See below for the story of how Peace Day has developed in Afghanistan:
As part of their 2007 mission to Afghanistan, Jeremy and Jude travelled to Jalalabad and Kabul. They met with many representatives from the UN, the Afghan government and local NGOs, as well as school children and a US army reconstruction team.
For Peace Day 2007, WHO and UNICEF, with the Ministry of Public Health, provided 1.4 million children with the monovalent P3 polio vaccine in southern Afghanistan and selected areas in eastern Afghanistan. UNICEF and youth volunteers from the Afghan Red Crescent Society organised a Peace Walk through the streets of Herat, followed by a youth debate on what needs to be done in Afghanistan for peace to work. There were arms handover ceremonies, prayers for peace in mosques, schools painted white and education activities. A large tract of land cleared of mines and ready for cultivation was handed over to the local community.
In August 2008, Jeremy headed to Afghanistan, again with Peace One Day ambassador Jude Law, and met with President Hamid Karzai, United Nations agencies and civil society groups. A press conference was held with Jeremy Gilley and Jude Law, as a call to action for people within Afghanistan to observe Peace Day.
For Peace Day 2008, there was a 70 per cent drop in violent incidents on Peace Day in Afghanistan following pledges by President Karzai and UN forces for a day of non-violence.
UNICEF, WHO and the Ministry of Public Health vaccinated 1.6 million children against polio as part of the Peace Day 2008 campaign.
In 2009 the volume and scale of Peace Day activities increased, with greater participation from civil society and other organisations and NGOs such as Oxfam and War Child. Following Peace Day agreements by all parties in the region UN agencies and the government were able to continue the Peace Day polio vaccination campaign, as well as many other significant activities.
Ahead of Peace Day 2009, Afghanistan’s Government ordered its forces to stand down. A similar declaration halting offensive operations was made by ISAF. The Taliban agreed to support a Peace Day polio immunisation drive by the Afghan government and UN agencies, by stating that they would not harm or block access to the 14,000 health workers and volunteers involved in the Peace Day campaign.
Almost 1.2 million Afghan children benefited from polio immunisations in eight provinces, including some of the country’s hardest to reach areas such as Kandahar, Uruzgan, and Helmand.
The polio drive was a joint effort by the Afghan health authorities, WHO and UNICEF, and it was also supported by actors including the International Committee of the Red Cross as well as health NGOs.
“This is better than any immunisation round in Afghanistan in the past 18 months,” said Peter Graaff, Country Representative for the WHO. “We are quite excited as such high coverage gives us a better chance than ever to get rid of polio,” he added.
On 21 September, UNAMA announced that a rare 24 hour cessation of offensive operations marking International Peace Day appeared to be holding firm across Afghanistan, with only isolated security incidents reported as of late afternoon. Officials at both Afghanistan’s Ministry of Defence and NATO’s International Security Assistance Force said the day appeared much quieter than usual (source: UNAMA.)
The UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) ran a one-month major TV and radio campaign beginning on 21 August with the theme “WHAT ARE YOU DOING FOR PEACE?” and placed 74 Peace Day large banners around the country.
As a result of UNAMA’s campaign efforts, on the 22 September, more than 1,000 thrilled people were waving flags for Peace Day while eagerly awaiting songs from some of Afghanistan’s most famous singers at the historical Babur Gardens in Kabul.
UNICEF was also involved in a two-day cricket camp with 50 disadvantaged children and a three-day painting workshop for street kids in Kabul.
On 21 September, there were kite competitions in Kabul, Herat, Jalalabad, Mazar e Sharif.
Peace Day activities were organised by War Child Holland.
OXFAM teams in Afghanistan supported a coalition of 13 local and national NGOs led by the SABA media organisation to celebrate Peace Day in 16 provinces around the country. NGOs with various expertise (communication, community peace building and conflict resolution, campaigning) came together to push for a national peace building strategy, in conjunction with the United Nations.
Oxfam publicly endorsed this national campaign internationally, through their websites and media contacts. They focused on the importance of giving voice to Afghans and putting their needs and interest at the forefront of their discussions.
