UN Marks International Peace Day
From Its Headquarters To Far-Flung Trenches Of War, UN Marks International Peace Day
New York, Sep 21 2006 10:00AM
In New York Secretary-General Kofi Annan rang the Peace Bell, on the conflict-seared fields of Somalia appeals rang out to end the violence, and in Afghanistan children flew the once forbidden kites of hope as the United Nations system today marked the annual International Day of Peace from its stately Headquarters building to the furthest flung trenches of warfare.
In southern Lebanon, latest focus of UN efforts to restore peace after the 34-day war between Israel and Hizbollah which ended last month, blue-helmeted peacekeepers marched past at their Naqoura base camp overlooking the Israeli border to honour the Day that was established by the UN General Assembly 25 years ago.
And in Iraq the top UN official appealed for national unity to promote peace at a time when the war-torn country is confronting the most difficult period of its history.
“For some of us, peace is a day-to-day reality,” Mr. Annan declared as he stood in front of the bell, a gift from Japan cast from the pennies donated by children from 60 nations, before driving the ringing beam into it three times – the last time he will do so as he steps down from his office at the end of the year.
“Our streets are safe; our children go to school. Where the fabric of society is strong, the precious gifts of peace can almost go unremarked. But for far too many people in the world today, those gifts are only an elusive dream. They live in chains: a climate of insecurity and fear. It is mainly for them that this day exists.”
He noted that the last few weeks had seen “tragic new escalations of conflict in several parts of the world” and stressed the many ways the UN works for peace from preventive diplomacy to peacekeeping missions and efforts to support democracy and promote human rights.
Participants at the ceremony and UN staff throughput the world observed a minute of silence in the name of peace, and a choir sang an anthem of peace. The flags of the world’s nations were paraded in the balmy autumn air on the front lawn in front of the Headquarters building.
Five UN Messengers of Peace stood at Mr. Annan’s side - author and journalist Anna Cataldi, Oscar-winning actor Michael Douglas, wildlife researcher and conservationist Jane Goodall, Nobel Peace Prize laureate and Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel, and tennis champion and actor Vijay Armitraj. And Mr. Annan formally appointed a new messenger, world renowned cellist Yo-Yo Ma, whoᾠperformed for the gathering.