This weekend The Hague, just like the rest of the world, will celebrate the International Day of Peace (September 21st) with a designated ‘Peace Weekend’. The celebrations vary from a peace run (with a Peace Palace team) to The Hague Open Doors Event, where international organizations of The Hague – including the Peace Palace Library – will open their doors to the public, allowing visitors a glimpse behind the scenes and an opportunity to learn more about justice, security and international law.

It was back in 1981, during the Cold War, that the United Nations General Assembly decided to dedicate a day particularly to the promotion of peace, both at an international and at a national level. [1] The resolution of the General Assembly stated that:

 

 ‘(…) since wars begin in the minds of men, it is in the minds of men that the defense of peace must be constructed, that a peace based exclusively upon the political and economic arrangements of Governments would not be a peace which could secure the unanimous, lasting and sincere support of the peoples of the world, and that the peace must therefore be founded, if it is not to fail, upon the intellectual and moral solidarity of mankind,’

 Further recalling that, on the basis of similar considerations, the General Assembly established the United Nations University in 1972 and, more specifically, the University for Peace in 1980, and entrusted other organs and organizations of the United Nations system with the promotion of peace, mainly through education in all its aspects, (…)

2.Declares that the third Tuesday of September, the opening day of the regular session of the General Assembly, shall be officially dedicated and observed as the International Day of Peace and shall be devoted to commemorating and strengthening the ideals of peace both within and among all nations and peoples(…) [2]

Moreover, in 2001, the General Assembly, via resolution 55/282, established September 21st as the annual day of non-violence and cease-fire, instead of the opening day of the regular session of the General Assembly. [3]

The United Nations also tries to get traction for the International Day of Peace via their own public communication in which they urge key decision-makers all over the world to promote peace.

This year’s theme is ‘Partnerships for Peace – dignity for all’. The theme aims to highlight the importance of all segments of society to work together to strive for peace. The website of the International Day of Peace states that the work of the United Nations would not be possible without the initial partnerships that were active in its creation and the thousands of partnerships each year between governments, civil society, the private sector, faith-based groups and other non-governmental organizations that are needed to support the Organization in achieving its future goals. [4]

This so-called ‘mass media diplomacy’ is an important way to influence the (international) debate. In a world where internet and the influence of social media are growing the United Nations tries to enforce the message of peace and non-violence via telecommunications.

An interesting remark regarding this ‘mass media diplomacy’ is the absence of ‘international law’ in this year’s theme; hence, the United Nations missed the opportunity to promote the international rule of law.

Especially because it is seventy years after the Second World War (and thus, seventy years after the commencement of the United Nations itself), the International Day of Peace could have marked the achievements of international law regarding the pacific settlement of international disputes in the past decades. As Mary Ellen O’Connell writes in her book about the ‘purpose of international law’, international law supports order in the world and the attainment of humanity's fundamental goals of advancing peace, prosperity, human rights, and environmental protection. [5]

Therefore, the library of the Peace Palace adds this supplementary partnership (and consequent focus) to this year’s International Day of Peace theme, in order to promote the ‘partnership’ between peace and the international rule of law!

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[1] United Nations, http://www.un.org/documents/ga/res/36/a36r067.htm, Last accessed September 17, 2015.

[2] Idem

[3] United Nations http://www.un.org/en/ga/search/view_doc.asp?symbol=A/RES/55/282 Last accessed September 17, 2015.

[4] United Nations International Day of Peace website, http://www.un.org/en/events/peaceday/

[5] O’Connell, M.E., The power and purpose of international law: insights from the theory and practice of enforcement, Oxford University Press, New York, 2008.

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