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The Creation of The International Day of Peace - 1981

By Ambassador John W. McDonald (ret.)

During my 40-year career as a U.S. diplomat, I spent many years on UN economic and social issues, and was well known at the General Assembly of the United Nations in the 1970s and 80s.

In September 1981, while I was having a cup of coffee in the delegates lounge at the United Nations in New York, I was approached by my friend the Ambassador from Costa Rica to the United Nations. He joined me and we had a nice conversation. He said he had a favor to ask. His president wanted the General Assembly to adopt a resolution creating the “International Year of Peace.” I pointed out that the General Assembly had passed a resolution several years earlier making even numbered years available for national programs, like the International Year of Disabled Persons, and the odd numbered years for world economic and social conferences.  I checked my calendar and said the next open “year” was 10 years from 1981. He said “that’s terrible, my president will not be around at that time” and left the delegates lounge.

He returned a week later and said “my president really wants to do something about peace.” I thought for a while and said “what about an International Day of Peace.” He said “that’s fantastic, I’m sure my president will love the idea.” I said “I will draft an appropriate resolution making the opening day of the General Assembly, which is the 3rd Thursday of September, the International Day of Peace. I won’t tell the State Department, because they might not agree. Your president has to come to New York, and take my resolution, which he should make as his resolution, and present it to the General Assembly. I am sure that coming from him, they will agree.”

The Costa Rican ambassador followed my instructions, and in November 1981, the Costa Rican president proposed the International Day of Peace, and the General Assembly adopted the resolution unanimously.

The first International Day of Peace was 1982.

20 years later, a new resolution was adopted, making September 21st the International Day of Peace.

On September 21st, 2013, it was estimated that 500 million people in the world celebrated that day. Unfortunately all of these people were private citizens, and not governments.

On June 13th, 2014, the Summer of Peace program held a 1 hour and 20 minute web chat on the International Day of Peace, and stating that it was 100 days before September 21, and urged people around the world to start preparing for a celebration on September 21st, 2014. Their announced goal was to have 1.5 billion people celebrate in the International Day of Peace on that day.

I asked to speak on the Summer of Peace on June 17th, and was granted permission. I told my story and urged a global focus on that day.

I would also like to introduce to the readers of this article a new idea.

In early June 2014, I drafted a U.N. resolution urging the General Assembly to request that every member state make the International Day of Peace a national holiday in their country.

I e-mailed this draft resolution to the new president of Costa Rica, and urged him to come to the General Assembly this fall and present the resolution as his resolution, supporting the idea of an earlier president of Costa Rica and make September 21st a national holiday.

I urge every reader of this article to take whatever steps they think would help the adoption of this draft resolution to please do so. The draft resolution will be posted as appendix to this article. Many thanks for your support and your belief that peace is possible, even across this troubled world.

Draft UN Resolution for International Day of Peace
Launching the International Day of Peace as a National Holiday

Recalling the United Nation’s Resolution 36/67 on the 30th of November 1981 which established the International Day of Peace on the third Tuesday of September, the date of the opening day of the General Assembly, which resolution took effect in September of 1982.

Further recalling, the United Nation’s Resolution 55/282 on the 28th of November 2001 which designated that September 21st of each year would be recognized as the International Day of Peace.

Noting, 21 of September 2013 an estimated number of five hundred million people celebrated the International Day of Peace.

Congratulating and honoring, the President of Costa Rica, Rodrigo Carazo Odio, for proposing the International Day of Peace in 1981 to the United Nations General Assembly.

Declares, that all member states of the United Nations should approve national legislation making September 21st the International Day of Peace a national holiday so that the world can dedicate this day to the goal of international peace.

Ambassador John W. McDonald is a lawyer, diplomat, former international civil servant, development expert and peacebuilder, concerned about world social, economic and ethnic problems. He spent twenty years of his diplomatic career in Western Europe and the Middle East and worked for sixteen years on United Nations economic and social affairs. He is currently chairman and co-founder (1992) of the Institute for Multi-Track Diplomacy, in Washington D.C., which focuses on national and international ethnic conflicts, including the Millennium goals of clean drinking water and sanitation. He also is UNEP's North American Representative to the International Environmental Governance Advisory Group.

Ambassador McDonald holds both a B.A. and a J.D. degree from the University of Illinois, and graduated from the National War College in 1967. He has written and co-edited ten books and numerous articles on negotiation and conflict resolution, and makes more than 100 speeches a year. He was appointed Ambassador twice by President Carter and twice by President Reagan to represent the United States at various UN World Conferences.

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This article appears in:
2014 Catalyst, Issue 19: Special Edition - The International Day of Peace

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