A Global Day of Ceasefire and Non-violence - International Day of Peace
By Ambassador Anwarul K. Chowdhury
The International Day of Peace (IDP) is a special day of inspiration. It has been proclaimed by the United Nations for observance on 21 September as “a global day of ceasefire and non-violence” by “all nations and people to honour a cessation of hostilities for the duration of the Day.” The Day has been celebrated since 1982.
The theme of this year’s commemoration is “Partnerships for Peace – Dignity for All” which aims to highlight the importance of all segments of society to work together to strive for peace.
Apart from the inspiration I get as a global citizen, for me, the IDP has a special relevance as I am serving as the Honorary Chair of the IDP NGO Committee at the United Nations since 2008. The Committee was successful in getting the UN Secretary-General to launch that year a 100-day countdown to prepare for meaningful observance of the IDP 2008. This practice of issuing a countdown has continued since then.
In his countdown message for this year, the Secretary General emphasized that, "Over the next 100 days, let us stand with the millions of people across the world who are suffering the devastating impact of violence and conflict. Let us share ideas and plans for helping and supporting them in their time of dire need." This is a call which needs to be responded to by all peace-loving people.
As if anticipating this call, the NGO Committee already brought to his attention in writing the two specific action-oriented proposals as possible areas of special attention in the observance of the IDP 2008 and requesting him to incorporate those in the Secretary-General’s message for the Day. Those proposals were to: a) Call upon the armaments producers in all countries of the world to stop production on the IDP this and subsequent years; and b) Call upon the television, movie and toy industries which includes video games to stop violence and violent themes in their products beginning with serious commitments on the IDP 2008.
Never has it been more important for the next generation to learn about the world and understand its diversity. The task of educating children and young people to find non-aggressive means to relate with one another is of primary importance. At the same time, I would stress the importance of women’s equal participation in all efforts for peace and security – in the prevention and resolution of conflicts and in peace-building. While women are often the first victims of armed conflict, they must also and always be recognized as key to the resolution of the conflict. We must strive to integrate their concerns more effectively in peace processes worldwide, and achieve women’s full, equal and effective participation in those processes. Women and girls have an essential role to play in rebuilding war-shattered societies, not through token representation but as full-fledged participants in the peacebuilding process.
Seed of peace exists in all of us. It must be nurtured, cared for and nourished by us all to flower and flourish. Peace cannot be imposed from outside; it must be realized from within. We all must make efforts to inculcate peace in ourselves. We cannot expect to change the world if we do not start first and foremost by changing ourselves - at the individual level.
Non-violence can truly flourish when the world is free of poverty, hunger, discrimination, exclusion, intolerance and hatred. When women and men can realize their highest potential and live a secure and fulfilling life. Until then, each and every one of us would have to contribute – collectively and individually – to build peace through non-violence. We have to succeed together or together we shall perish.
Let us remember that the work for peace is a continuous process. Each of us can make a difference in that process. I am confident that every year on the occasion of the International Day of Peace, all of us will make every effort to rid ourselves of the evils of intolerance and prejudice, ignorance and selfishness that compel us to repeat the cycle of violence. Only then, the world will be a better place to live for us, for our children and for our grandchildren.
Ambassador Anwarul K. Chowdhury has devoted many years as an inspirational champion for sustainable peace and development and ardently advancing the cause of the global movement for the culture of peace that has energized civil society all over the world. As a career diplomat he has been Permanent Representative to United Nations, President of the UN Security Council, President of UNICEF Board, UN Under-Secretary-General, the Senior Special Advisor to the UN General Assembly President, and recipient of many awards including the 2015 Gandhi-King-Ikeda Community Builders Prize of the Martin Luther King Jr. International Chapel, Morehouse College, the U Thant Peace Award, UNESCO Gandhi Gold Medal for Culture of Peace and Spirit of the UN Award and University of Massachusetts Boston Chancellor’s Medal for Global Leadership for Peace. Ambassador Chowdhury has a wealth of experience in the critical issues of our time - peace, sustainable development, and human rights. He served as Ambassador and Permanent Representative of Bangladesh to the United Nations in New York from 1996 to 2001 and as the Under-Secretary-General and High Representative of the United Nations, responsible for the most vulnerable countries of the world from 2002 to 2007. Ambassador Chowdhury is a member of the Advisory Council of IMPACT Leadership 21 and is the first recipient of the IMPACT Leadership 21’s Global Summit Frederick Douglass Award Honoring Men Who Are Champions For Women's Advancement in October 2013. He is a founding co-chair of the International Ecological Safety Collaborative Organisation (IESCO) with headquarters in China and is a member of the Advisory Council of the National Peace Academy in US. He is the honorary chair of the International Day of Peace NGO Committee at the UN, New York and chairman of the Global Forum on Human Settlements, both since 2008. He has also been the chair of the International Drafting Committee on the Human Right to Peace, an initiative coordinated from Geneva and was a founding member of the Board of Trustees of the New York City Peace Museum.
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This article appears in: 2015 Catalyst, Issue 18: International Day of Peace