UN pays tribute to the world's youth on International Day of Peace

11:16, September 18, 2010      

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As the flags of the 192 UN member states fluttered in the air held up by school children from around the world, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on Friday called on the international community to fight for peace in the face of adversity.

Marking the International Day of Peace, UN officials, students, and peace, political and human rights activists gathered upon the Rose Garden at the UN Headquarters in New York to promote tolerance and non-violence.

In a message dedicated to the world's youth, the secretary- general said the solutions to global challenges lie in the hands of young people.

"To all young people, join us. Help us to work for peace. You are impatient. You see what we, your elders allow to persist, year after year: poverty and hunger; injustice and impunity; environmental degradation."

In a solemn moment, the crowd stood still as Ban bowed his head to observe a minute of silence before ringing the "peace bell" to inaugurate the day's message of youth, peace, and development.

A gift from Japan to the United Nations, the peace bell is cast from pennies donated by children from 60 nations. As part of the ceremony, the ringing of the bell is a tradition that has been carried on annually for almost 30 years.

Established by the UN General Assembly in 1981, the International Day of Peace is marked annually on Sept. 21. However, as the date this year falls in the middle of next week's high- level summit on the UN Millennium Development Goals, commemorative events took place on Friday.

"The theme of the year is timely. We need dialogue and mutual understanding to counter extremism and building lasting peace. We need peace for sustainable development," said the secretary- general.

Meanwhile, Ban underlined the need for ceasefire in combat zones. However, violence continues to threaten the lives of those who seek to maintain peace and security in the world's most volatile regions.

Despite the day's message of non-violence, the statistics unveil a daunting reality. According to the UN Department of Peacekeeping Operations (DPKO), 116 UN staff members were killed while serving with UN peacekeeping and political missions in 2009 alone. Just last week, two African peacekeepers fell victim to a terrorist attack in Somalia's embattled capital of Mogadishu.

Ongoing conflicts throughout the world are a sobering reminder that lasting peace has yet to be achieved. However, the ceremony's participants emphasized the role young people must play to promote the day's message.

Michael Johnson, representative of the non-governmental organization Pathways to Peace, told Xinhua in an on-sight interview that the voices of the youth can help the world "move into the next stage" of promoting a common humanity.

"Young people today have an important voice in their communities, in their countries, in their politics, and to speak the truth from their own hearts to those in power to say what's important to them," he said.

"When youth speak, people listen, especially when they're passionate about it," Johnson added.

Source: Xinhua


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