[Dateline: New York | Author: iSeek]
As Heads of State and Government and delegates gathered at Headquarters on Tuesday, 23 September, for the start of the General Debate of the 63rd Session, they were greeted by messages of peace from the world's peoples displayed on the General Assembly Hall's monitors beginning at 8:30 a.m. and broadcast for 30 minutes.
The unprecedented happening was the culmination of a global "Txt 4 peace" campaign launched by the Department of Public Information, and in which the Secretary-General himself participated, to send messages of peace to the world's leaders on the occasion of the 2008 International Day of Peace, 21 September.
Short text messages were sent from people's mobile phones along with emails from a web site set up for the purpose.
Millions of messages were sent to raise awareness worldwide and messages have been received on the txt 4 peace web site from 132 countries. See the messages.
The Secretary-General's text message, which he sent at the Friday, 19 September Headquarters commemoration, read, "On 21 September, the International Day of Peace, I call on world leaders and peoples around the world to join forces against conflict, poverty and hunger, and for all human rights for all."
The broadcast of peace messages, received and displayed in many languages, is to continue in the GA Hall for the rest of the week in the mornings before the official meetings begin. Messages were also being broadcast on monitors throughout the Secretariat.
The Alliance of Civilizations celebrated International Day of Peace by highlighting the crucial role young religious leaders and youth representatives in the community play in promoting cross-cultural understanding and dialogue. As a follow-up to their last video for International Day of Youth, two young interns at the Alliance, Sarah Tarshis and Dex Torricke-Barton, produced another short video about their generation's contribution to the fight against religious stereotypes and the importance of breaking down barriers.
In locations around the world, United Nations offices celebrated the Day established by the General Assembly for "commemorating and strengthening the ideals of peace both within and among all nations and peoples" and as a Day of "global ceasefire and non-violence."
The network of 63 UN Information Centres (UNICs) as well as a number of UN peacekeeping operations organized varied activities including sports competitions, peace rallies, photo exhibits, panel discussions, and radio and TV programmes.
Afghanistan : Guns fell silent across many areas of Afghanistan on Sunday as the tens of thousands of soldiers of the national and international militaries, and the Taliban all stood down from offensive military operations in support of the biggest International Peace Day effort that Afghanistan has known.
From Kabul to Kandahar, and Mazar to Nimroz, communities across the country were marking the day with sports events, marches, and gatherings – representing a huge groundswell of support for peace and following a peace appeal on Friday by President Hamid Karzai. Streets and vehicles were adorned with some three hundred thousand blue flags distributed by national businesses and carrying the symbol of a dove.
Text messages for peace appeared on mobile phones, sent out by the major telecommunications companies. Meanwhile, teams of health workers fanned out across seven provinces in the south, east, and west of the country in the most ambitious peace day polio vaccination effort to date – potentially reaching 1.8 million children.
The Special Representative of the Secretary-General, Kai Eide, described the response as "remarkable" and in a statement urged Afghans and their international partners alike to join together in making enduring peace a common goal. "Today's events show the huge demand that exists for peace in Afghanistan," he said. "A window for peace has been opened, through which the people of Afghanistan are making themselves heard."
The UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) and UN agencies in Afghanistan work alongside multiple Afghan and international partners in efforts to support Peace Day, both as a means of increasing space for humanitarian activities and as a means of promoting peace itself.
Argentina: The 8th Parliamentary Assembly of Youth Leaders entitled "Youth, Justice and Peace" and a peace commemoration, both with NGO participation, were organized during the weekend to commemorate the International Day of Peace.
Armenia: The traditional UN Cup Chess Festival entitled "Sports for Peace" for students, journalists, and civil society took place. In addition, in coordination with the UN information office in Yerevan, a local mobile phone company sent the SG's text message in Armenian to its 600,000 subscribers.
Austria: The UN Information Service in Vienna organized the forum Uniting for Peace for students from southeastern Europe, in cooperation with the City of Vienna. UNIS also collected hundreds of messages for peace in several languages via e-mail and from visitors to the UN Office in Vienna.
Bahrain: UNIC Manama partnered with the Bahrain National telecommunications company BATELCO, which sent the SG's text message to all of its 700,000 subscribers.
In addition, UNIC Manama, teaming up with Bahrain's Ministry of Information and Al Jazeera Children TV Channel, organized a special Peace Day commemoration at Bahrain's National Museum. Al Jazeera Children TV devoted a programme to the International Day of Peace and its correspondent in Bahrain focused on the "Painting For Peace" workshop, co-organized by UNIC, the Ministry of Information and lead by Bahrain top painter and peace activist Abbas Al Mousawi, also at the National Museum.
