Foreignpolicy.com: Sept. 21 will mark the annual observation of the International Day of Peace, established by the United Nations General Assembly in 1981 to commemorate and strengthen the ideals of peace and to focus attention on the purpose of promoting peace by the world community. Marking a day of peace may seem idealistic especially against the grim parade of recent events, but to the contrary, its inspiration is decidedly pragmatic: If we do not take peace seriously enough to plan for it and to develop informed strategies to achieve it, it will only grow more elusive.
On this day each year, people around the world engage in educational and cultural activities focused on peace as the original U.N. resolution had urged. Thirty years ago, events on college campuses and in local communities attracted those who already considered themselves advocates for peace. Today, social media enhances the opportunity to involve greater numbers of people, especially young people, in marking this day — sharing information, organizing activities, and encouraging action on global issues. Most significantly, it serves as a rallying cry for the next generation: The problems that fuel the world’s conflicts will only be solved through creative thinking and committed action, including by the young people whose own futures are at stake.
The growing threat posed by global violence can easily lead to a sense of disempowerment and despair. Hot wars are raging in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Libya, South Sudan, and even in Europe, in Ukraine. Violent extremism is spreading in Nigeria, across the Sahel and in the Horn of Africa. Violence is driving illegal immigration from Central America across the United States’ borders. These conflicts are taking a devastating human toll and posing an increasingly dangerous threat to a range of U.S. national interests — from economic growth to counterterrorism, from human rights to global health. Quite simply, violence has the capacity to undermine every major foreign policy objective the United States and its allies seek to achieve. The challenge of building peace is an urgent one, and disengagement is not an option.
In most of these conflict situations, young people bear the brunt of the horrors.
In most of these conflict situations, young people bear the brunt of the horrors. In some places a generation is growing up without access to education, basic health care, or even clean water. Violence is shaping every aspect of the existence of far too many young men and women. In countries such as Chad, the Democratic Republic of Congo, and Myanmar, young people are being recruited or conscripted as aggressors. But in more instances than many are aware, young people are leading efforts to make change and are taking important steps — and taking personal risks — to build peace in their societies.