“Great opportunities to help others seldom come, but small ones surround us every day.” – Sally Koch
International Day of Peace comes around every year (September 21), and this might sound weird for an obsessed peacebuilder like me, but I usually avoid it. I mean, the concept of peace day is good and all, but the way peace day is celebrated is often strange, sometimes awkward, and generally not really accomplishing much of anything towards peace or justice.
I’ll share two examples of how former colleagues, partner organizations, and others around me have celebrated peace day, both of which I’ve observed (and avoided) in real life on multiple occasions.
Example 1. Let’s get a bunch of people together and draw pictures of peace. Oh, can we get some peace music and play it? People can dance! Hurray for Peace Day!!!
Example 2. We’re in a war zone, conflict-affected area, refugee camp, etc., and somebody gets the bright idea to collect a bunch of children whose family members were violently killed or who survived some atrocity. They present them and excitedly say, “Let’s ask them what peace means to them” and “we’ll get it on video so we can share it out across all our social media platforms.” In one version of this, what the children say is re-interpreted and written nicely in English (generally not their language), and children are asked to pose with it before being sent back to the refugee camp. The videos/pics are shared out and the children look confused and disturbed, but nobody seems to notice.
The thing is, many internationally celebrated days can be used to promote peace and justice, not just peace day. And it is the way that you celebrate them that can have some positive contribution to peace and justice, however small, or none at all.
Generally, marking international days associated with peace or justice won’t do much for peace and justice if we celebrate them in the abstract. They must be linked to concrete, tangible issues. These days are an opportunity to learn about peace and justice, to educate others, to raise awareness about real issues, to advocate, to work for real change, or support those who are working for it. They can be days to shine a light on structural and cultural violence, and to talk about ways to transform them.
31 International Days you can use to promote peace and justice, and how to do it
So I’ve put together 31 internationally celebrated days here, and I’ve shared some tips on how you can celebrate them in ways that will promote peace and justice. Where relevant, I’ve added some links to resources you can use.
Some days are obvious; others are not. Most are days, and a few are celebrated as entire weeks. Some months are stacked with a bunch of relevant days and other months are sparse, but I made sure to find at least one good day each month that you can use to promote peace and justice.
The tips and resource links are general, but you are encouraged to link these days to real issues in your country or community. Think about what issues you’ll be linking to this day, who your participants will be, and what audience you’ll be sending a message to where relevant.
January 24. International Day of Education: This is a day for peacebuilders to promote peace education and any efforts to educate for peace. Find resources from the Global Campaign for Peace Education (GCPE).
February 1 – 7. World Interfaith Harmony Week: This is a week to recognize the role of religious groups in promoting violent conflict, injustice, and inequality in the world, and to highlight the role of faith-based and interfaith peacebuilders around the globe. Learn more about faith-based and interfaith peacebuilding at the International Fellowship of Reconciliation (IFOR), Religions for Peace, or The Network for Religious and Traditional Peacemakers.
February 20. World Day of Social Justice: This is a day to recognize the centrality of social justice to peace. Learn about how militarism and war exacerbate social justice issues in your country or community. Celebrate social justice heroes.
March 8. International Women’s Day: This is a day to learn about the history of women’s peace activism. Celebrate women peacebuilders. Find resources from global women’s peace networks.
March 21. International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination: This is a day to learn about the history of racial discrimination in your country, systemic racism in the military and institutions of war, and the use of racism to mobilize for war. Celebrate heroes past and present that raise awareness about racial discrimination and push their societies to transform it.
April 4. International Day for Mine Awareness and Assistance in Mine Action: This is a day to learn about the harm caused to local populations by mines and unexploded ordinances (UXOs) used in war. There is a cool project where you can learn more about the harm caused by mines and UXOs in Lao, decades after the end of the Vietnam War. The short video on their homepage is interesting. See the Legacies of War project to learn about the harm caused by land mines and UXOs, or see the International Campaign to Ban Landmines to learn about the international movement to ban landmines.
April 5. International Day of Conscience: This is a day to raise awareness of elements of a culture of violence in your society and to promote a culture of peace. Learn more about the concept of a culture of peace, elements of a culture of peace (and violence), and approaches to building a culture of peace from the Culture of Peace News Network (CPNN).
