From cultural displays and a parade of peacekeepers to a children’s immunization campaign and the handing over of responsibilities to local police, United Nations field offices and missions around the world marked International Day of Peace today with a series of events in honour of its key themes.
This year’s Day is dedicated to young people, as 2010 also marks the beginning of the International Year of Youth, whose theme is dialogue and mutual understanding. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon used his official message to urge youth to work to promote international peace.
“And I say to all young people, join us. Help us to work for peace. You are impatient. You see what we, your elders, allow to persist, year after year: poverty and hunger; injustice and impunity; environmental degradation,” the Mr. Ban said.
In Afghanistan, the Secretary-General's Special Representative and head of the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA), Staffan de Mistura, said legislative elections earlier this week could be an opportunity for the country to embrace democracy and move away from war.
“21 September can not be a celebration day but a day of thinking and re-motivating ourselves in order to help the Afghans to find peace after so many years, so many years of violence and of difficulties,” said Mr. De Mistura in his message.
The UN World Health Organization (WHO), the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and the Afghan health ministry used the Day to boost their efforts to provide health support to some of Afghanistan’s poorest and most vulnerable communities.
In 23 locations in the urban slums and informal settlements of Kabul – places with no health facilities – the two UN agencies worked with the health department to immunize children and women against diseases such as polio, meningitis, tuberculosis, measles, diphtheria and tetanus.
In Somalia, the Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General, Augustine Mahiga, urged warring groups in the Horn of Africa country to observe a ceasefire to mark the International Day of Peace.
“The people of Somalia yearn for peace and stability. We need to do all we can to provide security and stability for everyone and in particular – hope for the young. We do not want future generations to suffer as their parents have done,” Mr. Mahiga said in a statement issued jointly in Nairobi with the African Union (AU) and the regional group known as the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD).
In the restive Sudanese region of Darfur, the head of the UN-AU peacekeeping mission in Darfur (UNAMID), Ibrahim Gambari, hosted a cultural event in which members of several mission contingents and children from North Darfur state participated.
“Together we can achieve peace and prosperity in this place, and thereby enable the youth of Darfur to realize their full potential and great promise as they grow and experience and learn in a safe environment,” said Mr. Gambari.
In Lebanon, the commander of the UN Interim Force in Lebanon (UNFIL) Major-General Alberto Asarta Cuevas reviewed a guard of honour by peacekeepers representing the 31 different national contingents that make up the force. Accompanied by the Lebanese Armed Forces’ Major-General Abed Alrahman Shehaitli, he also laid wreaths at the UNIFIL cenotaph.
“Peace and development are closely interlinked. Peace enables development, which is critical in providing opportunities for young people,” Maj-Gen. Asarta said.
In Cyprus, the Special Representative of the Secretary-General and head of the UN peacekeeping mission, known as UNFICYP, Lisa M. Buttenheim, urged all the people of the island to work for peace.
“We have a part to play in waging peace; the elderly and the young alike. We must join forces in activities that contribute to resolution of conflicts, bringing cultural divides and fostering tolerance,” Ms. Buttenheim said.
The International Day of Peace in Timor-Leste was marked with the resumption of policing responsibilities in Aileu district by the Timorese police service after four years during which the UN police played the lead role.
“The long term stability of the country depends to a large extent on the development of an effective and professional police service in which the community can have confidence,” said Shigeru Mochida, the Deputy Special Representative of the Secretary-General in Timor-Leste.
“This is a big task for all police officers, and we are all grateful to you for taking on this responsibility,” he added. Aileu is the ninth district of Timor-Leste in which the UN has now handed over policing responsibilities.