic traditions to name only a few considerations so it is extremely difficult to make a simple flag that can be agreed to by everyone.  Hence the map of the world and olive branches which are more or less a universal symbol of peace. According to the UN website the symbolism is:
"Olive branches symbolize peace. The world map depicts the area of concern to the United Nations in achieving its main purpose, peace and security."
I decided to see if I could improve on the design a little. My first thought was to hark back to the origins of the UN and have something along the lines of the "four freedoms flag" which I had based flags on before (notably my WW2 Allied flag).
The four freedoms flag, proposed as an early UN flag
(but never had official status)
At the same time though I didn't want to completely get rid of the globe and olive symbol, Not least  because of the flags it has inspired in fiction. As I am sure every Star Trek fan is aware of, the flag of the Federation bear a clear similarity to the UN flag:
flag of the Federation from Star Trek
The flag of the pre-Federation United Earth in the Star Trek: Enterprise series also seems to be loosely based on the UN flag.  Staying with Sci-fi (sort of ) the Democratic Order of Planets (DOOP) flag from the animated comedy Futurama has a resemblance to the UN flag as does the flag of the Allied Nations in the movie Street Fighters and the video game Mercenaries. The fact that it has been mimicked so much demonstrates that the globe and olive branches has a universally recognised symbol and I don't want to abandon it completely. My first attempt was this:
I thought the current map of the world globe was way too complicated, so I simplified it to depicting the lines of longitude and latitude. Similar but not exactly the same as the globe on the flag of the Commonwealth of Nations. I also included four bars as a reference to the Four Freedoms flag. However this is to symbolise the nations and individuals who in the dark days of WW2 had the vision to establish a worldwide organisation dedicated to the peace and security of the planet, rather than the four freedoms symbolised in the original flag (which have been surpassed by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights). I also though of using a darker blue but decided against it as not only is it as recognisable as the globe emblem but is directly influenced the shades of blue used on national flags, such as Somalia. While I was happy with the symbols and symbolism I wasn't happy with how the flag looked. I tried a handful of variations (none of which I liked) until I decided to simplify again and came up with this:

I centralised the stripes, and symbolized the globe to a blue oval (Earth is the blue planet after all). However I was still unhappy with it, not because of the design itself but because it didn't resemble the laurel and globe of the actual UN flag. I could of course put this inside the blue circle, but it didn't seem right to me, to put a globe inside another globe. However I remembered the International Earth flag proposed by Oskar Pernefeldt:
Flag of Planet Earth proposed by Oskar Pernefeldt
He used a seven rings to make a flower (symbol of life) the fact that the rings are linked (like the Olympic flag) symbolises how everything is linked, however they could also symbolise the Unity of the nations of world. I decided to adopt this "Earth symbol" into my UN flag:
I think this works well, it keeps in the design a similar looking emblem to the current UN one, and it doesn't compromise on the symbolism of the globe or bars. The inclusion of the "Earth" symbol could even symbolise the hope for a future united Earth.
What I also like about this flag is that you can modify it for UN organisations but unlike the current flags of UN organisations keep the main symbolism of the globe and bars. For example the flag of the United Nations Assembly could look like:
Likewise the flag of the World Health Organisation could be this:
Just two examples of the variations that could be achieved. Unlike the current UN flag, this flag will also be easily recognizable when there is no wind.  

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