The United Nations General Assembly has set 21 September as a Day of Peace. The day was chosen to be as close as possible to the start of the annual U.N. General Assembly, which is called upon to respond to a very diversified set of challenges. The response is usually to raise awareness of the particular issue through discussion. However, short-term geopolitical considerations and national interest, narrowly defined, have repeatedly taken precedence over action on human suffering and grave breaches of international peace and security.
Nevertheless the goals of the United Nations are set out in the Preamble to the U.N. Charter:
“We the Peoples of the United Nations determined
– to save succeeding generations from the scourge of war
– to reaffirm faith in fundamental human rights, in the dignity and worth of the human person, in the equal rights of men and women and of nations large and small
– to establish conditions under which justice and respect for the obligations arising from treaties and other sources of international law can be maintained
– to promote social progress and better standards of life in larger freedom.”
The Preamble is not a shopping list of unrelated goals but rather the result of a wholistic vision: the abolition of war, the re-affirmation of human rights based on the dignity of the human person, the conditions under which justice and international law can be maintained, social progress in larger freedom – all are interrelated. None can be achieved without the others. Thus the work of the United Nations should be carried out in a wholistic spirit.
This year the emphasis of the U.N. Day of Peace is on human rights as it is the 70th anniversary of the proclamation of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. In December 1948, the General Assembly was meeting in Paris as the U.N. did not yet have its permanent home in New York City.
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