September 21st marked the 20th anniversary of Peace Day, an annual day of global ceasefire. Efforts for the institutionalization of Peace Day began in 1999, when actor and filmmaker Jeremy Gilley set out to document his efforts to create an annual Peace Day. To this end he founded the non-profit organization Peace One Day. In 2001 the organization’s efforts were rewarded when the member states of the United Nations unanimously adopted the first ever annual day of global ceasefire and non-violence on 21 September – Peace Day!
Since 2001, Peace One Day’s objective has been to spread the awareness of Peace Day, making it a day that is self-sustaining, an annual day of global unity, a day of intercultural cooperation on an unprecedented scale. Our small organization, Amis Des Écoles participated in Peace Day this year by engaging the most valuable and impactful resource in our country – our youth.
Today across the world, more than 1.5 billion people live in countries affected by fragility and conflict — a majority of who under the age of 30. These numbers alone justify the inclusion and consideration of youths in policymaking and planning. But in practice, the meaningful participation of young people in peace building has been hindered by the media portraying young people and youths as victims or villains.
Fortunately, we have witnessed a massive shift in this paradigm in recent years. In an effort to promote youths as active leaders and partners in peace processes, the United Nations, Search for Common Ground, and many other NGOs have launched the Guiding Principles on Young People’s Participation in Peacebuilding, which offer guidance to on meaningful youth engagement in conflict or transition settings.
There are many ways to engage youth and with our very young audience, we felt that the best place to start was with the basics. These children live in isolated areas, and they rarely encounter intense national conflict like many children who live in war torn areas of the world. This doesn’t mean that they don’t experience hardships that young children should not have to face – for example a lack of basic needs and the opportunity to make a decent living.
Peace Day at Amis Des Écoles
Engaging these very young Moroccans starts with first understanding the concept of Peace, combined with visual representations that they can identify with. We started with a fun workshop explaining the definition of Peace – quite simply, when conflict is able to be resolved without violence and improves the quality of life. We explained to them that Peace is when:
- Everyone lives in safety, without fear or threat of violence
- Everyone is equal before the law and fair and effective laws protect people.
- Everyone has fair and equal access to the basic needs – food, clean water, shelter, education, healthcare and a decent living environment
- Everyone has an equal opportunity to work and make a living, regardless of gender, ethnicity or any other aspect of identity.”
We then showed the children 4 photographs that demonstrate 2 pictures of peaceful and 2 non-peaceful situations and asked them to write down 1-3 words that they think describe each picture, ask them to discuss with a partner how each picture makes them feel and then share their ideas out loud. We then asked the students to choose which of these definitions of peace they think is most accurate or that they most identify with. The majority of the children described Peace as:
- “Happiness and freedom from trouble or worry”
- “A feeling of safety, mental or emotional calm”
- “Access to education for all children ”
We finished the workshop by making a sign together to show that we stand in solidarity with 180 other countries who have also committed to celebrating Peace Day 193. This activity was fun and special for the children as they were able to understand that Peace does not just mean the opposite of war, but the opportunity to live a life free from hardship, worry and in harmony with others.
For more information about Peace Day, visit peaceoneday.org