Marking observance of the International Day of Peace, the United Nations on Wednesday urged nations to invest in education that encourages children to embrace global citizenship based on values of tolerance and diversity. The theme of this year's observance is: 'Education for Peace.' Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon rang the Peace Bell in New York, ahead of the official observance of the Day, which falls on Saturday, Sept 21.
Gifted by Japan, the Peace Bell hangs in front of UN Headquarters. It tolls every year in a solemn call for peace, since 1981, when the General Assembly established the Day to coincide with the opening of its annual meet in September.
"Every girl and every boy deserves to receive a quality education and learn the values that will help them to grow up to be global citizens in tolerant communities that respect diversity," Secretary-General Ban said in his address.
There are currently 57 million children that do not have access to education, and millions more that need better schooling, a U.N. news release said on Wednesday. Calling on Governments to increase investment in education, U.N. Secretary General recalled words by Malala Yousafzai, the Pakistani activist schoolgirl shot by the Taliban, "one teacher, one book, one pen, can change the world.,"
"Educating the poorest and most marginalized children will require bold political leadership and increased financial commitment," Ban said in his message.
"Yet aid for education has dropped for the first time in a decade. We must reverse this decline, forge new partnerships, and bring much greater attention to the quality of education," he said.
The Secretary-General noted the work by U.N. agencies in conflict and post-conflict zones seeking to give children access to education.
"We are building schools, developing curricula, training teachers and providing nourishing breakfasts and school lunches. These initiatives can transform the lives of children and help address the root causes of conflict," Ban said.
He also stressed the need to find solutions to current conflicts and in particular the Syrian crisis, which has, till date killed more than 100,000 civilian and displaced millions others.
"The International Day of Peace is a time for reflection - a day when we reiterate our belief in non-violence and call for a global ceasefire," Ban said.
"Perhaps nowhere in the world is this more desperately needed than in Syria. The death and suffering has gone on too long. I repeat my call to all parties and their supporters to work for a peaceful resolution to the conflict through negotiation," he added.
Address the gathering, at the Peace Bell ceremony, John Ashe, President of the 68th General Assembly said the Day should be an opportunity to reflect and stop hostilities.
"As we hear this bell ring, let us remember that education is a path to growth and development of citizens and societies. Education that teaches the value of peace is a key preventative means of reducing war and conflict," Ashe said.
Marking the day, the U.N. news release said, a video conference will be held on the year's theme, 'Education for Peace.' Some 500 students, including refugees from around the world, will exchange views, with young parliamentarians at the U.N. Assistance Mission in Haiti, the release said.
Reports said, the Secretary-General's Envoy on Youth, Ahmad Alhendawi and the Youth Representative on the Global Education First Initiative's Steering Committee, Chernor Bah, will also be part of the conference.
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