The International Day of Peace, sometimes unofficially known as World Peace Day, is observed annually on 21 September. It is dedicated to world peace, and specifically the absence of war and violence, such as might be occasioned by a temporary ceasefire in a combat zone for humanitarian aid access. The day was first celebrated in 1982, and is kept by many nations, political groups, military groups, and peoples. In 2013, for the first time, the Day was dedicated by the Secretary-General of the United Nations to peace education, the key preventive means to reduce war sustainably.
To inaugurate the day, the United Nations Peace Bell is rung at UN Headquarters (in New York City). The bell is cast from coins donated by children from all continents except Africa, and was a gift from the United Nations Association of Japan, as “a reminder of the human cost of war”; the inscription on its side reads, “Long live absolute world peace”.
1981 – UN General Assembly Resolution passed
The United Nations General Assembly declared, in a resolution sponsored by the United Kingdom and Costa Rica, the International Day of Peace, to be devoted to commemorating and strengthening the ideals of peace. The date initially chosen was the regular opening day of the annual sessions of the General Assembly, the third Tuesday of September. (This was changed in 2001 to the current annual celebration on 21 September each year — see 2001 below.)
1982 – First observance
Tuesday 21 September 1982 was the first occurrence of the International Day of Peace. The theme of the first International Day of Peace was the Right to peace of people.
1983 – Culture of Peace initiative
In the spirit of the original vision that brought forth the Charter of the United Nations, the UN Secretary General announces a Culture of Peace in the 21st century initiative to unite the strengths of organizations, projects and peoples in order to make Peace a practical reality for the children of this and future generations.
1996 – Seanad Éireann debate
A proposal for expanding the International Day of Peace to include Reconciliation, in which a massive number of emblems (White Doves) would be distributed after a formal presentation at the United Nations, was put forward by Vincent Coyle, of Derry, Northern Ireland, and was debated at Seanad Éireann. It was accepted that it would be impractical for one member state to ask for a particular slot at a general UN ceremony. However, events have been held at the United Nations in New York, with the support of Kofi Annan, in April.
2001 – Date set at 21 September
In 2001 the opening day of the General Assembly was scheduled for 11 September, and Secretary General Kofi Annan drafted a message recognising the observance of International Peace Day on 21 September. That year the day was changed from the third Tuesday to specifically the twenty-first day of September, to take effect in 2002. A new resolution was passed by the General Assembly, sponsored by the United Kingdom (giving credit to Peace One Day) and Costa Rica (the original sponsors of the day), to give the International Day of Peace a fixed calendar date, 21 September, and declare it also as a day of global ceasefire and non-violence.
2004 – Taiwanese commemorative stamp controversy
A diplomatic stir occurred when Lions Clubs International sponsored a competition for six posters to be used for International Day of Peace commemorative stamps issued by the UN Postal Administration. A poster by 15-year-old Taiwanese school student Yang Chih-Yuan was announced as one of the winners, but the announcement was withdrawn. Taiwan media reports, Taiwan Lions Club and the government of Taiwan claimed the decision not to use the poster resulted from pressure from China; the rejection of the student’s painting on political grounds did not reflect the ideals of the International Day of Peace. The UN issued a statement that, although in the short list of eight designs, “due to an internal misunderstanding and miscommunication, Mr. Yang’s proof got publicized in error as one of the six stamps intended to be issued.” The government of Taiwan (Republic of China) later issued a stamp containing the image.
2005 – UN Secretary General calls for 22-hour ceasefire
In 2005, United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan called for the worldwide observance of a 22-hour cease-fire and day of nonviolence to mark the Day.
2006 – Peace Parade, UK
In 2006, then Secretary-General Kofi Annan rang the Peace Bell for the last time during his Term in office. That year the UN asserted the “many ways it works for peace and to encourage individuals, Groups and communities around the world to contemplate and communicate thoughts and activities on how to achieve peace.” The United Kingdom held the primary public and official observation of the United Nations International Day of Peace and Non-Violence in Rochdale, Greater Manchester. This was organized by Peace Parade UK.
2007 – UN Secretary General calls for worldwide moment of silence
In 2007, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon rang the Peace Bell at United Nations Headquarters in New York calling for a 24-hour cessation of hostilities on 21 September, and for a minute of silence to be observed around the world.
