CHRISTINE N. UMUTONI
United Nations Resident Coordinator

The International Day of Peace was established in 1981 by the United Nations General Assembly. It is observed around the world on 21 September, devoted to strengthening the ideals of peace. This year’s theme is “Shaping Peace Together”.

In Mauritius many events were organised by the Government, civil society organizations, religious organizations, the private sector and academia to commemorate the day, many of which reiterated messages to promote peace through compassion, kindness and hope.

One such event took place at L’Escalier in the district of Savanne, a place of importance to Mauritius and the world because it was awarded the distinction of “International City of Peace” in June 2020. Through this distinction, it became one of the 290 International Cities of Peace in 57 countries on 6 continents.

The selection is done by International Cities of Peace Organization, which holds a special consultative status with the United Nations Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC). “The process is very rigorous and becoming an International City of Peace means that past achievements and the history of the city are recognized and that initiatives continue to be carried out to encourage and inspire the generations to sustain the peace”, says Chelvin Ramsamy, the Mauritian Peace Ambassador who led the presentation of the dossier.

This global recognition by the UN of L’Escalier as the first ever International City of Peace in Mauritius is important to the community and puts the entire country on the world map.  Statistics also show that Mauritius is the most peaceful country in Africa and the twenty fourth (24th) most peaceful country in the world, according to the 2019 edition of the Global Peace Index (GPI). The report measures the state of peace using thematic domains such as the level of Societal Safety and Security. This is a big achievement that must be sustained. It is a rare treasure in a world challenged by many armed conflicts and wars, and should never be taken for granted.

Mauritius is a multi-ethnic society and people practice different religions making it a true rainbow nation where cultures and beliefs vary from community to community without generating conflicts.  Dialogue on issues of national interest and peaceful means of resolving differences should continue to characterise the country during these tough times of COVID-19.

The UN Secretary General in his message for international peace day 2020 said,

“Our world faces a common enemy: a deadly virus that is causing immense suffering, destroying livelihoods, contributing to international tensions and exacerbating already formidable peace and security challenges. In that spirit, and to mark the United Nations’ 75th anniversary, the United Nations is bringing people together for a global conversation about shaping our future and forging peace in trying times”. This year the UN also launched the Decade of Action (2020-2030), setting the goal of ten years to deliver the sustainable development goals (SDGs).

The Vice-President of the Republic of Mauritius who officially unveiled the Commemorative Plaque of l’Escalier as an International City of Peace, highlighted that Sustainable Development Goal 16 is specifically dedicated to the fostering of peace, justice and strong institutions. He called on the youth to take the lead in fostering peace.

The presence of religious leaders from all faiths, the shows and songs by different cultures and the involvement of government, civil society organizations and private sector was a good indication that the community is indeed “SHAPING PEACE TOGETHER”. As communities in L’Escalier, Mauritius and the rest of the world continue to promote peace, we must remember that it all begins within families and individual homes. Take the challenge further and eliminate gender-based violence.

“We know peace is much more than a world free of war. It means resilient, stable societies where everyone can enjoy fundamental freedoms and thrive rather than struggle to meet basic needs.” –António Guterres, UN Secretary-General.