Afghanistan: Press briefing by Ambassador for Peace One Day, Peace One Day Founder, UNICEF Representative and UNAMA Spokesman 19 Jul 2007

Report
from UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan
Published on 19 Jul 2007
(near verbatim transcript)

Adrian Edwards, UNAMA spokesman: Asalaamu Alaikum. Good morning everyone. Today's press conference marks the start of a campaign involving the United Nations and the organization Peace One Day to bring about a day without conflict in Afghanistan 63 days from now, on Peace Day, September 21st.

We are joined for this event by Jeremy Gilley, filmmaker and founder of Peace One Day; Jude Law, actor and ambassador for Peace One Day; and Catherine Mbengue, UNICEF representative here in Afghanistan.

Jeremy Gilley, Founder, Peace One Day: I would firstly like to thank the United Nations for supporting this process. Also to give particular thanks to UNICEF, without whose support we would not have been able to carry out our mission this week. The introduction has been incredible, and we're very grateful.

You have seen a short film just now which is taken from a feature film that shows how the first ever day for peace with the fixed calendar date, 21 of September - a day of ceasefire a day of non-violence - was established. We are now making the sequel to that film, Part Two, which is about how life-saving activity can take place on the 21st of September as well as how we tell the world that the day exists.

The reason for doing this is that we want to inspire and empower the individuals of this world to mark Peace Day. So, by making a film the aim is to demonstrate that this day can not only save lives but it can also empower young people in all of our countries to become the driving force behind the vision of a united world. We must come together as one above politics, above religions (although not be more important), but we must unite if we are to shift consciousness around to the most fundamental issue humanity faces, which is the protection of each other and our environment. The 21st of September is the starting point for a united world.

So in order to inspire people, we need to see action and we have come to Afghanistan to ask organizations and individuals to carry out that action so that what happens in Afghanistan inspires the world, gives them hope. If it can happen here it can happen everywhere else so that the people of Afghanistan and the organisations that work within this country carry a message of hope to the people of our world.

We have met representatives from ISAF, NATO, UNAMA, ICRC, Afghan Red Crescent Society (ARCS), we have been to a primary school in the Qarghayi district in Jalalabad; we have been to a hospital; we have been speaking to young children in Jalalabad; we went to the Tanqi returnee settlement; we have met representatives from the Provincial Reconstruction Team (PRT) in Jalalabad; we have met young people from various places who have shared their passion for peace and the success of this day. We have met with representatives from the European Union. We met your Minister of Education, a very inspiring meeting. We met the Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General in Afghanistan, Tom Koenigs, a very exciting meeting, very encouraging. We have met the British Ambassador, we have met lots of different individuals from different agencies. We met a representative from the Canadian Embassy. And I can tell you that there was a willingness to mark Peace Day this year from everybody that we met. We are very encouraged and very, very excited.

So our film will end here on the 21st of September in Afghanistan. We will document the commitments that have been made to this day, and with those messages, with that action we will inspire the rest of the world to become involved in the peace process by marking peace day.

Jude Law, Ambassador, Peace One Day: Good morning, Salaam. I would also like to start by thanking UNICEF for inviting us. It has been an extraordinary trip. Perhaps I should say a little bit about the background of my involvement in this organisation. I met Jeremy fifteen years ago, and followed his journey with Peace One Day with great intrigue and great pride.

Six weeks ago, I was recording a statement for the Peace One Day website, which was also to be used at the Royal Albert Hall where Peace Day in London will be celebrated on the 21st of September this year. I asked Jeremy what his next trip was. He told me that he was coming here and asked if I wanted to come, and if I would consider being a Peace One Day Ambassador.

I said yes immediately. This is a country that I have always wanted to visit. It was a situation that I found intriguing, I felt that if it was safe for Jeremy it must be safe for me. And I embraced the position of Peace One Day as an apolitical, impartial and independent organization.

I also communicated with the way that Peace One Day uses film as a tool to communicate its message. And as a person who works in film, it felt like a very natural fit.

Afghanistan will be the focal point for the second film. So it seemed important that Jeremy also have a sounding board, a third party perspective on his trip. I suppose also, I was here, wherever possible, to empower Jeremy's art to all the people that we have met, to carry out - as he said - practical life-saving activities for Peace Day, 21st of September this year.

That really is the message of this film. This film is about documenting and seeing how Peace Day can save lives. And so finally it is understanding that Peace Day is about all of us recognising the day. And so, to anyone and every one listening or watching, and to all of you here - please make your commitment to the day, because each and every one of our commitments make a difference.

Thank you.

QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS

Tamadun TV [Translated from Dari]: You are carrying a message about Peace One Day, but you did not introduce yourself. Where do you make your films and which country do you come from? My question is for Jude Law and Jeremy Gilley.

Jude Law: I come from London, England, I have made films in many, many countries: around Europe, North America and in Eastern Europe. This is my first trip to Afghanistan.

Jeremy Gilley: This actual film, I would have thought would probably play in close to 40-50 countries (I hope more), and at maybe 60-70 international film festivals. We will play it at schools, in universities. We will have this film out there in social and economic forums. Obviously Jude is going to be very active in supporting this process, but we want you to know that because this film will end in Afghanistan, we will have the first screening of this film in this country, probably in springtime of next year. We will bring this film back to where it was made.

IRIN: Do you have a specific message to the warring parties in Afghanistan to have a ceasefire on 21st September?

