Education is vital for building peaceful societies and fostering global citizenship, senior United Nations officials today said marking the International Day of Peace with calls for greater investment in quality education and to reverse trends which show aid for schools and teachers dipping for the first time in a decade.
“On this International Day of Peace, let us pledge to teach our children the value of tolerance and mutual respect,” Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said in his message for the Day.
“Let us invest in the schools and teachers that will build a fair and inclusive world that embraces diversity. Let us fight for peace and defend it with all our might,” Mr. Ban noted highlighting this year's theme, 'Education for Peace.'
He recalled the words on Malala Yousafzai, the Pakistani schoolgirl targeted by the Taliban for campaigning for the right to education, during her visit to the UN Headquarters in New York in June, “One teacher, one book, one pen, can change the world.”
Mr. Ban called for “bold political leadership and increased financial commitment” to reverse a decline in aid for education, and urged new partnerships to reach the poorest and most marginalized children.
To accelerate progress towards universal education, Mr. Ban launched last year his Global Education First Initiative, whose Secretariat is hosted by the UN Education, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).
There are currently 57 million children that do not have access to education, and millions more that need better schooling that go beyond the basis of reading and writing.
Education must encompass the teaching of human rights, living together and respect for others, said Irina Bokova, UNESCO Director-General.
“Every child in the world should know their rights, and learn their own history and that of other peoples, so as to be able to understand the equal dignity of cultures and draw lessons from the crimes and violence of the past,” Ms. Bokova said in her message for the Day.
Ahead of today's official observance, the UN Headquarters in New York marked International Peace Day on 18 September with the ringing of the Peace Bell in the Rose Garden.
A gift from Japan, the Peace Bell has tolled every year in a solemn call for peace since 1981, when the General Assembly established the Day to coincide with the opening of its annual debate in September. The high-level portion of the debate is due to begin on Tuesday.
At the ceremony, the President of the 68th session of the General Assembly, John Ashe, stressed the importance of education as a “path to growth and development”. He added that education which teaches the value of peace is a key preventative means of reducing war and conflict.
Following the bell ringing, some 500 high school and university students, including refugees from around the world, spoke with each other about this year's theme via video conference with young parliamentarians at the UN Assistance Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH). Mr. Ban's Envoy on Youth, Ahmad Alhendawi and the Youth Representative on the Global Education First Initiative's Steering Committee, Chernor Bah, also participated.
The International Day of Peace was first 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.
The UN Independent Expert on the promotion of a democratic and equitable international order, Alfred de Zayas, today urged the UN General Assembly to adopt a more decisive role in peace-making and peace-keeping.
“The United Nations is the best hope to spare humanity from the barbarity of war, from the senseless death, destruction and dislocation it brings about,” Mr. de Zayas said in a news release.
“It is time for the UN General Assembly, as the most representative world body, to voice the international community's rejection of war and war-mongering,” he stressed, calling on governments to settle disputes by peaceful means and to negotiate in good faith under the UN Charter.
The expert, who reports to the Human Rights Council in Geneva, also called for a stop to “the irresponsible war-mongering of sensationalist media that instead of discussing possibilities of negotiated settlements prefer to beat the drums of war and manipulate public opinion in order to make armed intervention plausible and socially acceptable.”
The International Day of Peace is being marked in UN peacekeeping and political missions around the world.
In Lebanon, peacekeepers representing the 37 contingents in the UN Interim Force known as UNIFIL joined local authorities and officers in a commemorative ceremony in the southern city of Naquora.
“In southern Lebanon, UNIFIL is a testimony to the fact that concerted efforts can be successful in maintaining the cessation of hostilities and creating the conditions for peace,” said Major-General Paolo Serra during a ceremony where he awarded the UN Peacekeeping Medal to 89 military officers.
Meanwhile, a dozen students from four schools in the area painted their visions of peace in wall drawings.
In addition, UNIFIL donated medical assistance kits, including wheelchairs, walking sticks and medical equipment paid for with funds raised in a UN volley ball tournament.
In the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), a contingent of the UN peacekeeping mission MONUSCO donated their medical knowledge, as well as some medication, to a hospital in Goma.
Eleven specialists, including two women, took care of patients on cases ranging from fever and back pain, to pregnancy, HIV/AIDS and dentistry.
The medical consultation camp is the third this year done by the MONUSCO North Kivu Brigade.