UN Days January - March
Individuals and groups can help to make UN Days much more effective through meditation and prayer. On this site there is a meditation in support of the UN Days and information on ways to participate in the UN Days & Years Meditation Initiative
Here you will find information on the UN designated Days for January, February and March 2013. Information provided includes some background, links to the UN site on the Day (where such a site exists), together with key thoughts for reflection.
INTERNATIONAL DAY OF COMMEMORATION TO HONOUR THE VICTIMS OF THE HOLOCAUST
In November 2005, the United Nations General Assembly adopted a resolution rejecting any denial of the Holocaust as a historical event and condemning "without reserve" all manifestations of religious intolerance, incitement, harassment or violence against persons or communities based on ethnic origin or religious belief, whenever they occur.
In this resolution January 27, the anniversary of the liberation of the Auschwitz death camp, was declared an International Day. Member States were urged to develop educational programmes to instil the memory of the tragedy in future generations to prevent genocide from occurring again, and requested the United Nations Secretary-General to establish an outreach programme on the "Holocaust and the United Nations", as well as measures to mobilize civil society for Holocaust remembrance and education, in order to help prevent future acts of genocide.
WORLD INTERFAITH HARMONY WEEK
In November 2010, following a proposal by HM King Abdullah II and HRH Prince Ghazi bin Muhammad of Jordan, the United Nations General Assembly decided to observe the first week of February every year as World Interfaith Harmony Week. The resolution recognized that the moral imperatives of all religions, convictions and beliefs call for peace, tolerance and mutual understanding, and it reaffirmed that mutual understanding and interreligious dialogue constitute important dimensions of a culture of peace … Read the full resolution here.
On Thursday, February 14, the President of the UN General Assembly in cooperation with UNESCO and the Committee of Religious NGOs at the United Nations Headquarters in New York is hosting a special event in honor of the Week, United for a Culture of Peace Through Interfaith Harmony, in the General Assembly Hall, 10:00 AM - 1:00 PM. Details here.
The World Interfaith Harmony Week provides a platform—one week in a year—when all interfaith groups and other groups of goodwill can show the world what a powerful movement they are. The thousands of events organized by these groups often go unnoticed not only by the general public, but also by other groups themselves. This week will allow for these groups to become aware of each other and strengthen the movement by building ties and avoiding duplicating each others’ efforts.
In the words of HRH Prince Ghazi bin Muhammad, the Week has three objectives:
WORLD CANCER DAY (WHO)
Year 2013 Focus:
Dispel damaging myths and misconceptions about cancer.
On this Day groups around the world shine a light on the global impact of cancer and efforts to raise the quality of care for cancer patients. Cancer is the generic term for a large group of diseases in which cells grow out of control and can spread to other parts of the body. Cancer involves a series of mutations or changes in the genetic make up of a cell, causing it to look and function differently from normal cells. Thus, cancer is actually a disease of the cell.
Every year the equivalent of the entire population of Switzerland dies from cancer - two thirds of these deaths occur in low and middle-income countries. Cancer kills more people every year than AIDS, malaria and TB combined. It is estimated by the UN's World Health Organisation (WHO) that between 2005 and 2015, 84 million people will die of cancer without intervention. Research suggests that one-third of all cancer deaths can be avoided by prevention and another third by early detection and treatment.
For many cancer patients the disease provides an opportunity to access deep spiritual resources and there are now a wide range of programs in meditation, spiritual development and alternative therapies offered as part of cancer treatment. See, for example, the US government's National Cancer Institute: spirituality page. Similar sites are available from major cancer centers in many countries.
WORLD DAY OF SOCIAL JUSTICE
In November 2007, the UN General Assembly proclaimed 20 February as World Day of Social Justice and declared that the first observation of the Day would be in 2009.
In 1995 Governments met at Copenhagen for a World Summit on Social Development. At this Summit there was agreement to make poverty eradication, the goal of full employment and the fostering of social integration as cornerstones of development.
On this World Day of Social Justice, governments are called upon to undertake concrete activities towards the goals of poverty eradication, full employment and social integration.
