My name is Adam Vine, and I recently joined Peace One Day as its feature article writer. I will be publishing a new article on the 21st of each month, and to enliven the experience, I will be including links to video and other media so that you can see and hear more about POD’s work around the world. For my first piece, I realised that there could be no better subject than Peace One Day’s achievements in 2009: We cannot begin a new year of working for peace without understanding the accomplishments of the past.
2009 marked the tenth anniversary of Peace One Day, and this was celebrated with a signature political breakthrough: on 19 September, the US Senate passed a resolution which recognises September 21 as a global day of peace. The Resolution, which was sponsored by Senator Robert Menendez of New Jersey, cited POD “for establishing the first ever day of global ceasefire and nonviolence” and recognized POD’s success in promoting peace through engagement of “all sectors of society.” Senator Menendez himself said “I applaud the Peace One Day Organisation for its commitment to this laudable ideal.”
While such accolades are much appreciated by Peace One Day, they only reinforce the group’s commitment to non-violence on a global scale. “There’s an urgency,” says Jeremy Gilley, founder of Peace One Day, “We live in a culture of war, and we need to live in a culture of peace.” After a decade of hard work and much success, he knows that Peace One Day requires more of both to meet its goals of reaching 3 billion people by 2012 and realizing 21 September as a self-sustaining Day of Peace.
No project sums up the past decade more than The Day After Peace, Gilley’s documentary about his struggle to create Peace Day. As he puts it, “The film is the past ten years.” The Day After Peace touched thousands of people in 2009: Peace One Day coordinated screenings in all but one of the 192 UN member states, and in the days leading up to 21 September, the film topped 420,000 viewings on YouTube.
Better than any statistics, however, are the responses from viewers around the world. Chiara Maioni of the UAE wrote to say, “When I was first shown the film it was incredibly inspiring to the point where I just had to give my contribution and do something…. We really hope that we have managed to plant the seed of what the 21st of September stands for and to set the ground for a much bigger event next year.” The translation of views into actions illustrates POD’s ability to harness the potential of cinema as a force for social change.
In order to maximize that potential, Peace One Day created a Schools Edition DVD of The Day After Peace. In 2009, over 10,000 schools in the US and the UK received free copies of the DVD. The film is being used in schools in over 130 countries in conjunction with POD’s free online Education Resources. The Peace One Day USA Education Resource is being underwritten by long-time supporters Ben & Jerry’s, and is currently in Phase 2 of is nationwide roll-out, this year reaching a further 11,000 schools covering the entire eastern seaboard of the US. 2010 also heralds the launch of the Peace One Day Global Education Resource, underwritten by Skype, available in the remaining five official languages of the United Nations. For the first time this year the 32-minute version of The Day After Peace will be available to view free at www.peaceoneday.org (again with subtitles in the remaining five official UN languages), not only for teachers and students, but for all to see.
As of now, though, nothing in Peace One Day’s arsenal connects with more people than its annual concert for peace. The sold out 10th anniversary show – the first to be held outside of the UK – was filmed in Paris by Canal+ and broadcast live to 20 countries around the world. The star-studded event celebrated what Peace One Day has accomplished in its first decade, honored the sponsors who have enabled that work, and most of all, raised awareness of Peace Day and called the audience to action.
If music is the universal language, then football, or soccer, is the universal game. With that in mind, Peace One Day expanded its One Day One Goal (ODOG) effort in 2009. With the support of Puma.peace, Peace One Day’s goal of inspiring matches in all 192 UN member states on 21 September. Approximately 75,000 people participated in the 700 matches that were played worldwide. From Bosnia to Djibouti, from Haiti to Peru, ODOG succeeded in bringing people together through the beautiful game, and a message from Hungary confirmed the intent of ODOG: “This proves that human beings still desire peace and not only that, they are ready to step out for it…. This event also proved that football is a great tool to celebrate respect, tolerance and peace.”
As individuals gathered on 21 September to play football, all around them, POD’s efforts in Global Communication and Life-saving Activities blossomed once more: In Afghanistan in 2009, the Peace Day campaign that was by launched by Jeremy and POD Ambassador Jude Law in the lead up to Peace Day 2007, resulted in a further 1.2 million children vaccinated against polio – a program carried out by UNICEF, WHO, the Ministry of Health and others. This marked the third consecutive year in which Peace Day agreements allowed for safe access to immunisers enabling over 4 million children to receive the vaccine around Peace Day 2007/8/9.
In Liberia, Pump Aid worked with the Initiative for the Development of Former Child Soldiers (IDFCS) to involve former child-soldiers and local communities in building and setting the foundations for their ‘Elephant Pump’, using Peace Day as their focus. This pump has, to date, provided over 1 million people in rural Africa with access to clean water. Kathryn Llewellyn, the International Director for Pump Aid acknowledged the full impact of the project: “Peace One Day gives us hope that we will never again have generations of children so deeply compromised and abused and that projects like ours in Liberia will not be needed again.”
Since Peace One Day’s inception, all of these activities have been made possible by the support of key partners, and 2009 was no different: Coca-Cola Great Britain issued its first-ever charity can on behalf of Peace One Day; a million single-sale cans were sold across the UK. The famous rivalry between PUMA and adidas abated; the heads of the two sportswear companies shook hands for the ﬁrst time after six decades. As a sign of amicable cooperation, employees of both companies played football together on Peace Day, 21 September, and watched the ﬁlm The Day After Peace. Across continents and across media, in 2009, Peace One Day found new ways to make 21 September a day for all to pause in the name of peace.
The only person who did not seem to pause was Gilley himself. He shuttled between schools and cinemas, battlefields and boardrooms to advance the cause. His public presentations to students and sponsors alike brought attention to the work of POD.
If anything, however, it may be Peace One Day’s work online that defined the past year. Peace One Day re-launched its website this past June and greatly expanded its presence on sites such as Facebook and Twitter. The most dramatic development came with the help of YouTube. Peace One Day not only re-launched their YouTube channel, but it also hosted the My Take on Peace contest – students around the world were asked to create their own videos to show their take on peace. This New Media campaign pushed POD to the #1 spot as YouTube’s most-watched non-profit channel on earth for the weeks around Peace Day and kept Peace One Day in the top 3 for weeks afterward. Gilley, though, is “still frustrated at what we’re doing online. We need to be doing so much more.”
That sentiment echoes throughout every facet of POD’s history – only when the International Day of Peace is truly self-sustaining will Peace One Day’s job be done. As the organisation strives to reach 3 billion people by 2012, the words of Kofi Annan, during a filmed meeting with Jeremy in 2001, still ring true: “Individuals can make a difference, and if each of us does our bit collectively, we will make a major contribution.”
With the tools of art, sport, and technology firmly in hand, and another year of great achievement behind it, Peace One Day remains determined to face that challenge. “We won’t give up,” says Gilley, “we can’t wait for politicians – we’ve got to stand up. We’ve got to stand up as one.”