April 6. International Day of Sport for Development and Peace: This is a day to use sports to bridge divides and build peace. Learn more and find resources at the Peace and Sport initiative.
April 21. World Creativity and Innovation Day: Creativity and innovation are key for building peace. This is a day to use art, music, or other creative methods to build peace. Find resources for making art for peace and justice HERE.
April 24. International Day of Multilateralism and Diplomacy for Peace: This is a day to promote the values of multilateralism to resolve conflicts and international cooperation to build peace. Learn about the efforts of the Inter-Parliamentary Union to promote peace through diplomacy and dialogue since 1889.
May 3. World Press Freedom Day: This is a day to learn about peace journalism. Read, watch, and share articles from peace journalism media outlets. Or learn to produce peace media.
May 15. International Conscientious Objector Day: The right to refuse to kill and to withdraw support for organized killing is a key part of the historic peace movement. This is a day to learn about, educate for, and raise awareness of conscientious objection in all its forms. Learn about conscientious objection in the military and efforts to stop military recruitment see the Center on Conscience and War, or about conscientious objection to payment of war taxes see Conscience and Peace Tax International.
May 16. International Day of Living Together in Peace: This is a day to promote peace, tolerance, inclusion, understanding, and solidarity amongst the people of the world. It is a day to learn about the diverse people of your country and community, to celebrate the strength of diversity, and to work together to build a sustainable world of peace, solidarity, and harmony.
June 4. International Day of Innocent Children Victims of Aggression: This is a day to remember how war and armed conflict affects those most vulnerable amongst us, children. Brown University’s Cost of War Project documents the human cost of today’s wars HERE. Data shows how many hundreds of thousands of children have died violent deaths and the millions displaced and/or suffering adverse health effects resulting from war.
June 5. World Environment Day: This is a day where peacebuilders should stress the damage of war and militarism on the environment and advocate for military pollution to be a part of climate agreements. Find resources to strengthen your knowledge on the topic at World BEYOND War’s page on ways that War Threatens Our Environment.
June 19. International Day for the Elimination of Sexual Violence in Conflict: This is a day to recognize the numerous forms of sexual violence so widespread during war and violent conflict. These include rape, sexual slavery, forced prostitution, forced pregnancy, forced abortion, enforced sterilization, forced marriage, sexual trafficking, and any other form of sexual violence perpetrated against women, men, girls, or boys directly or indirectly linked to a conflict. It is a day to support survivors of sexual violence in conflict, raise awareness of the issue, and support efforts to prevent further sexual violence in conflict.
June 20. World Refugee Day: This is a day to stand with refugees, internally displaced persons, asylum seekers, stateless persons, and others displaced by war and violent conflict. As peacebuilders, we should spotlight the reasons why they become refugees in the first place. It is a day to shine a light on militarism and other causes of war and organized violence that force people to leave their homes. It is a day to promote tolerance, inclusion, and our shared responsibility to care for persons forced to leave their homes. Support refugees by welcoming them to your community and by affirming their right to housing, education, work, health care, travel and movement, and other fundamental rights and protections protected under the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
July 30. International Day of Friendship: This day is based on the idea that friendship between peoples, countries, cultures, and individuals can inspire peace efforts and build bridges between communities. You can use it as a day not only to celebrate friendship, but also to build new friendships with diverse people, to create spaces for people to make friendships that bridge divides.
August 9. International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples: This is a day to learn about the historic violence, injustice, and inequality faced by many indigenous people and groups of the world. It is also a day to celebrate and promote indigenous cultures of the world. Bonus points for celebrating indigenous and traditional methods for conflict resolution and peacebuilding. Learn more at Cultural Survival.
August 12. International Youth Day: This is a day for peacebuilders to highlight the critical importance of youth peacebuilding and to celebrate youth peacebuilders. Find resources from the United Network of Young Peacebuilders (UNOY).
September 21. International Day of Peace: This one is a bit obvious. Indeed, it is a day to celebrate peace. The only recommendation I have for you is to try to go a bit deeper in your celebrations of peace. A common issue here is that celebrations of Peace Day are surface level. Be sure to connect Peace Day with real issues going on in your country or community. Connect it with learning and taking action to address social justice issues, with war, with militarism.