As recognized by the World Summit, social development aims at social justice, solidarity, harmony and equality within and among countries and social justice, equality and equity constitute the fundamental values of all societies. To achieve “a society for all” governments made a commitment to the creation of a framework for action to promote social justice at national, regional and international levels. They also pledged to promote the equitable distribution of income and greater access to resources through equity and equality and opportunity for all. The governments recognized as well that economic growth should promote equity and social justice and that “a society for all” must be based on social justice and respect for all human rights and fundamental freedoms.
INTERNATIONAL MOTHER LANGUAGE DAY
We live in One World, and are all part of One Life. Yet within this unified whole each individual unit is precious and significant. It is essential that cultural diversity be fostered to maintain richness and variety in the human community. At the heart of culture is language.
Each individual's mother language plays a vital role in their health and development: "It is the language of childhood, of intimate family experience and of our social relations". Yet in a world of increasing globalization small language groups find it increasingly difficult to survive.
UNESCO estimates that about half of the approximately 6,000 languages spoken in the world are under threat.
Preserving endangered languages is a vital part of securing the culture and heritage of our rich human landscape. Language keeps traditions alive, it inspires knowledge and respect about our past and the planet on which we live, and it links communities across borders and beyond time. Since the year 2000 International Mother Language Day has been observed by UNESCO, and by groups around the world.
INTERNATIONAL WOMEN'S DAY &
UNITED NATIONS DAY FOR WOMEN'S RIGHTS AND INTERNATIONAL PEACE
Year 2013 UN Theme:A promise is a promise: Time for action to end violence against women
International Women's Day is celebrated by women's groups around the world and is a national holiday in many countries. It has been marked by the United Nations as the Day for Women's Rights and International Peace since 1977.
Few causes promoted by the United Nations have generated more intense and widespread support than the campaign to promote and protect the equal rights of women. The Charter of the United Nations, signed in San Francisco in 1945, was the first international agreement to proclaim gender equality as a fundamental human right. Since then, the Organization has helped create a historic legacy of internationally agreed strategies, standards, programmes and goals to advance the status of women worldwide.
Over the years, United Nations action for the advancement of women has taken four clear directions: promotion of legal measures; mobilization of public opinion and international action; training and research, including the compilation of gender desegregated statistics; and direct assistance to disadvantaged groups. Today a central organizing principle of the work of the United Nations is that no enduring solution to society's most threatening social, economic and political problems can be found without the full participation, and the full empowerment, of the world's women.
[UN Dept of Public Information]
As the above clearly demonstrates, the Feminine is on the rise in human consciousness and this key festival is widely celebrated around the world. In our time the rights of women, and the rights of children nourished by women, are key issues in every modern society.
Key thought for reflection:
Have you listened to your heart? Does it beat in rhythm with the Perfect Heart which embraces all of you? ... Let woman affirm this great symbol, which can transfigure the whole of life. Let her strive to transmute the spiritual life of mankind.
The mother, the life-giver, the life-protector - let her become also the Mother, the Leader, the All-Giver, the All-Receiver.
Helena Roerich, Woman
INTERNATIONAL DAY FOR THE ELIMINATION OF RACIAL
21 - 27 MARCH
WEEK OF SOLIDARITY WITH THE PEOPLES STRUGGLING AGAINST RACISM AND RACIAL DISCRIMINATION
The International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination is observed annually on 21 March. On that day, in 1960, police opened fire and killed 69 people at a peaceful demonstration in Sharpeville, South Africa, against the apartheid "pass laws". Proclaiming the Day in 1966, the General Assembly called on the international community to redouble its efforts to eliminate all forms of racial discrimination.
Kofi Annan has spoken of March 21st as "a day to celebrate the many steps the world has taken to free itself from racial hatred", and he has also referred to it as "a day to reflect on the challenges that remain, and our commitment to overcoming them".
In the past fifty years much has been done to transform the attitudes and values lying at the heart of racial discrimination. The law has been changed in many countries to make discrimination illegal, and Race Relations Commissions co-ordinate programmes to try to eliminate discrimination. Yet still racism persists as one of the prime diseases of the separative consciousness – an ancient thoughtform in need of transformation.
This important international day reminds us of the work that is needed in all societies to build an awareness of human unity, and to render unacceptable, behaviour based on any sense of racial superiority or separation. The challenge of our time is to foster the ethics of human unity.
See the UN site for information on the Day.
