At least 1.5 billion people live in conflict-affected and fragile states and are currently in urgent need of peace. In 1998 Jeremy Gilley conceived the idea of a single day when all countries would vow not to wage war, instead agreeing to observe a worldwide ceasefire and day of non-violence. Later that same year, Gilley established the NGO Peace One Day and began meeting students, peace negotiators, NGOs, government representatives, heads of state, and UN officials in order to initiate the Peace Day campaign. In 2001, member states unanimously adopted September 21 as Peace Day. Despite achieving tangible impacts via Peace Day, including proving the initiative could work in areas of conflict - most notably Afghanistan - Gilley remained convinced there was a need to pursue an even more ambitious target: the largest global reduction of violence, and the largest ever gathering of individuals in the name of peace on one day. Part of the broader challenge was increasing the participation of counterpart NGOs: in 2010, only ten other organizations participated in the Peace Day campaign as official partners.
In May 2012, Gilley and his team at Peace One Day came up with the idea of creating different coalitions to support the goals of Peace Day. These included a Student Coalition, School’s Network, ‘Reducing Domestic Violence’ Coalition and Global Truce Network. The largest, however, is the Global Truce NGO Coalition, coordinated in partnership with Geneva-based peacebuilding NGO Interpeace. The NGO Coalition gathers a diverse group of NGOs from the relief, humanitarian, peace and development sectors united around a single cause – peace.
Peace is either the central focus of these NGOs, or is considered a fundamental requirement to increase the impact of their activitiesin the contexts in which they work. The NGO Coalition does not require any financial commitments,existing as a union of NGOs formed around an idea of peace, non-violence and cease-fire – the idea is expected to grow as the positive impact of it is demonstrated year after year. It is also hoped that in demonstrating the impact and potential of a global day of peace, work towards peace will increase beyond the single day to encompass the rest of the year. In practical terms, participating members of the NGO Coalition engage in a diverse range of activities to coincide with Peace Day, from marking peacebuilding achievements, to public outreachand advocacy events, technical workshops, reconciliation initiatives, and related program delivery across the health, education and environmental sectors.
With many NGO sectors having their own global annual day - for example, World Environment Day and World Humanitarian Day - the NGO Coalition has resulted in a diverse group of NGOs being able to unite on one ‘highlight’ day to make a statement about their work and how it relates to peace or carry out activities relating to peace or enabled by peace. Messages regarding peace that have been fragmented in the past are now being delivered together for maximum impact. Similarly, while only a few NGOs worked with Peace One Day in the past, almost 400 organizations active in over 125 countries are already members of the NGO Coalition. The cumulative impact can be felt on all levels, from the individuals that participate in the various events globally, to the importance of peace being emphasized within NGOs that may not normally focus on peace, to the wider message to society at large of what can be achieved when there is peace.
Peace One Day not only acts to spread the message of the importanceof a global day of peace but also encourages activities and dialogue around the cause of peace, notably in organizations- and by extension communities - that do not normally focus on peace in their daily activities. Taking up and running with this idea, the NGO Coalition has worked to diffuse the message of peace as well as to unite organizations around one single cause, something that can easily get lost in the vast array of NGOs that exist around the world. As such, the NGO Coalition stands squarely within Peace One Day’s goal of institutionalizing Peace Day and making it self-sustaining - a leap forward from the challenges involved in gaining recognition from the UN, and establishing Peace Day as a permanent fixture on the international agenda.
Peace Day has already proved to be a genuine catalyst for broad-ranging civil society action by individuals and groups in every country of the world, as well as for life-saving activities. By bringing together the combined reach and influence of hundreds of different organizations, each with their own constituencies, the NGO Coalition is a means to dramatically increase the social impact of the broader initiative, as well as encourage individuals and communities to become more engagedin issues surrounding peacebuilding, stimulating local ‘ownership’ of Peace Day.
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