Hundreds of presidents, prime ministers, diplomats and ambassadors from around the world will be in New York this week - and they will need to use a rainbow-coloured pedestrian crossing to get from their hotels to the main entrance of the United Nations.
Senior Diplomats from the US and the Netherlands were on New York’s First Avenue Sunday afternoon to unveil a brand new temporary rainbow crossing ahead of this week’s opening of the General Assembly.
“When world leaders gather in New York this week, they will be crossing this beautiful new rainbow crosswalk to get to UNHQ,” the United Nations' Free and Equal campaign said.
Those leaders are likely to include representatives from countries which have not supported LGBTI rights, such as Uganda, Iran and Saudi Arabia.
America’s Ambassador to the United Nations, Samantha Power, and the Dutch Foreign Minister, Bert Koenders, briefly held up traffic on Sunday to inaugurate the crossing, which has been dubbed the #Path2Equality.
“Tomorrow, the leaders of the world will have no choice but going over this – we call it a zebra, you call it a crosswalk I think,” said the Dutch Foreign Minister.
Roughly 135 heads of state are expected during the UN’s busiest week. Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull is in New York for the occasion.
Ambassador Power said the crosswalk was unveiled “in the spirit of showing solidarity with the LGBTI community all around the world - people who aren’t able to express who they are and who they love."
The Dutch Government shouldered the cost for the crossing, which was a joint initiative from a group of more than 40 countries in the UN’s LGBT Core Group which works to advance LGBT+ rights.
Minister Koenders said LGBTI issues were gaining increased attention in diplomatic circles.
“It is a major movement growing, and it’s necessary,” he said. The Foreign Minister said he was particularly horrified by transgender suicide statistics.
Ambassador Power said the idea for the crossing came about in a meeting at the Stonewall Inn in Greenwich Village in downtown Manhattan.
“After the horrific shooting in Orlando, the United States and all the members of the LGBT Core Group paid a visit to the Stonewall Inn, and it was one of the most moving experiences any of us had had,” she said.
The bar was the site of police raids in 1969 which led to the Stonewall riots, giving birth to America’s gay liberation movement.
“We had a functional meeting, where we talked about what more we could do at the UN to advance the cause of equality for all,” the Ambassador said.
One of those ideas was a symbolic rainbow crosswalk for the high-level meeting week.
The colourful crossing is technically unlawful under New York City traffic laws, but since that section of First Avenue will be closed for the event, city officials relaxed their usual regulations.
The colours were painted over the white sections of the crossing, which will return to normal after Ministerial Week.
Minister Koenders and Ambassador Power thanked the UN Human Rights Commissioner and the New York City Mayor’s office for their support.