Key thoughts for reflection:
The beauty of the present situation is that even in the smallest community a practical expression of what is needed on a worldwide scale is offered to the inhabitants; differences in families, in churches, in municipalities, in cities, in nations, between races and internationally all call for the same objective and for the same process of adjustment: the establishing of right human relations. The technique or method to bring this about remains everywhere the same: the use of the spirit of goodwill.
Tolerance is indispensable for peaceful relations in any society. When it is transmuted into the more active attribute of mutual respect, the quality of relationships is distinctly raised. Mutual respect therefore offers a basis for making a plural society -which is what the global neighbourhood is - not only stable but one that values and is enriched by its diversity....
The world community should reassert the importance of tolerance and respect for 'the other': respect for other people, other races, other beliefs, other sexual orientations, other cultures. It must be resolute in upholding these values and offering protection against the actions of those who would trample them. The guiding principle should be that all groups and individuals have a right to live as they see fit so long as they do not violate the coequal rights and liberties of others.
From: Our Global Neighbourhood: The Report
of the Commission on Global Governance.
WORLD POETRY DAY (UNESCO)
World Poetry Day was first observed by UNESCO in 2000, and has been observed every year since. It aims to support linguistic diversity through poetic expression and to offer endangered languages the opportunity to be heard within their communities. Moreover, this Day is meant to support poetry, return to the oral tradition of poetry recitals, promote teaching poetry, restore a dialogue between poetry and the other arts such as theatre, dance, music, painting and so on, support small publishers and create an attractive image of poetry in the media so that the art of poetry will no longer be considered an outdated form of art.
Find out more here.
World Day for Water was first observed in 1993. It seeks to raise public awareness, and focus attention on the vital need to protect and conserve water resources and supplies of drinking water. This year's celebration will be a highpoint in celebrations of International Year of Water Cooperation.
Water, one of the four natural elements, is a necessity of life. Throughout the ages it has been regarded as a symbol of purity. In all religions water has deep significance.
Yet today there are not millions of people, but billions (2.4 billion people to be exact, or one-sixth of the world’s population) who do not have access to clean water. And the same number of people are without access to even a simple latrine. One of the most successful agreements to come out of the Johannesburg Earth Summit was a commitment (with funding for special programmes) to meet the Millennium Development Goal of reducing by half the proportion of people without access to safe drinking water and sanitation by 2015. People of goodwill need to be aware of this situation so they can keep up pressure on governments to ensure that the commitments made at Johannesburg are kept.
Key thought for reflection:
A stream, bubbling merrily over the stones, forms countless inner surfaces and tiny vortices, which are all sense organs open to the cosmos, and which perceive the course of events in the heavens. Water passes on the 'impressions" it has received wherever it is absorbed by the earth and the plants, by the animals and man. In moving water the earthly world thus allows the ever changing life in the universe of the stars to flow into the course of its own life....
Water flows and streams on the earth as ceaselessly as the stream of time itself. It is the fundamental melody that forever accompanies life in all its variations. Unremittingly it belabours the solid earth, grinding, milling, destroying, levelling out, and at the same time elsewhere building up again, creating anew, preparing for life. As the life blood of the earth, in the great network of veins, it shifts unbelievable amounts of substance, which everywhere accompany the life processes of the earth and its creatures. In a ceaseless process it transforms the hardest rocks and the highest mountains into a flowing, finely ground stream of substance, and it dissolves finished forms, preparing them for new creation. Water is thus the great exchanger and transformer of substances in all forms of metabolism. Constantly dissolving and solidifying, washing away and re-forming, in perpetual transformation, water is ever-lastingly creating the organism of the earth planet. Is it not as though the stream of time itself becomes visible to physical eyes in this perpetual activity of water? Water always proves stronger than anything too solidly anchored in space, continually leading it back into the stream of time, of living development.
WORLD METEOROLOGICAL DAY
Year 2013 Theme: Watching the weather to protect life and property - Celebrating 50 Years of World Weather Watch
World Meteorological Day marks the formation, in 1950, of the World Meteorological Organisation (WMO).
UN Secretary General, Kofi Annan, has called the WMO "the original networker" because the agency is based on a strong programme of networking and co-operation between national Meteorological services - today 185 member countries contribute to and benefit from this process.
