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Student Observance of International Peace Day at the UN
an article by Anne Creter

I was among a small group of NGO “culture of peace activists” who got to attend the very noteworthy 2011 United Nations International Day of Peace (IDP) Student Observance on 15 September. This year the official UN IDP events occurred prior to the actual 21 September date because of conference room unavailability, due to renovations underway in the Secretariat Building. Since 15 September coincides with the International Day of Democracy, this year’s theme was “Peace and Democracy: Make your voice be heard.” (a fitting topic considering the Arab Spring and current Occupy Wall Street Autumn democratic people’s movements spreading like wildfire).

click on photo to enlarge

The conference was organized by the UN Department of Public Information, in association with the NGO’s Pathways to Peace, United Religions Initiative, World Peace Prayer Society and Jane Goodall’s Roots and Shoots. 2011 marks the 30th anniversary of the IDP which was established by the General Assembly in 1981 as an opportunity for people around the world to promote the resolution of conflict and to observe a cessation of hostilities. In recent years, it has become more and more widely celebrated everywhere – with this year’s massive global participation truly the best ever recorded!

Conference Room 4 bustled with an overflow youth audience -- a variety of wide-eyed student groups sprinkled with some older NGO’s in the sidelines. Under-Secretary-General for Communications and Public Information, Mr. Kiya Akasaka, welcomed us. The rousing program was facilitated by dynamic young actor / activist, Chris Bashinelli, who was delightfully interactive. His mission is to “bridge the gap between the youth of the world” to inspire them to make it better.”

The panelists included several famous UN Messengers of Peace (actor Michael Douglas, anthropologist Jane Goodall and singer-songwriter Stevie Wonder); 2 young UNICEF Goodwill Ambassadors (former Sierra Leonean child-soldier / author Ishmael Beah and Olympic figure skate champion Yuna Kim); NGO Youth Representative (Chris Bashinelli); plus a UN Youth Champion (actress Monique Coleman).

Michael Douglas talked about disarmament; Jane Goodall of environmental conservation; and newly-appointed Messenger of Peace Stevie Wonder’s focus was on persons with disabilities. He ended by reciting the lyrics of his newest song, 10 Billion Hearts and summed up the day by saying that all people must “speak peace with their voices and we can only judge a person by the content of her or his character.”

Students then had the opportunity to ask questions of the panelists. The one I vividly recall went to Jane Goddall. She was asked if she ever got discouraged with all the horrible things going on in the world. Her surprisingly honest answer renewed my spirit, for she admitted to having times of deep despair. Yet she said something positive always manages to happen to counteract her discouragement and lead her back to affirming her heartfelt message of hope.


Question(s) related to this article:

How are you celebrating Peace Day?,

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Latest reader comment:

It is difficult to find extensive listings of the many events celebrating the International Day of Peace around the world.  An exception is the United Religions Initiative which lists events for the IDP 2014 by their affiliates in Kenya, Uganda, Ghana, Nigeria, Nepal, Sri Lanka, India, Pakistan, Bulgaria, Russia, Brazil, Argentina, Chile, United States and the Philippines.

This report was posted on October 11, 2011.