September 26. International Day for the Total Elimination of Nuclear Weapons: This is a day to learn about the danger of nuclear weapons and to support efforts for their total abolition. Learn more and find resources at Abolition 2000, a global network to eliminate nuclear weapons.
October 2. International Day of Non-Violence: Marking the birthday of nonviolent action pioneer Mahatma Gandhi, this is a day to learn about and raise awareness of the philosophy and strategy of nonviolence. Study and teach nonviolent action strategies, learn about historic nonviolence movements around the globe, and support a nonviolence movement of today. Get free resources on nonviolent action from any of a number of nonviolent action sites. Some of my favorites are Albert Einstein Institution, Waging Nonviolence, and Center for Applied Non-Violent Action and Strategies (CANVAS), and Nonviolence International.
October 24 – 30. Disarmament Week: Beyond disarmament, this is a week for peacebuilders to advocate for universal demilitarization towards the abolition of war. Peacebuilders should raise awareness about who benefits from militarization, its harms, and the widespread, organized violence that is the expected result of militarization. They should educate about the concept of demilitarization and the crucial need for it, and they should outline steps and approaches towards demilitarization. Learn about the campaign to abolish war from World BEYOND War and find more information at War Resisters International (WRI).
November 6. International Day for Preventing the Exploitation of the Environment in War and Armed Conflict: Here is another day that peacebuilders can raise awareness about how war, armed conflict, and militarism itself (even in the absence of war) cause great harm to the environment. It is important for we peacebuilders to develop our capability to communicate this message and to use social media and other forums to communicate the message. For reference, find resources on the topic at World BEYOND War’s page on ways that War Threatens Our Environment.
November 10. World Science Day for Peace and Development: This is a day not only to promote the use of science for peace and development, but to advocate against the use of science to develop weapons of war. Learn more about associated issues that scientists for peace are involved in and support scientists working for peace at Union of Concerned Scientists and Science for Peace.
November 16. International Day for Tolerance: This is a day not only to learn about diversity and to educate for tolerance, but also to raise awareness about modern forces that spread fear and promote exclusion of vulnerable groups in our societies. Work to make sure your country has laws that protect and support vulnerable minority groups. Identify local and national forces for intolerance, raise awareness, and take action for tolerance. Check out UNESCO’s Declaration on Principles of Tolerance
November 30. Day of Remembrance for all Victims of Chemical Warfare: This is a good day to learn about the history and harm caused by chemical warfare and how the global community took action to ban chemical weapons after WWI, more than a century ago. Learn about international conventions banning chemical warfare, how they are enforced, and the challenges of enforcement today. Use this as inspiration for how the global community can take action to ban (and enforce bans on) other weapons like mines, drones, and nuclear weapons.
December 9. International Day of Commemoration and Dignity of the Victims of the Crime of Genocide and of the Prevention of this Crime: This is a day to bring attention to the crime of genocide and mass atrocities. It is important to learn about numerous historic genocides and mass atrocities from the Holocaust, to the Armenian Genocide, to Darfur, to Rwanda, to the Congo Free State, to Bosnia, to Cambodia, and elsewhere. Learn about and support movements to end mass atrocities today in places like Myanmar, Yemen, and East Turkestan. Learn more about efforts to prevent mass atrocities (including the crime of genocide) at The Sentinel Project.
December 9. International Anti-Corruption Day: This is a day for peacebuilders to raise awareness about the enormous profits reaped by some from war and militarization. Educate yourself and others about political corruption, militarization, and war industries. The Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) has great resources for you to educate yourself and others on arms and military expenditure, and they even have databases of global military expenditures for the past 70+ years that you can download for free through this above link.
December 20. International Human Solidarity Day: This is a day to show solidarity for the struggles and challenges of people who are different from ourselves and also to support those working to address issues of violence, injustice, and inequality that don’t affect us directly.
So go out and find some days you can not only celebrate peace and justice, but that you can promote peace and justice. Use the tips and resource links I’ve provided. Connect it to real issues in your context. Make some change and have some fun doing it.
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