Teaming up with a range of actors, from artists and students, to cell phone companies and chess enthusiasts, the United Nations is celebrating the International Day of Peace, which this year holds special meaning since 2008 also marks the 60th anniversary of the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
“We know that human rights are essential to peace,” Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said in his message to mark the Day, which is observed every year on 21 September.
“Yet too many people around the world still have their rights violated – especially during and after armed conflict. That is why we must ensure that the rights in the Declaration are a living reality – that they are known, understood and enjoyed by everyone, everywhere,” he stated.
Mr. Ban kicked off this year's celebration of the Day at the traditional peace bell ringing ceremony in New York on Friday, joined by four UN Messengers of Peace. During the event, the Secretary-General sent a text message for peace, as part of a UN campaign that urged cell phone users to compose peace messages to be published on a website and delivered to world leaders gathered for the General Assembly this week.
Assembly President Miguel D'Escoto Brockmann, in his message, said it is fitting that the Day closely coincides with the opening of the body's new session each September. “This is when representatives of the 192 Member States gather to renew their commitment to work together in the quest for world peace, the eradication of poverty and to pursue the progressive advancement of human rights,” he stated.
“We must never delude ourselves, or let others pretend, that peace is merely the absence of war or some exalted state of impassivity,” he added. “ World peace will only be achieved through active resistance to all that negates and diminishes human dignity, and waging peace, is therefore, eminently political and oftentimes provocative.”
Noting that this year also marks the 60th anniversary of UN peacekeepers, Mr. D'Escoto urged support for the Organization's efforts to bring calm to conflict-ridden areas and for the over 100,000 soldiers, police and civilians deployed worldwide to keep the peace, prevent conflicts, and safeguard fragile peace processes.
The UN's peace operations around the globe are also commemorating the Day with various activities. For example, children in Naqoura were invited to paint their visions of peace on the walls of the headquarters of the UN Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL).
In Juba, the UN Mission in Sudan (UNMIS) and its partners are celebrating the Day a photo exhibition entitled “Images of Peace,” focusing on similarities and differences in the cultures of Southern Sudan and aiming to foster better community dialogue and understanding.
Meanwhile, communities across Afghanistan are marking the day with sports events, marches and gatherings, all part of what the UN mission there – known as UNAMA – has described as an “unprecedented” campaign in the run up to the Day. In addition to the many events, teams of health workers fanned out across the country in the most ambitious Peace Day polio vaccination effort to date, aiming to reach 1.8 million children.
Other UN-organized activities taking place around the world include a peace walk in Accra, an observance in cooperation with Chulalongkorn University in Bangkok, a peace bell ceremony in Mexico City, and a traditional UN Cup Chess Festival entitled “sports for peace” in the Armenian capital, Yerevan.
In addition, 60 students from Belgrade, Ljubljana, Podgorica, Sarajevo, Skopje, and Zagreb are gathering together today in the Austrian capital for a forum entitled "Uniting for Peace," organized by the UN Information Service (UNIS) and the City of Vienna.