“In a year when violence dominates the news in Afghanistan, UNAMA seeks to promote the voices of young Afghans who are working for peace in the communities”
—Kieran Dwyer, Director of UNAMA’s communications team
In 2010, The UN in Afghanistan once again led the way, with UNAMA launching its Peace Day campaign on 1st September using mass media spots. With over 70 per cent of Afghanistan’s population under 25 years old, young people were the focus of various activities organised by groups from all sectors of society.
For the fourth year, UN agencies in Afghanistan worked to save lives on Peace Day. The UN agencies aligned with the government health department to immunise over 50,000 children and women of child-bearing age from high-risk locations against deadly diseases. In addition, a nationwide polio immunisation campaign to target 8 million children was launched.
As part of his Peace Day statement, President Hamid Karzai announced that the Government of Afghanistan have established a council for peace aimed at seeking ways for a lasting peace in the country.
Mediothek – a civil society entity – in collaboration with UNAMA and the Afghanistan Culture and Media Communication Foundation (ACMCF) organised various activities in Kunduz Province. More than 50 high-ranking governmental officials, religious scholars, journalists, civil society and youth associations’ representatives and children attended the event.
A football race between two Kunduz football teams was held, which also received the support of MACCA (Mine Action Programme of Afghanistan). In addition, Kunduz governmental officials inaugurated a youth football team under the title of “Kunduz Teenagers Peace Team”, which was initiated by ACMCF.
Afghan women attended a Peace Day concert in Mazar-e-Sharif, Balkh province. Singer, composer, peace and rights activist Farhad Darya performed at the concert.
Skateistan, a co-educational skateboarding school in Afghanistan invited its students and others to a Peace Day event. Over 200 students, parents, young athletes, Olympic Committee staff and international delegates came together to discuss peace and how sport can bring people together.
The event saw Qur’an readings, peace songs, videos, poems, prayer and a short film called “Mama Peace” by Skateistan students. The event also featured sports demonstrations including skateboarding, taekwondo, karate, gymnastics and football. During the event there were also speeches about peace from Freshta Farrah, Deputy President of the Afghan National Olympic Committee (ANOC), and Oliver Percovich, Executive Director of Skateistan.
On Peace Day, the Afghan Youth Peace Volunteers linked up with Douglas Mackey & Dennis Mills of Fellowship of Reconciliation USA and John Silliphant of Friends Without Borders, to connect via phone with friends from 20 different countries and ask “Why not love?” The young Afghans also took part in UNEP’s Peace trek in Bamyan, contributing with banners painted with the word peace in 44 different languages.
In Kabul, a Peace Day festival was set up next to the Tomb of Nadir Shah on a ridge high above the city. There were gatherings of children learning about peace through classes, artwork, music and sport. In a festive mood, children brandished the flags of peace or flew kites to express their hopes. The Ministry of Defense spokesperson Zahir Azimi attended the ceremony.
The message of peace and reconciliation was highlighted by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and the Bamyan Peace Committee through a Peace Day trek at Afghanistan’s Central Highlands in Bamyan Province. Local peace music and theatre were performed by youth and children; handicraft and demining exhibitions were organised. There were also speeches from the Governor of Bamyan Province, Habiba Sorabi, and representatives of the Ministry of Agriculture, Irrigation and Livestock (MAIL), the National Environmental Protection Agency (NEPA), the Department of Youth and UNEP, as well as local community leaders.
More than 500 youth from different parts of Nangarhar province were involved in several peace activities, organised by the Youth Department, with the full support of UNICEF. There were radio and TV round table discussions on the significance of peace; poetry and drawing competitions; and sport tournaments.
The UN Refugee Agency – UNHCR – in Jalalabad also organised activities, particularly cricket matches for returnees and internal displaced people (IDP), in the Nangarhar and Laghman provinces.
Afghan school girls carried Peace Day placards as they watched a volleyball match in a girls school in Herat, organised by UNAMA and Herat education department.