When I was growing up, there was no International Day of Peace so in spite of always having wanted to ‘work for world peace,’ I did not know world peace had a dedicated observance date.
Apparently, in 1981, when I was in my first year of college, the UN General Assembly passed a resolution stating that the third Tuesday of September shall be observed as the International Day of Peace. Here is the text of the resolution:
A/RES/36/67 30 November 1981 International Year of Peace and International Day of Peace The General Assembly, Recalling that the promotion of peace, both at an international and a national level, is among the main purposes of the United Nations, in conformity with its Charter, Reaffirming that, as set forth in the preamble of the Charter of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, since wars begin in the minds of men, it is in the minds of men that the defence of peace must be constructed, that a peace based exclusively upon the political and economic arrangements of Governments would not be a peace which could secure the unanimous, lasting and sincere support of the peoples of the world, and that the peace must therefore be founded, if it is not to fail, upon the intellectual and moral solidarity of mankind, Further recalling that, on the basis of similar considerations, the General Assembly established the United Nations University in l972 and, more specifically, the University for Peace in l980, and entrusted other organs and organizations of the United Nations system with the promotion of peace, mainly through education in all its aspects, Noting with appreciation the initiative taken by the International Association of University Presidents at its Sixth Triennial Meeting, held at San Jose, Costa Rica, in July 1981, to propose the declaration of a peace year, a peace month and a peace day, Acknowledging the conclusions of the said Meeting that it would be appropriate to devote a specific time to concentrate the efforts of the United Nations and its Member States, as well as of the whole of mankind, to promoting the ideals of peace and to giving positive evidence of their commitment to peace in all viable ways, Considering that, through the declaration and proper celebration of an international peace year and an international day of peace, it would be possible to contribute to strengthening such ideals of peace and to alleviating the tensions and causes of conflict, both within and among nations and peoples, 1. Invites the Economic and Social Council to consider, at its first regular session of 1982, the possibility of declaring an International Year of Peace at the first practicable opportunity, taking into account the urgency and special nature of such an observance as well as the guidelines for international years and anniversaries adopted by the General Assembly in its decision 35/424 of 5 December 1980, and to submit its recommendations to the Assembly at its thirty-seventh session on the basis of appropriate arrangements for the timing, organization and financing of the Year, 2. Declares that the third Tuesday of September, the opening day of the regular session of the General Assembly, shall be officially dedicated and observed as the International Day of Peace and shall be devoted to commemorating and strengthening the ideals of peace both within and among all nations and peoples; 3. Invites all Member States, organs and organizations of the United Nations system, regional organizations, non-governmental organizations, peoples and individuals to commemorate in an appropriate manner the International Day of Peace, especially through all means of education, and to co-operate with the United Nations in the observance of that Day.
In 2001, the UN General Assembly resolved to observe International Day of Peace on September 21st every year, and that the day shall be “a day of global ceasefire and non-violence, an invitation to all nations and people to honour a cessation of hostilities.” In other words, no fighting on September 21st. In the middle of a war, one day of peace can be a huge deal, allowing the wounded to get medical attention or allowing families to gather supplies and locate those who are missing.
Every year, Peace Day has a theme, and in 2014, it remembers the Declaration of the Rights of People to Peace:
Declaration on the Right of Peoples to Peace
Approved by General Assembly resolution 39/11 of 12 November 1984
The General Assembly ,
Reaffirming that the principal aim of the United Nations is the maintenance of international peace and security,
Bearing in mind the fundamental principles of international law set forth in the Charter of the United Nations,
Expressing the will and the aspirations of all peoples to eradicate war from the life of mankind and, above all, to avert a world-wide nuclear catastrophe,
Convinced that life without war serves as the primary international prerequisite for the material well-being, development and progress of countries, and for the full implementation of the rights and fundamental human freedoms proclaimed by the United Nations,
Aware that in the nuclear age the establishment of a lasting peace on Earth represents the primary condition for the preservation of human civilization and the survival of mankind,
Recognizing that the maintenance of a peaceful life for peoples is the sacred duty of each State,
1. Solemnly proclaims that the peoples of our planet have a sacred right to peace;
2. Solemnly declares that the preservation of the right of peoples to peace and the promotion of its implementation constitute a fundamental obligation of each State;
3. Emphasizes that ensuring the exercise of the right of peoples to peace demands that the policies of States be directed towards the elimination of the threat of war, particularly nuclear war, the renunciation of the use of force in international relations and the settlement of international disputes by peaceful means on the basis of the Charter of the United Nations;
4. Appeals to all States and international organizations to do their utmost to assist in implementing the right of peoples to peace through the adoption of appropriate measures at both the national and the international level.
In other words, all of us have a right to live in peace which is nothing less than sacred, and it is the duty of governments to ensure that we get to live in peace. Therefore, governments should follow policies that end and avoid war and the use of force, and all of us–governments, international organizations… AND each one of us… must help to make this right a reality. There is something for each of us to do, and we can start by finding out what that is.