BBC Radio Arabic Service devoted an entire programme to the SG's SMS (simple message system) initiative and interviewed people from Gaza on their peace expectations while Bahrain, Qatar and UAE national TV channels aired excerpts of the SG's video message during their prime time news programmes. The leading newspapers in the three countries as well as some in Saudi Arabia published articles on the SG's initiative to resort to his mobile phone to spread the call for peace. In addition to running excerpts of it in its prime time news, Al Arabiya TV posted the SG's message on its Arabic and Farsi web sites.
Bangladesh : The UNIC, together with UN system partners, NGOs and government representatives, chose "Peace we can make, World we can change" as the best slogan for the International Day of Peace. It cooperated with a mobile phone company to disseminate the peace message to millions and to organize a Peace Day Rally, jointly with Dhaka University. Media outreach included a radio programme on Bangladesh Betar and a TV discussion on Bangladesh Television, as well as an article on the International Day of Peace, written by UNIC Dhaka, and published by the popular Bangla daily Prothom Alo.
Belgium : Screening of the documentary "War Child" took place as part of UNRIC Brussels' project CINE-ONU.
Benelux: At the initiative of UNRIC Brussels, various religious leaders and leaders of humanistic and other movements in the Benelux countries commemorated the Day and transmitted the SG's message to members of their communities.
Brazil: The Second Forum on Violence, Popular Participation and Human Rights at the Catholic University of Rio was co-organized by UNIC and a local NGO.
Burundi: UNIC Bujumbura co-organized activities with the UN Integrated Office in Burundi, the Government of Burundi and the National Football Federation, including a soccer match between FNL Palipehutu (last rebel movement in Burundi) and the National Army team. It also co-organized a March for Peace.
China: The UNDP Office in Beijing partnered with DPI and received hundreds of on-line peace messages through its dedicated web site on the International Day of Peace.
In Côte d'Ivoire, four mobile phone companies and 25,000 people participated by either sending or receiving messages. The UN Operation in Côte d'Ivoire, UNOCI's public service announcements promoting the campaign ran on Ivoirian TV and on cnn.com/iReport.
Egypt: The UNIC arranged a photographic exhibit on UN peacekeeping, in cooperation with the International Federation for Peace and the Governorate Hurgada, at the Red Sea resort Hurgada. The network of "Lycées jésuites" and the National Council for Youth took part in the peace messaging campaign via the peaceday2008.org web site and organized a viral SMS campaign within their national networks.
France: UNRIC's Desk for France organized a reading of "UN ou la renaissance d'une utopie", a play about peacekeeping, and moderated the round-table in Marseille on peacekeeping operations.
Ghana: UNIC Accra partnered with Ghana Telecom which received some 40 individual text messages on peace in English and Twi. The Centre also organized a peace walk in the capital as well as presentations on the International Day of Peace at local high schools.
India: UNIC New Delhi, in collaboration with the National Legal Services Authority, launched a 12-day campaign Celebrating Peace and Non-Violence, which concludes on 2 October, the International Day of Non-Violence. The campaign was launched from Gandhi Smriti, the venue where Mahatma Gandhi was assassinated.
Indonesia: A series of activities to commemorate the Day, including an address by the Indonesian President and a peace walk and bazaar, co-organized by UNIC, the UN Resident Coordinator, Indonesian Veteran's League and the Ministry of Peoples Social Welfare.
Ireland: An exhibit opened on UN peacekeeping operations at the Dublin Institute of Technology, the largest educational institution in Ireland, with remarks by UNRIC's UK and Ireland Desk Officer and a former UN peacekeeper.
Japan: UNIC Tokyo collected one hundred online postcards with peace messages through its special IDP website (www.unic.or.jp/peaceday/).
Kenya: The UNIC partnered with the mobile company Safaricom, which received over 100,000 individual text messages on peace while several Kenyan newspapers featured the SMS campaign.
Lebanon: A 30-second TV spot was produced with Lebanese singer Carole Samaha, delivering a message of peace for broadcast on Lebanese TV stations, in collaboration with the UN Communications Group. The mobile company Naharnet/Power Me Mobile sent a peace message to 350,000 subscribers while Lebanese religious leaders were invited to support the International Day of Peace in their weekend public statements. A series of articles on the role of UNIFIL was published in the daily Al Balad during the week of 21 September.
UNIFIL asked Lebanese people for their messages of peace, several of which were recorded on video and posted on cnn.com's iReport.
In Liberia, UNMIL collected more than 10,000 text messages on peace from throughout the country.
