Secretary-General Kofi Annan has led a chorus of United Nations officials calling for a 24-hour stop to hostilities and a day of non-violence in observance of the International Day of Peace.
In remarks to a ceremony today at UN Headquarters in New York for the traditional ringing of the peace bell, the Secretary-General called on "all nations and all people to cease all hostilities" on 21 September, when the Day is observed.
"Twenty-four hours: to give relief workers a safe interlude for the provision of vital services; to offer mediators a building block towards a wider truce; to allow all those engaged in conflict to reconsider the wisdom of further violence," Mr. Annan said.
"Twenty-four hours: not a long time, but enough for the world's leaders to begin to listen to their peoples," he added. "Some of those peoples want an end to repression and intolerance - and would say so publicly if they could exercise their fundamental rights and freedoms. Others want relief from poverty and despair, and would also be more vocal about it were they not so burdened with the daily struggle of providing food and shelter for their families."
For his part, General Assembly President Jan Kavan of the Czech Republic said the decision to fix 21 September as the date to observe Peace Day gave the occasion a forum in which it could have a global reach and a practical impact.
"Today and tomorrow, people around the world will commemorate the International Day of Peace by holding peace vigils," Mr. Kavan said. "I share with these people a hope that parties in conflict will commemorate the Day by observing a ceasefire."
In Kosovo, the head of the UN Mission said that the ringing of the peace bell, which was cast from coins donated by children from around the globe and given to the UN by Japan, attested to the international community's shared commitment to making the world a place where all people could live in security and dignity.
"'No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main,'" Michael Steiner said, quoting 18th century poet John Donne and reminding Kosovo that whatever happened in the province was "an integral part of the struggle to make the Balkans, Europe and the wider world safer and more just."
Meanwhile in Sierra Leone, about 100 children went on a "Peace Bus" tour of the capital, Freetown, yesterday to deliver messages of peace to the UN mission and various government offices. In Somalia, UN officials have organized a series of football matches and other sporting events to mark the occasion tomorrow.