Dialogue and exchanging of ideas avail an opportunity to deal with impunity that promotes violence against vulnerable groups such as women and persons with disabilities.
On 30th November 1981, the United Nations (UN) General Assembly declared the third Tuesday of September the International Day of Peace. In 2001, the UN General Assembly unanimously designated the day as a period of non-violence and cease-fire. For years, the International Day of Peace is observed around the World on 21 September.
This year’s celebration is unique as it has been demonstrated that humanity does not thrive under adversity. Rather, it faces common enemies that threaten "our health, security and way of life."
Covid-19 has pushed the world into disorder and reminded humanity that what happens in one part of the world can impact human beings everywhere. Covid-19 has already had serious social, economic and political impacts on all countries on the planet. This is a period that reminds us that global cooperation is the way to go to fight common threats to global peace – an embodiment of the purposes for which the United Nations was formed.
This year’s International Day of Peace is dedicated to nurturing dialogue and collecting ideas. The world is being rallied upon to unite and exchange thoughts on how to steer clear of the tide, heal the world, and make it a better place, hence the theme: “Shaping Peace Together”. Humanity is being called upon to celebrate the day by giving compassion, kindness and hope in the face of Covid-19. It is about coming together as people of the world to use the virus to counter discrimination or hatred.
The UN already designated 2020 as a year of listening and learning from people around the world, including Malawians. To mark its 75th anniversary, it launched a global conversation on how to build a peaceful and prosperous future that people want. One of the ways to join the conversation is by taking a one-minute UN75 online survey (www.un75.online). In Malawi, over 22,000 people have so far added their voices to the dialogue that runs until 31 December this year, calling for more jobs, more equality, better access to healthcare services, better access to quality education, improved environment and less conflict.
In Malawi, the International Peace Day is being commemorated under a localised theme: "Shaping Peace Together for Malawi", coming at a time the Covid-19 pandemic has already proved to be a threat to peaceful coexistence. Cases of discrimination and unequal access to the right to health have been reported. Implementation of Covid-19 preventive measures has proved challenging as some sections of the society have openly defied them as limiting their human and economic rights.
For Malawi, nurturing dialogue and exchanging ideas come at the right time when the country has just come out of elections and there is a new team in the Government. It is time to nurture dialogue over a culture of confrontation and divisions along cultural, religious or ethnic lines.
Dialogue and exchanging of ideas avail an opportunity to deal with impunity that promotes violence against vulnerable groups such as women and persons with disabilities. They also avail the opportunity to realize that, as a society, we need to support the right to protest while seeking to prevent violence. It is encouraging to note that most protests in Malawi are non-violent.
In line with the principle of leaving no one behind, dialogue and exchanging of ideas avail the opportunity to consider women as active social and economic agents that can make decisive contributions to community resilience, social cohesion and peaceful coexistence.
A moment for dialogue and exchanging of ideas could not have come at any better time than when the country is in the process of establishing the Malawi Peace Commission, whose mandate will be the implementation of the peace policy – a framework for peacebuilding and conflict transformation that fosters collaborative partnerships between the government, civil society and different actors for sustainable peace.
As we mark the 75th anniversary of the United Nations, our world is becoming ever more connected – a world in which, as the late Secretary General Dag Hammarskjöld described: “The weakness of one is the weakness of all, and the strength of one is indirectly the strength of all.”
A culture of peace in Malawi will have, no doubt, a positive impact on the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Malawi’s commitment to peace also has the potential to positively impact on the region and the global community to address the challenges upon us and, together, build a more peaceful, just and sustainable world.
By Maria Jose Torres
The author is the United Nations Resident Coordinator in Malawi
Development Coordination Officer, Programme Communications and Advocacy