Each year the International Day of Peace is celebrated around the world on 21 September to promote the values of peace, both within and among all nations and peoples. The United Nations adopted the 17 Sustainable Development Goals in 2015, realising the fact that it would not be possible to build a peaceful world if steps were not taken to achieve economic and social development for all people everywhere, and ensure that their rights were protected. The Sustainable Goals cover a broad range of issues, including poverty, hunger, health, education, climate change, gender equality, water, sanitation, energy, environment and social justice. Sustainable Development Goal 16 “Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions” calls for promoting ideals of peace and inclusive societies for sustainable development, providing access to justice for all and building effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels. A peaceful society is one where justice and equality are available for everyone.

This year, the theme of International Peace Day is “the Right to Peace” which celebrates the 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights is considered a landmark document in the history of human rights. The declaration was adopted by the United Nations General Assembly on 10th December 1948 as a shared achievement for all peoples and all nations. This is the most translated document in the world, available in more than 500 languages - is as relevant today as it was on the day that it was adopted.

The Secretary General United Nations in his message has also highlighted importance of Universal Declaration of Human Rights which recognises the inherent dignity and equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human race.

Although, Universal Declaration does not include a separate article on “Right to Peace” yet article No. 3 of the declaration provides the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world by stating “Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of person.”

Constitution is considered as social contract between the state and its citizens. In Pakistan, Fundamental Rights are enshrined in the 1973 Constitution as the entire chapter No. 1 of the Constitution contains articles about the fundamental rights from the articles 8 to 28. It further states that adequate provisions shall be made to safeguard the legitimate interests of minorities, backward and depressed classes. In addition, articles No. 20, 21, 22, 25, 26, 27, 28 and 36 of the Constitution of Pakistan guarantee equal citizenship and protection of rights of minorities.

According to the latest National Human Development Report launched by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), Pakistan currently has the largest percentage of young people ever recorded in its history; 64% of the total population is below the age of 30 while 29% is between the ages of 15 and 29 years. Pakistan has become one of the youngest countries in the world and the second youngest in the South Asian region after Afghanistan. There is dire need to promote values of peace, tolerance, co-existence and harmony among this largest segment of the society. Education Institutions especially universities can play a pivotal role in this regard through promoting civic education, academic freedom, culture of dialogue, strengthening student societies and offering special courses on peace and tolerance. The hold of first ever International Students Convention 2018 during the month of December at Islamabad, seems encouraging step towards promoting values of peace, tolerance and co-existence among the educated youth. Such platforms provide a unique opportunity to the youth from diverse background to learn from one another’s experiences, knowledge and expertise.

Pakistan is facing multiple political, ethnic, religious, sectarian and environmental conflicts, which also require attention in research and teaching at Pakistani universities. Peace and conflict resolution are vital preconditions for sustainable economic growth, democracy and development. Very few Pakistani universities offer courses on understanding violence, extremism, terrorism and conflict resolution.

International Day of Peace calls upon all seeking peaceful resolution of conflicts when disagreements arise around us. We can be part of the solution by taking small steps including preventing any injustice in the society by adopting a non-violent approach to problem solving.

The day also calls that wherever we are, we should make a real difference through extending support and standing for others rights especially weak segments of the society against the injustice, inequalities, discrimination and human right violations. We should raise our voices peacefully and can join others to publicly lobby for better leadership, effective implementation of constitutional provisions related to fundamental rights, formation of better laws and greater respect for human values.

There is also dire need to address multiple root causes of extremism and violence in the society i.e weak rule of law, bad governance, inequalities/ injustices, absence of merit & transparency and shrinking spaces especially for youth & marginalised segments of society. Policies to counter violence and extremism should be diverse and holistic. Effective implementation of National Action Plan can also be greatly helpful in promoting pluralism, religious tolerance and improving governance.

Muhammad Murtaza Noor is associated with the development and education sector for more than 18 years. He is currently working as National Coordinator with Inter University Consortium for Promotion of Social Sciences Pakistan, an autonomous largest alliance of Pakistani universities.

 

n          The writer is a freelance columnist associated with the development and education sector.