Mexico: The 60th anniversary of UN peacekeeping exhibit was inaugurated at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Peace Bell Ceremony at a public park in Mexico City. In addition, UNIC collected hundreds of peace messages through a special page on its web site.
Nepal: The UNIC partnered with the NGO Equal Access in launching a competition titled "What Peace Means to You", asking young people to send in their views about peace through SMS, phone calls, e-mails and letters. The responses are to be compiled in a booklet and issued on Human Rights Day on 10 December, while the best slogan will be selected by a panel of judges. In addition, the UNIC will conduct several knowledge-sharing sessions to discuss issues related to peace at the community level.
Pakistan: The UNIC mobilized civil society and youth groups to join the TXT 4 PEACE / WRITE 4 PEACE campaign to send a peace message to their friends, family and social and business contacts, aiming to circulate peace messages to over 2 million people in Pakistan and abroad. A number of activities took place in several educational institutions to encourage students to support the UN campaign for peace. In addition, a private radio channel FM100 aired a programme entitled "Peace transmission", inviting listeners to send text messages on peace.
Paraguay: The UNIC partnered with the mobile phone company Nucleo SA to send a peace message to 630,000 of its subscribers. Other Peace Day activities included a commemorative event, a parade of students and a series of conferences on human security and human rights.
Portugal: UNRIC's Desk Officer for Portugal delivered a lecture at an event to commemorate the International Day of Peace, organized by the Portuguese Council for Peace and Cooperation. Other activities included the launch of a Peace Poster contest, organized by UNRIC and Cascais High School and a conference on peace and the United Nations, organized by Pro Dignitate Foundation and UNRIC Brussels.
Republic of the Congo: UNIC Brazzaville organized a special matinée with students and NGO representatives to celebrate the Day. During the course of the event, participants were able to use the Centre's Internet Corner to send their online peace messages. The Centre also organized a panel discussion on peace and development, in cooperation with the National Commission for Justice and Peace and the Universal Federation for Peace.
In the Republic of Korea, diverse civil society and student volunteer organizations formed the Korean Organizing Committee for UN International Day of Peace. Some of their activities included screening of the Secretary-General's video message, hanging posters at prominent locations, online campaigns and local media coverage. Syndicated Korean cartoonist, Wonsoo Lee contributed two cartoons for free promotional use.
: The UNIC organized a special event to mark the Day with a traditional wreath-laying ceremony, remarks by the UN Resident Coordinator and government representatives and with the participation of pupils of Moscow's network of "schools of peace".
South Africa: UNIC Pretoria partnered with the cell-phone service provider MTN to send SMS peace message to subscribers in South Africa, Ghana, Nigeria, Swaziland, Guinea-Bissau, Zambia and Uganda.
Other activities included an International Peace Day assembly at a local primary school during a month-long peace awareness programme and an arts competition attended by more than 100 students, challenging them to use their creativity to give their personal interpretation of what "peace" means to them. UNIC staff was part of the panel to judge the best peace-day related poem, poster and drama performance. Another programme at a high school in Johannesburg focused on xenophobia, with many students present being asylum seekers and some even victims of xenophobic violence in South Africa earlier this year.
Sri Lanka: A Peace Walk and seminar to mark the Day took place, jointly organized by the UNIC and the UN Association of Sri Lanka.
Thailand: An observance of the Day took place, organized in cooperation with Chulalongkorn University as well as a briefing programme for 65 monks from Mahachulalongkorn Rajavitayalai University.
Timor-Leste: Several peacekeeping operations conducted campaigns for peace. UNMIT received over 1,000 text messages on "what can you do for peace?" and its public service announcements illustrating several Timorese ideas on peace are displayed in cnn.com/iReport.
Turkey: A peace bell ceremony took place, jointly organized by the UNIC and the Turkish-Japanese Foundation, with the participation of government officials, representatives of UN agencies, NGOs and the public.
Ukraine: A football game in Donetsk was played to mark the Day in the framework of Puma Peace One Day Initiative.
United Kingdom: UNRIC's UK and Ireland Desk delivered the SG's message at the Rochdale Peace Parade.
United States: UNIC Washington marked the Day by organizing an exhibit honoring 60 years of UN Peacekeeping and a Knowledge Fair at the US Capital, which was attended by congressmen and a coalition of NGO advocacy groups.
Zimbabwe: A ceremony to mark the Day, with representatives of 12 religions and faith traditions offering peace prayers, was organized by UNIC in conjunction with UNESCO and the Committee on Dialogue Among Religions to Promote Peace.