September 21 is International Day of Peace, which was established in 1981 by the United Nations (UN) General Assembly, as a day to raise awareness for peace and as a tool for the advocacy for peace. However, it wasn’t until 20 years later, in 2001, that the UN General Assembly unanimously voted to dedicate the day to ceasefire and non-violence. Given the important human rights, immigration, and asylum work that Good Counsel Services does, we thought it was an important day to highlight.
History of International Day of Peace
In 1981, the UN General Assembly in Resolution 36/67 established the International Day of Peace as a day “devoted to commemorating and strengthening the ideals of peace both within and among all nations and peoples.” Twenty years later, in 2001, the UN General Assembly officially declared September 21 as International Day of Peace to “be observed as a day of global ceasefire and non-violence, [and] an invitation to all nations and people to honor a cessation of hostilities for the duration of the Day,” as outlined in Resolution 55/282.
How It’s Celebrated
As noted in Resolution 55/282 of the UN General Assembly in 2001, International Day of Peace calls for the commemoration of the day “including through education and public awareness, and to cooperate with the United Nations in the establishment of the global ceasefire.”
There is a 100-day countdown to the International Day of Peace, with the countdown speech delivered by the United Nations Secretary-General. Click here to view the Secretary General’s address for 2020.
Around the world, at noon in one’s timezone, one can participate in a Moment of Peace. This is celebrated as a Minute of Silence to create a global “Peace Wave” that travels from one timezone to the next.
To celebrate the 75 anniversary of the United Nations and the International Day of Peace this year, the United Nations Academic Impact (UNAI) will have a virtual concert Shaping Peace Together. You can watch the virtual concert here. Also, on September 17, a virtual event took place. There was a dialogue between United Nations Messengers of Peace and young people worldwide regarding the United Nations Secretary-General’s call for a global ceasefire and the importance of coming together peacefully to turn the COVID-19 crises into an opportunity for peace and inclusivity. Following, the Peace Bell Ceremony took place, which featured the United Nations Secretary-General, the President of the General Assembly, and the Permanent Representative of Japan to the United Nations. There was also a performance by the Universal Hip Hop Museum. You can watch the virtual celebration here.
2020’s Theme: Shaping Peace Together
According to a UN document, “True peace depends on societies being inclusive, healthy and economically stable. It requires a predictable climate, an unpolluted environment, and solidarity across community lines.” As described on the International Day of Peace official website, this year's theme is Shaping Peace Together. The goal is to “celebrate the International Day of Peace by spreading compassion, kindness, and hope in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic.” The UN encourages us to “stand together...against attempts to use the virus to promote discrimination or hatred.”
Although we are living in an unprecedented time, there are numerous things we can do to promote peace amid the COVID-19 pandemic. The same UN document outlines some initiatives as follows:
Organize a UN75 Dialogue - UN75 is “the world’s largest global conversation on building the peaceful and prosperous future we want.” Take their survey and check out the toolkit to learn more about how to set up your own conversation. And if you want, you can register your ideas so that UN officials can see them.
Educate yourself about peace - Learn about peace treaties, how to avoid conflict, and how to sustain peace after it is declared.
Engage in acts of kindness and solidarity - Speak up against discrimination on social media using hashtags #UN75 and #PeaceDay. Support those who need it most—volunteer to help vulnerable members of society. Take political action by informing those with political power the importance of peace and dignity.
Given the tensions and violence in the world, it is important to celebrate this day as a reminder of the good in the world. We live in an ever-changing world where it is easier to connect and make positive changes. International Day of Peace allows us to come together and make the world a better place, at least for one day a year.