In his message for the World Meteorological Day 2009, WMO Secretary-General, Mr. M. Jarraud, notes:
It is interesting to recall that Hippocrates (c. 460–377 BC), considered by many as the “father of medicine”, rejected superstition in favour of scientific observation, classified diseases and established sets of moral and professional standards still held valid today. In particular, his 5th century BC work “On airs, waters and places” considers the effects of climate, water supply and regions on human health and compares the geophysical conditions of life in Europe and Asia. At the time of Hippocrates, it was generally accepted that there were just four elements: earth, air, fire and water with their corresponding qualities of coldness, dryness, heat and wetness. If these were present in the human body in the right amounts and at the right places, then good health resulted, but if the equilibrium was destroyed, then so too was health. Today, we know that trace gases and particles in the air have a significant impact on climate, weather and air quality.
Meteorologists, climatologists and atmospheric chemists are currently contributing to the mitigation of the impacts of weather, climate and the quality of the air we breathe by working together to provide medical professionals and environmental scientists with predictions and analyses of the atmospheric distribution, concentration and transport of gases and particles in the atmosphere.
Climate affects the thinking, and the moods of people – and, many spiritual traditions suggest, the thinking of people en masse affects the climate. For the first time on a global level, it is now recognised that there is a need to alter the way we think and behave in order to offset the serious affects of climate change.
Further information here
Key thought for reflection:After an orange cloud - formed as a result of a dust storm over the Sahara and caught up by air currents - reached the Philippines and settled there with rain, I understood that we are all travelling in the same boat.
Vladimir Kovalyonok, cosmonaut
Climate change will be unlike anything experienced by human civilisation over the past 10,000 years.
Rajendra Pachauri, Chairman, Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change
WORLD TUBERCULOSIS DAY (WHO)
Year 2013 Theme: Stop TB in my Lifetime
TB is an ancient disease. On March 24, 1882 Dr Robert Koch astounded the world by announcing he had discovered the cause of the disease. At that time TB was raging through Europe and the Americas, causing the death of 1 out of every seven people. Today TB still causes the death of several million people every year, mainly in the developing world. But today there is a focus on the eventual elimination of the disease.
The Stop TB Partnership launched in 2001 is a remarkable coalition of some 1600 partners (national Ministries of Health, UN Agencies, NGO's, Businesses, Patient's Organisations, Faith Based Organisations) led by the World Health Organisation. The goal is to control and eventually eliminate TB as a global public health problem with specific targets of reducing the death and prevalence of the disease 50% of the 1990 level by 2015; and eliminating TB as a global public health problem by 2050.
More information here.
INTERNATIONAL DAY FOR THE RIGHT TO THE TRUTH CONCERNING GROSS HUMAN RIGHTS VIOLATIONS AND FOR THE DIGNITY OF VICTIMS
In December 2010 the United Nations General Assembly proclaimed this new international day. It honors the anniversary of the death of Archbishop Oscar Arnulfo Romero, of El Salvador, who was assasinated on 24 March 1980, after denouncing violations of the human rights of the most vulnerable populations and defending the principles of protecting lives, promoting human dignity and opposition to all forms of violence.
The Day affirms an important principle in international law: all peoples have a right to know the truth about gross human rights violations and the right to know what happened to loved ones. States have an obligation to investigate cases of enforced disappearance and let any interested person know the concrete steps taken to clarify the fate and whereabouts of the disappeared persons.
More information here.
INTERNATIONAL DAY OF REMEMBRANCE OF THE VICTIMS OF SLAVERY AND THE TRANSATLANTIC SLAVE TRADE
Year 2012 Theme: Honouring the Heroes, Resisters and Survivors
The Transatlantic slave trade lasted for 4 centuries. Only one in six of all slaves brought from Africa survived the journey or the work they were forced to do.
In the words of UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon this unparalleled global tragedy was one of the greatest atrocities in history.
In December 2007 the UN General Assembly proclaimed March 25 as an annual day to remember the victims of the trade.
We must acknowledge the great lapse in moral judgment that allowed [the Transatlantic Slave Trade] to happen. We must urge present and future generations to avoid repeating history. We must acknowledge the contributions that enslaved Africans made to civilization. And countries that prospered from the slave trade must examine the origins of present-day social inequality and work to unravel mistrust between communities. Above all, even as we mourn the atrocities committed against the countless victims, we take heart from the courage of slaves who rose up to overcome the system which oppressed them. Ban Ki-moon
More information at the UN site for the Day.