"On this International Day of Friendship, let us cultivate warm ties that strengthen our common humanity and promote the well-being of the human family." — UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon
The International Day of Friendship, which falls on Wednesday, 30 July, encompasses the idea that friendship between peoples, countries, cultures and individuals can inspire peace efforts and build bridges between communities. The Day places special emphasis on involving young people, as future leaders, in community activities that include different cultures and promote international understanding and respect for diversity.
The International Day of Friendship, which was proclaimed in 2011 by the UN General Assembly, is also intended to support the goals and objectives of the Declaration and Program of Action on a Culture of Peace, and to foster the values enshrined by the International Decade for a Culture of Peace and Non-Violence for the Children of the World, which was held from 2001 to 2010.
In 1997 the UN General Assembly took up a proposal made earlier by United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) that defined the culture of peace as a set of values, attitudes and behaviors that reject violence and endeavor to prevent conflicts by addressing their root causes with a view to solving problems.
Taking a page from the Constitution of UNESCO, which states that “since wars begin in the minds of men, it is in the minds of men that the defenses of peace must be constructed”, the UN held the view that any attempt to save future generations from the scourge of war requires transformation of minds towards a culture of peace. The UN believes that peace is not only the absence of conflict, but also requires a positive, dynamic participatory process where dialogue is encouraged and conflicts are solved in a spirit of mutual understanding and cooperation.
Clarifying this further, the UN defined its culture of peace as consisting of values, attitudes and behaviors that reflect and inspire social interaction and sharing based on the principles of freedom, justice and democracy. It also includes respect for all human rights, tolerance and solidarity, as well as the rejection of violence and prevention of conflicts by tackling their root causes through dialogue, negotiation and education.
In its resolution of 1998, proclaiming the International Decade for a Culture of Peace and Non-Violence for the Children of the World (2001–2010) the General Assembly recognized that enormous harm and suffering are caused to children through different forms of violence. It emphasized that the promotion of a culture of peace and non-violence should emanate from adults and be instilled in children through education.
The key role in the promotion of a culture of peace belongs to parents, teachers, politicians, journalists, religious bodies and groups, intellectuals, those engaged in scientific, philosophical and creative and artistic activities, health and humanitarian workers, social workers and managers at various levels, as well as to non-governmental organizations.
The UN held the view that if children can learn to live together in peace and harmony they will become the building blocks that contribute to the strengthening of international peace and cooperation.
The Declaration and Program of Action on a Culture of Peace adopted in 1999 set eight areas of action for nations, organizations and individuals to undertake in order for a culture of peace to prevail. These include, fostering a culture of peace through education; promoting sustainable economic and social development; promoting respect for all human rights and ensuring equality between women and men.
Other areas include fostering democratic participation; advancing understanding, tolerance and solidarity; supporting participatory communication and the free flow of information and knowledge; and promoting international peace and security.
The International Day of Friendship is an initiative that stems from this early UNESCO proposal for a culture of peace, as it was deemed that in order to foster this culture it was essential to build bridges between individuals, communities and cultures, as well as cultivate friendships between peoples and countries.
The UN in calling for the International Day of Friendship recognized that a culture of peace and non-violence promotes respect for the life and dignity of every human being without prejudice or discrimination of any kind. The UN also accepted the role of education in constructing a culture of peace and non-violence, in particular the teaching of the practice of peace and non-violence to children, which will promote the purposes and principles embodied in the Charter of the United Nations.
The International Day of Friendship is also based on the recognition of the relevance and importance of friendship as a noble and valuable sentiment in the lives of human beings around the world. To mark the International Day of Friendship the UN encourages governments, international organizations and civil society groups to hold events, activities and initiatives that contribute to the efforts of the international community towards promoting a dialogue among civilizations, solidarity, mutual understanding and reconciliation.