United Nations Partners With Bangkok Students to Mark International Day of Peace

More than 200 students in Bangkok today explored the role of human rights in achieving peace at a youth forum held by the United Nations to raise awareness of the upcoming International Day of Peace.

The choice of human rights at the forum – organized by the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and Pacific (ESCAP), in partnership with the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) and the Faculty of Political Science at Chulalongkorn University – coincided with the 60th anniversaries of the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and of UN peacekeeping.

“This Day offers an opportunity to focus the region’s attention on the crucial relationship between peace and human rights, which are increasingly recognized as inseparable,” said Ms. Noeleen Heyzer, UN Under-Secretary-General and ESCAP’s Executive Secretary. “Having the direct involvement of youth as our partners today can only add to the region’s understanding of this relationship – tomorrow, they will be the leaders who will have to deal with these two vital and inextricably-linked issues."

The International Day of Peace, held annually on 21 September, was established by the UN General Assembly as a Day devoted to “to commemorating and strengthening the ideals of peace both within and among all nations and peoples” and as a Day of “global ceasefire and non-violence.”

In a video message screened at the event, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon spoke of the role of human rights in today’s world: “We know that human rights are essential to peace. Yet too many people around the world still have their rights violated – especially during and after armed conflict. That is why we must ensure that the rights in the Declaration are a living reality – that they are known, understood and enjoyed by everyone, everywhere.”

In front of a large audience made up of students, academics, diplomats, representatives from civil society and UN officials; student representatives from Chulalongkorn University, Kasetsart University, Thammarsat University, Srinakharinwirot University, and Webster University, Hua Hin, Thailand, engaged in a wide-ranging discussion on the role of human rights in achieving peace. The forum was moderated by Dr. Thitinan Pongsudhirak, a leading political analyst and the Director of the Institute of Security and International Relations, at Chulalongkorn University’s Faculty of Political Science.
“Too often, human rights are understood as vague concepts but today’s youth forum was an excellent opportunity to further develop understanding of the links between peace and human rights,” said OHCHR’s Regional Representative for South-East Asia, Mr. Homayoun Alizadeh, who also spoke at the observance.

In addition to the observance, ESCAP is further informing the Thai general public about the International Day of Peace through a national mobile telephone text message campaign. In partnership with Thai mobile-telephone companies AIS, DTAC, and TRUE, ESCAP will send messages to subscribers of these companies on or in the lead-up to Sunday, 21 September.

The mobile telephone text message campaign in Thailand falls within the United Nations’ global efforts to raise awareness of the International Day of Peace. This year, the United Nations launched its global TXT4 PEACE/WRITE 4 PEACE campaign, aimed at collecting messages on peace to be shared with world leaders when they gather in New York for the General Assembly on 23 September, 2008.

The United Nations has established a website, www.peaceday2008.org, to host email and text messages from people around the world. Messages can be sent in any language, by following the instructions on the site.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon will today lead a ceremony to mark the occasion at UN Headquarters in New York. He will call for a minute of silence to be observed globally at 12 noon local time on Sunday, 21 September.

Members of the public can also join the Txt4Peace pages on:
Facebook (http://www.facebook.com/pages/International-Day-of-Peace/36679489240),
MySpace (http://www.myspace.com/txt4peace),
hi5 (http://txt4peace.hi5.com/),
Twitter (http://twitter.com/TXT4PEACE)