The UN International Day of Living Together in Peace was adopted by the General Assembly of the United Nations on 8 December 2017 under Resolution 72/130, which was based on the UN Charter, the UNESCO Constitution and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The aim of the Day is to build a sustainable world of peace, solidarity and harmony by upholding the desire to live and act together, through partnerships, and to be united in our differences and diversity.
This year the day will have particular significance for those involved in World War II, as it will follow on closely from commemorating VE (Victory in Europe) Day 75 on 8th May. World War II in Asia did not end until 2nd September, 1945 when the armed forces of Japan surrendered to the Allies. Without working across nations these victories could not have been achieved.
In 2020 we are faced with another world enemy in the COVID19 pandemic. In 1945 people were able to celebrate being together again with street parties and other fun activities on VE Day, this year we had to observe the two metres social distancing and for many, to remain in isolation.
Following the devastation of the Second World War, the United Nations (UN) was established as a way of bringing people together in peace and with the aim of avoiding further conflict. The UN logo shows the world held together in the ‘olive branches of peace’. The UN Charter, which was adopted on 25 June 1945, took effect on 24 October 1945 when the UN’s objectives of maintaining international peace and security, protecting human rights, delivering humanitarian aid, promoting sustainable development and upholding international law were agreed.
The UN has continued to strive to achieve peace and security throughout the world as demonstrated in their various peacekeeping operations. There are currently 13 led by the Department of Peace Operations.
The UN has acknowledged the important role of women in peacekeeping. This year marks the 20th anniversary of the adoption of UN Security Council (SC) Resolution 1325 (2000) on Women, Peace and Security (WPS). The key provisions of this are:
- Increased participation and representation of women at all levels of decision-making;
- Attention to specific protection needs of women and girls in conflict;
- Gender perspective in post-conflict processes;
- Gender perspective in UN programming, reporting, and in SC missions;
- Gender perspective & training in UN peace support operations.
The policy brief ‘Women transforming Peace through Peacekeeping’ sets out clearly the UN’s mandate for increasing the role of women. Good examples of the work of women in peacekeeping are demonstrated in the UN Department for Peace Operations (SPO) brochure ‘Women Transforming Peace’ issued in 2019. It features women leaders in Mali, South Sudan and the Central African Republic engaging with local and national peace processes and partnering in UN peacekeeping missions.
In March 2019, UN Secretary-General, Antonio Guterres, launched his Action for Peace (A4P), which aimed to strengthen peacekeeping by encouraging collective action by all peacekeeping stakeholders, including all Member States, the Security Council, the General Assembly, financial contributors, troop and police contributing countries, host countries, intergovernmental and regional organisations and the UN Secretariat. The goals were to be achieved through a set of mutually agreed commitments and partnerships that had been endorsed by more than 150 member states across the following 8 areas:
- advance political solutions to conflict and enhance the political impact of peacekeeping;
- implement the women, peace and security agenda;
- strengthen the protection provided by peacekeeping operations;
- improve the safety and security of peacekeepers;
- support effective performance and accountability by all peacekeeping components;
- peacebuilding and sustaining peace;
- improve peacekeeping partnerships to enhance collaboration and planning;
- strengthen the conduct of peacekeeping operations and personnel.
The following month, the Secretary-General briefed the Security Council on women in peacekeeping operations saying “Women’s rights, voices and participation must be at the centre of peacekeeping decision-making” and describing them as “central to sustainable solutions” to challenges facing the Organisation worldwide.
The Peace Boat is an NGO (Non-Governmental Organisation) based in Japan promoting peace, human rights and sustainability. The main activities are carried out on board a passenger ship which travels the world. The first voyage was in 1983 undertaken by a number of Japanese students as a learning exercise and creative response to Japan’s censorship of their past aggression in the Asia-Pacific. The organisation holds Special Consultative Status with the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) of the United Nations and it is a committed campaigner for the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDG’s). It works in partnership with the UN SDG Action Campaign to empower participants, strengthen local capacity for sustainability and build people-to-people relationships beyond borders. Peace Boat’s global voyages conduct education, advocacy, and capacity building for the SDG’s. It carries the SDG logo on its hull.
The Covid19 pandemic has not only destroyed the lives of many throughout the world and threatened the lives of many more, but also increased the levels of domestic violence. As a result of the lockdown, many women (and men) are forced to spend more time with abusive partners and are, therefore, subjected to more domestic violence.
There have also been huge impacts on vulnerable children and their families as many have not been able to attend the special units to support their additional needs. Victims of human trafficking and modern-day slavery are also being forced to spend more time with their perpetrators.
It was encouraging, therefore, to hear the announcement of the UK’s £76 million extra funding to support these very vulnerable groups. It is hoped that this will be complemented through partnerships worldwide.
How can Soroptimists promote living together in peace, through partnerships?
- Support Women’s Refuges and other organisations working to help women and children who have been subjected to domestic violence;
- Form partnerships with other organisations which work in support of peace keeping initiatives throughout the world e.g. Amnesty International
- Support the work of organisations working with refugees e.g. the UN Humanitarian Commission for Refugees (UNHCR), the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) and advocate for implementation of the Global Compact on Safe & Orderly Migration.
It would be wonderful if the people and nations of the world could learn to live in peace and harmony and that is the hope that I believe the vast majority share. However, there will always be areas of conflict, disasters or, as we are now experiencing, a world pandemic, all of which threaten world peace. It is vital, therefore, that we work together in partnership (SDG17) to achieve peace/justice/safe communities (SDG16) so that we, the people, can fulfil our potential for good.