20 years of International Peace Day

A wrap-up of the initiatives and organisations working to raise awareness about peace.

International Peace Day, celebrated on the 21st of September is a United Nations (UN) initiative established in 1981. The day provides a globally shared date for humanity to commit to peace above all differences.

This year’s theme, ‘Climate Action for Peace’, draws attention to the importance of combatting climate change as a way to protect and promote peace throughout the world. Many organisations participated in and hosted innovative initiatives to raise awareness and encourage participation on peace day across the world.

The Kroc Institute, one of the leading centres for the study of violent conflict and sustainable peace, hosted a panel ‘What’s peace got to do with it? Peace studies at the intersection of race, class, and gender’, featuring a lineup of institute peacebuilding experts. The panel highlighted the importance of intersectional thinking in addressing peace by opening dialogue, and linking personal and interpersonal experiences into larger movements.

The United Nations Geneva Peace Talks highlighted the importance of trust in peacebuilding. Eight speakers from around the world spoke about their efforts to promote trust and build sustainable peace. Hailing from Nigeria to Colombia, the speakers addressed issues of failed leadership, poor governance and rebuilding trust between groups and communities.

“To build peace, we do not need power. We need trust. So let’s have a real discussion on building real peace and building real trust” (Tatiana Valovaya, Director-General of the UN Geneva).

Alliance for Peacebuilding announced their annual Melanie Greenberg US Peacebuilding Award of Excellence on this day, aiming to recognise innovative US peacebuilding efforts tackling drivers of conflict, from gun violence to intolerance, at the community level and beyond.

The three winners of the award, Bria Smith, Hamse Warfa and Donna Minter, all contributed to increasing peacefulness in their communities. As President of the Milwaukee Youth Violence Prevention Council, Bria brought young people together as a voice for change. Hamse, a Somali-born American, was recognised for facilitating authentic dialogue on citizenship and belonging for his community. In Minneapolis, Donna established Strategies for Trauma Awareness and Resilience Training, a grassroots peacebuilding initiative transforming psychological trauma into nonviolent power.

Peace Day 193 was a campaign lead by Peace One Day, aimed at activating and linking a global youth network in all 193 member states of the United Nations through online social platforms.  On the ground, Peace One Day held a 20-year celebration at the Globe Theatre, with artist performances and panel discussions, covering sexism and harassment, cyber non-violence, and Peace Day Action across six continents.

This year’s International Peace Day coincided with a worldwide effort on climate action, ranging from student protests to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) Action Zone programme. The Climate Action Summit included a platform for leaders calling for an ambitious delivery of the SDG targets.

The SDG Butterfly Effect Twitter campaign, built on the idea that every action, no matter how small, can have a transformative impact on making the SDGs a reality. For Peace Day, the #SDG16 Butterfly effect, showcased everyday people’s work on peace, justice and strong institutions.

The Institute for Economics and Peace reflected on a decade of peace and conflict, releasing a timeline of events in peace and conflict, and re-releasing the film Soldiers of Peace. The film reflects on the unnoticed ways in which people are building peace, emphasising nonviolent alternatives to war.

Resources and further reading:

Download the 2021 Global Peace Index Report

Read “How The World Commemorated 100 Year Anniversary of Armistice Day”