Each year the International Day of Peace is observed around the world on 21 September. The UN General Assembly has declared this as a day devoted to strengthening the ideals of peace, both within and among all nations and peoples. The theme of this year’s International Day of Peace is the ‘Right of Peoples to Peace’; the central message of this theme is that humanity’s sustainable progress and the realization of fundamental rights and freedoms depend on peace and security. It recognizes that peace is vital for the full enjoyment of all human rights.
On the occasion of International Day of Peace, the UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon released a message in which he called for dousing the fires of extremism and tackling the root causes of conflict. Armed conflict causes untold grief to families, communities and entire countries. Too many are suffering today at the brutal hands of warmongers and terrorists. Let us stand with them in solidarity, said the Secretary-General.
We have made much progress. But much remains to be done. Peace is a long road that we must travel together – step by step, beginning today. History has shown that, no matter how fierce, conflict can end, peace can prevail and reconciliation can triumph, noted the UN Chief. He added, “On 21 September, let us celebrate the value of human diversity and the strength of our unity. On this occasion let us urge every peace-loving person to engage with their friends and neighbors, their community organizations and governments. Together, let us demand the right of peoples to peace.”
Sadly, despite the best intentions of the UN and peace-loving people around the world, in September, as global leaders gather in New York for their annual session at the UN General Assembly, the world seems to be in an appalling state of affairs.
Extremists hold sway over large parts of Iraq and Syria; violence engulfs communities across a wide swathe of central Africa; Libya is increasingly descending into chaos; there is no sign of any abatement in the ‘Arab-Israel conflict and Ukraine appears tottering on the brink.
As we approach the 70th anniversary of the founding of the United Nations, the primary objective of which was maintaining international peace and security, reconciliation among warring factions and safety for its citizens remain as elusive as ever. International diplomacy seems to be in a fairly abysmal state. With member states of the UN continuing to squabble over every detail of a conflict, a consensus on resolving them any time in the near future appears to be remote.
The United States and its Arab allies are reluctant to join forces with Syria and Iran to combat the Islamic State terrorists. Despite recent agreement between Israel and Palestinians to start reconstruction work in war-wracked Gaza, the UN Secretary-General admitted that the two sides "seem more polarized than ever."
There are as many opposing and supporting parties sitting on the outside, as there are involved in African conflicts and in Libya. And the intractable views held on multiple issues in the Arab-Israel conflict means that too remains ‘not-now’ burner of international diplomacy.
As the Secretary-General recently noted, "Each problem has its own dynamics and requires its own approach; but all have featured atrocious attacks on civilians, including children. All have dangerous sectarian, ethnic, or tribal dimensions. And many have seen sharp divisions within the international community itself over the response."