2009 – International Year of Reconciliation announced
In 2009 – International Year of Reconciliation – the day was marked by a massive number of white doves being distributed after a formal presentation at the United Nations, bearing in mind the Charter of the United Nations, including the purposes and principles contained therein, and in particular those of saving succeeding generations from the scourge of war, bringing about by peaceful means, and in conformity with the principles of justice and international law, adjustment or settlement of international disputes or situations which might lead to a breach of the peace, and practicing tolerance and living together in peace with one another as good neighbors, thus developing friendly relations among nations and promoting international cooperation to resolve international economic, social, cultural and humanitarian issues. Vincent Coyle of Derry, Northern Ireland gave his full support.
2011 – Peace and Democracy: Make Your Voice Heard
In 2011 the UN Peace Day’s theme was “Peace and Democracy: Make Your Voice Heard”. Many organizations held Peace Day events worldwide in 2011. There were school activities, music concerts, global comedy clubs, peace doves, prayer vigils, peace conferences, and UN activities. Organizations like Peace One Day, Wiser and Culture of Peace have been active participants in Peace Day activities for years.
2012 – Sustainable Peace for a Sustainable Future
The United Nations set the theme for this year’s observance as Sustainable Peace for a Sustainable Future, commemorating and strengthening the ideals of peace both within and among all nations and peoples.
Global Truce Day 2012
In 2011, Peace One Day announced at their O2 Arena concert, a new international campaign called Global Truce 2012, a grassroots initiative and international coalition with non-governmental organisations and Students’ unions in every continent, which increased participation and action on Peace Day 2012, the day of Global Truce. Particular focus in this campaign included a cessation of hostilities on the day and a reduction of domestic violence and bullying in society. The Peace One Day Celebration concert on Peace Day in 2012 was held at Wembley Arena to celebrate Global Truce 2012. The Global Truce campaign will continue and be named with each year it leads up to, involving more partners and coalitions for mass participation and life-saving practical action on Peace Day.
2013 – Focus on Peace education
UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon has dedicated the World Peace Day 2013 to Peace education in an effort to refocus minds and financing on the preeminence of peace education as the means to bring about a culture of peace. Animator and children’s book author, Sue DiCicco announced in May 2013 a global campaign to increase awareness of Peace Day and promote peace education within schools and community groups through the Peace Crane Project. Gorey Community School in Co. Wexford, Ireland, has been chosen to be School of Peace for 2013.
Global Truce 2013
Peace One Day launched a new theme for Global Truce 2013: Who Will You Make Peace With?
Peace Day Comedy 2013
To bring awareness to Peace Day, thinkPEACE promoted a Peace Day Comedy program, “Stand-Up For International Peace,” held in over 50 global comedy clubs in 2013.
2014 – Right to Peace
The theme of the 2014 International Day of Peace is the Right of Peoples to Peace, reaffirming the United Nations commitment to the UN Declaration on the Right of Peoples to Peace, which recognizes that the promotion of peace is vital for the full enjoyment of all human rights.
To bring awareness to Peace Day 2014, the thinkPEACE Network will promote a Peace Day Comedy program, “Stand-Up For International Peace,” to be held in over 50 global comedy clubs. The Waves Of Kindness Global Initiative celebrates the United Nations International Day Of Peace though global meditation events.
Director of UNESCO to Vietnam, Katherine Müller, said in Global Education Magazine: “I personally identify with UNESCO’s values in the sense that I truly believe Education, Culture, Social and Natural Sciences, and Communication and Information are some of the most powerful drivers for sustainable development and peace, as a sustainable future cannot exist without sustainable peace. Raising awareness, capacity building, promoting understanding and respect for diversity, and fostering opportunities for interaction to find ways to ensure a culture of peace are all actions that will motivate people to become interested in setting peace as a priority for sustainable development.”
2015 – Partnerships for Peace – Dignity for All
The theme of the 2015 International Day of Peace was “Partnerships for Peace – Dignity for All”.
2016 – The Sustainable Development Goals: Building Blocks for Peace
The theme of the 2016 International Day of Peace will be “The Sustainable Development Goals: Building Blocks for Peace”.
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