Jeremy Gilley: We have a message for everyone, whether it is fighting in our countries, whether it is fighting in our homes, in our communities, or in our schools. The message is to us all. There is one day of Peace on this planet each year. If peace is important, as I know it is to the people of this country, then we will all do everything that we can on that day to send a message of hope to the people of our world. The message is to everyone who hears this call to action. Please do all you can to mark peace day, the 21st of September.

Pajhwok: You mentioned about a two-month long campaign. Would you please tell us what activities are included in this campaign? Will UNICEF be carrying out this campaign?

Spokesman: Thank you for your question. This morning we have just finished a meeting with the Public Information Officers of all United Nations agencies in Afghanistan to get their support. The Special Representative is also supporting this and will be talking about this to the entire United Nations Country Team - involving some 20 UN agencies - at a meeting here in Kabul on Monday. The aim is to solicit their involvement too. We are planning a series of activities and announcements over the coming weeks, and you will see the first of these next week. To succeed, we will need much more -- the entire community in Afghanistan, yourselves included, will need to be behind this too.

Internews: Pakistan and Afghanistan have always been accusing each other. Do you have a specific message for Afghanistan and Pakistan that would resolve the problems between these two countries?

Jude Law: I think the message of peace is for everyone. The message has always been the same, which is to recognize and celebrate Peace Day, a single day. Obviously the hope is that this will affect the other 364 days of the year. Let's mark this one day, let's start with this one day, because it is a call for action. The message should go around the world - not to a specific country.

Tolo TV (translated from Dari): First of all, welcome to Afghanistan. My question is, apart from Afghanistan, which countries have you visited for this documentary and to promote this message?

Jeremy Gilley: I've been to nearly fifty countries. I've been to many countries in Africa - Somalia, Burundi, Sudan, Kenya, and Tanzania. I've been to Australia, Germany, France, and Switzerland. We've been to Argentina, North America - we have been to many, many countries. Some of those countries are dealing heavily with conflict, although all countries are engaged in issues that society faces, in terms of non-violence. The message has always been the same - what will you do on the day? There has always been encouragement from wherever we have been to observe the day and to want to see it as a success. I've spoken to 33,000 young people from every continent of the world. I've spoken to many women from many countries who are dealing with conflict and violence. The message is always the same - let's make this day work.

RTA (translated from Dari): Can you please tell us what kind of film this is. Is it a documentary or feature film? And which parts of the country will you film in?

Jeremy Gilley: Firstly, it's a documentary feature film. The first film I made was in association with the BBC. However, we are fully independent, we have editorial control. We are impartial and apolitical. The second film is also a feature-length documentary. We now have many more partners around the world in terms of screening this film. This next film will cover the ten-year period from the moment the idea came for this day, all the way to its full implementation of saving lives. In relation to which areas we will film in, of course we have been to Jalalabad and we have spent time here in Kabul. However, the commitment that has come from the United Nations and many other agencies will of course be in many other regions and we will document all of those. That is why it is so important to us that Afghanistan, and the organisations involved, make these commitments - so that we can use that very powerful, inspirational tool to get other people to do the same.

Question (translated from Dari): You said that the focal point of your second film will be Afghanistan. Why have you chosen Afghanistan as the subject for your second documentary? The second part of my question is that Jude Law said that when he thought that it was safe for to Jeremy travel to Afghanistan, then it must be safe for him. Is Afghanistan portrayed as an unsafe country in the Western media?

Jeremy Gilley: The focus of this next film being in Afghanistan is because I went back to the United Nations and we discussed potential areas where life-saving activities could be carried out. Very Courageously UNICEF in Afghanistan has chosen, along with other UN agencies, to take the lead on this initiative. So of course to come to a country such as this, to work with an agency such as UNICEF and the UN, is obviously a great honour. I also think that it is very interesting that we come to a country such as Afghanistan, where the people are full of pride and courage, where there is hope, where there is beauty. And we take this message from its people, from the UN agencies and other organisations, to the people of the world. And yes, it is true that what I thought about Afghanistan, having been here, is now completely different. And I am honoured to have the opportunity to educate others via this film, that Afghanistan is a country that I hope one day will inspire us all.

Jude Law: My initial motivation was simply to accompany Jeremy as a filmmaker. Unfortunately, yes it's true - I think my preconceptions were fed by the media. There were certain concerns about security and safety. As Jeremy said very eloquently, on arrival it becomes very apparent that we would like to spread a message that is very different to that. This is a country filled with hope.

Question (translated from Dari): We witness this message of peace in Afghanistan at a time when one of the most important anti-government elements has announced that they will stop armed conflict against the government - the party of Gulbuddin Hekmatyar. What does the United Nations feel about this?

UNAMA Spokesman: We did see that statement, and while I do not wish to comment specifically on it, we do needless to say welcome commitments to peace and an end to conflict from everyone. In a year where much of the focus has been on violence in this country, one of the things we are trying to do today is to project a message about peace. And I can only echo what has been said - this is to everyone. We do want all the community - yourselves and everyone out there - to commit to supporting this goal of peace in Afghanistan on 21st September.

Jeremy Gilley: I'd just finally like to say that we also have with us in this room some Afghan celebrities that have joined us today. We'd obviously like to thank them for their support over the coming two months to raise awareness of the day and to support the call to action to whoever receives this message. What will you do to make peace on 21st September? I wish everybody that we have met this week the very best of luck in their preparations. By working together there will be "Peace One Day".