The United Nations in New York is bustling with world leaders, their entourages, and security teams as the 72nd UN General Assembly is underway. Fittingly, as vital issues are hashed out in conference rooms and assembly halls today, the world observes International Day of Peace.
This year’s theme–“Together for Peace: Respect, Safety and Dignity for All”–connects with an international initiative related to migration. The Together program is a collaborative effort involving United Nations personnel, governments, civil society, academics, businesses, and others globally. The year-old program supports diversity, non-discrimination and acceptance of refugees and migrants. (More than 65 million people have been forced to flee their homes to escape conflict and persecution).
“In times of insecurity, communities that look different become convenient scapegoats,” said UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres. “We must resist cynical efforts to divide communities and portray neighbours as ‘the other’. Discrimination diminishes us all. It prevents people — and societies — from achieving their full potential.” He added, “Together, let us stand up against bigotry and for human rights. Together, let us build bridges. Together, let us transform fear into hope.”’
When Guterres took office last January, his first act was an appeal that everyone would put peace first. In June of this year, he noted that there is more to peace than laying down weapons, calling for efforts to get at root causes of conflict and heightening efforts to prevent it. “True peace requires building bridges, combating discrimination and standing up for the human rights of all the world’s people,” he said.
Because the 72nd General Assembly is well underway, International Peace Day was observed in New York on September 15, with Guterres ringing the peace bell in the UN’s peace garden and those gathered observing a minute of silence. Environmentalist Dr. Jane Goodall was among those present. A global student videoconference was held as well.
September 21 was designated as International Day of Peace in 1981 by the UN General Assembly (GA). Twenty years later, the GA unanimously voted to designate the day as a period of nonviolence and cease-fire. Let’s hope dialogues happening among world leaders at UN headquarters in New York over the next week or two will bear fruit in a cessation of hostilities in so many areas desperately seeking peace.