Written By Megan MacGarry, CSI Programme Officer
The International Day of Peace (IDP) was established by a United Nations resolution in 1981 to coincide with the opening of the General Assembly. It provides an opportunity for individuals, organizations and nations to create practical acts of peace on a shared date. The day has been declared global ceasefire day (or a day of nonviolence) but this is not adhered to with enough regard or importance as it needs/ should be. It seems that the more advanced humanity becomes, the more barbaric we have become: technology improves to lengthen people’s lives and saves more lives, yet at the same time, technology improves to make more comprehensive guns to become more deadly. So one day in a year to be a day of peace is simply not enough, especially when it is not that well known or publicized. Is ringing a bell at the UN headquarters enough to push for global peace?
This year’s IDP took place during a time when the world has been plagued by wars, closing borders, repression and silenced media, human rights abuses and lack of freedom for civil society around the world. What then does this day mean for an organization like CIVICUS trying to be the voice of the voiceless and open up space for civil society?
This day of peace -21 September- was a strange occurrence as I never, much to my embarrassment, heard of the UN created global day of peace. But it was the occasion for me to learn a new buzz word in the international development sphere, that of ‘jingoism’. This was mentioned in an article I was briefly skim reading in a rush to gather basic information on the exact purpose of peace day, only to discover it was an opinion piece about the current state of geo-political disarray that the world seems to be in. We were about to go into a CSI meeting and so I wasn’t able to properly read the article, and I have yet been able to find it since, but it sparked an interesting chain of thoughts that have led to this blog and numerous discussions since.
I have been working in the ‘development’ sector, that of international/local politics, development, poverty alleviation, civil society and such (it has so many names these days, can anyone ever keep up!?), for approximately 6 or so years now. All my tertiary level studies leading up to this were also in these fields, and so, without boasting or bragging, I have a marginally substantial knowledge on these topics and this broader field. And yet, despite this extensive history, I had never heard of International Day of Peace. I had never heard of the date, or the concept behind it. Please excuse my massive ignorance it would seem, but I feel this gap in my knowledge is also due to the fact that this vitally important day does not receive or capture the attention, the media hype or the global focus that it rightly, importantly or so timeously deserves to. And that, in its own right, is what I found so tragic about this situation (along with my poor knowledge and awareness).
The history around this international day is that it is a calendar day dedicated to peace, or specifically the absence of war, such as might happen in a temporary ceasefire in a combat zone. It has become increasingly observed by many nations, political and military groups and people around the globe as the one day throughout the year where everyone puts down their weapons and adheres to a global ceasefire, regardless of the circumstances of the situation or the war. The ‘peace bell’ is rung at the UN headquarters in New York. The inscription on its side reads “long live absolute world peace”. This is a statement that sits with difficulty with me; it is such a wonderful goal and ambition, but one that is ultimately a dream, an ultimate that seems almost impossible to achieve in this current world that we live in. Too many people are still denied basic human rights, such as access to clean water or a space to sleep at night, never mind a complex and at times seemingly academic and removed notion such as ‘absolute’ peace.
In a world where people are denied so much, and face a magnitude of problems beyond comprehension, where humanity often seems to be failing to such a degree sometimes, is it possible that we will ever be able to achieve such an ambitious goal as absolute peace for all? I sincerely hope so. Every bone of my body and every cell of my being need to believe that this is an achievable absolute; that peace will win and triumph over war, conflict and strife in this complex, yet amazing planet of ours, as it is so worth continuing to work towards.