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Every year, the International Day of Peace, otherwise known as Peace Day, is celebrated around the world by the 193 member countries of the United Nations. In 1981, the United Nations General Assembly unanimously supported a resolution sponsored by Costa Rica and the United Kingdom to establish a day dedicated to strengthening the ideals of peace. Observed every Sept. 21, Peace Day invites all of humanity to pursue world peace above all differences and to strive to contribute to a global culture of peacemaking.
The 2017 Peace Day Theme is “Together for Peace: Respect, Safety and Dignity for All.” In conjunction with the TOGETHER global campaign, a partnership that supports diversity, non- discrimination and the acceptance of refugees and migrants, Peace Day 2017 seeks to promote and ensure dignity, safety and respect for all people forced to flee their homes in search of a better life.
The United Nations initiated celebrations of Peace Day Friday, Sept. 15, with the annual ringing of the Peace Bell. The Peace Bell ceremony calls for soldiers around the world to lay down their arms and observe a day of ceasefire and non-violence. This year’s celebration was dedicated to the more than 65 million people forced to flee their homes due to conflict and persecution.
“When more and more doors and minds are being closed to refugees, let us show solidarity,” U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres said as he addressed the crowd at the ceremony. “Let us highlight the shared benefits of migration to economies and to nations. When others receive the support they need and deserve, we are all more secure and better off.”
Since 1984, individuals, communities and nations around the world have taken part in the Minute of Peace on Peace Day. The NGO Pathways to Peace initiated the first annual Minute of Peace as a way to build a “peace wave” around the globe. Observed at noon in each time zone, the Minute of Peace asks participants to take a moment out of their day to reflect quietly on how they can personally help to advance the culture of peace.
This year, world leaders had plenty to consider and reflect on following remarks made at the opening of the annual general debate of the United Nations General Assembly Tuesday. United Nations General Assembly President Miroslav Lajčák expressed his dismay that many nations spend excessive time and money reacting to conflicts instead of trying to prevent them.
“When people can live decent lives—when rights are respected—when rule of law is present in everyday life—it is harder to turn societies to conflict,” Lajčák said.
Lajčák asked world leaders to turn their focus to the people and to integrate prevention into human rights work and peace operations.
“We know that many people have become disillusioned. Countless others around the world, however, have high hopes for us. They see the U.N.’s blue flag as a first sign of safety and the beginning of change,” Mr. Lajčák said.
In line with the 2017 Peace Day Theme of supporting and accepting refugees and migrants, the United Nations General Assembly will soon be challenged with deciding whether to pursue the adoption of the first Global Compact for Migration. With the goals of improving the governance on migration, addressing the challenges associated with modern migration and strengthening the contribution of migration to sustainable development, the Global Compact for Migration will holistically address all aspects of international migration.
It is important to recognize that in a world with an abundance of unresolved international crises, global leaders hold varying opinions and perspectives on international migration. United Nations officials hope that the Global Compact for Migration will foster the implementation of more equitable ways to share the responsibility for refugees.