The UN Calendar: The World’s Conscience

By Johan Galtung

It is amazing. The United Nations have decades, years, weeks and days, dedicated to more values, goals and concerns than most of us are aware of. Compare it to nation-states usually with only one day, their day, their national day, celebrating nobody but themselves.

Maybe the UN overdoes it, that one decade flows into the next without leaving more than some verbal traces?

But that is not the UN’s fault. The accusing finger points at all of us; what did you do when the world’s conscience called on you?

Let us start with the Decades:

1960s: First UN Development Decade

1970s: Second UN Development Decade

International Decade of Ocean Exploration

Disarmament Decade

Into the 1980s: Decade to Combat Racism and Discrimination

United Nations Decade for Women

Transport and Communication Decade in Africa

1980s: Drinking Water Supply and Sanitation Decade

Second Disarmament Decade

Third UN Development Decade

Into the 1990s: UN Decade for the Handicapped

Development and Disarmament, Women and Race, the Handicapped are top concerns for most of us. Why? Among other reasons, due to the UN Decades admonishing media, all, to pay attention think, speak, act.

We are not born with these concepts and concerns, we are born with concern for ourselves and our nearest. The UN broadens that, and has learned one basic of communication: repeat, repeat–and then repeat!

Ocean exploration, transport and communication in Africa, water and sanitation focus on resources to promote concepts and concerns. Indispensable and we have to be reminded.

Let us proceed to the names of the Years.

There are many of them:

Geophysical Year, World Refugee Year, Health and Medical Research Year, World Seed Year, International Cooperation Year, International Years of the Quiet Sun, International Monument Year, International Tourist Year, International Rice Year, Year for Human Rights, International Education Year, Year for Action to Combat Racism, World Population Year, International Women’s Year, International Anti-Apartheid Year, International Year of the Child, Year of Solidarity with the People of Namibia, International Year for Disabled Persons, World Communication Year, International Youth Year, International Film Year, International Year for Oral Tradition & Folk Music, Year of Peace.

Some are repeating the decades, most are different, new, and often specifications. There are good reasons for all of them; moreover, the formulations generally point forward to some solution.

Compare that to how we are inundated with commercial propaganda, making us aware of products, but more for the benefit of the provider than the consumer, often packed with lies, and no right or means to challenge.

Each year is an invitation to think, sit down and discuss, to act. And many do, with the network of UN Associations backing the efforts.


21-27 March: Solidarity with people fighting racism-discrimination.

25-31 May: Solidarity with Colonized People in Southern Africa.

25-30 October: Disarmament Week.

27 October-2 November: Solidarity with Namibian liberation movement.

Repetition, and there is a strategy in that: take the themes for the longer stretches in time and hammer them in on a shorter basis. The groundwork is laid with decades and years, then weeks and days.

Switch on TV or radio. They fill “breaks” with commercials: Imagine these breaks filled with fascinating bits of information about these concerns instead. Learn from commercials how to write.

We turn to Days, there are 365 of them but this list is shorter:

8 March: International Women’s Day.

21 March: International Day for Abolition of Racial Discrimination.

23 March: World Meteorology Day.

7 April: World Health Day.

1 May: Labor Movement Day.

17 May: International Telecommunication Day.

4 June: International day for Innocent Children Victims of Aggression.

5 June: World Environment, Earth Day.

16 June: International Day for Solidarity with South Africa’s Liberation.

9 August: International Day for South African and Namibian Women.

26 August: Namibia Day.

8 September: International Literacy Day.

20 September: International Day of Peace.

Last week of September: An International Day for Seafaring.

11 October: Day of Solidarity with South Africa’s Political Prisoners.

16 October: International Food and Water Day.

24 October: United Nations Day.

24 October: International Day for Information about Development Problems.

29 November: International Solidarity Day with the Palestinian People.

10 December: Human Rights Day.

11 December: UNICEF Day.

Some of these concerns have been met, most not. A rich agenda for the UN, Member States, TNCs, NGOs, and particularly for the UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres who wants “A UN of the Future to Effectively Serve All Member States“.

For that he may use the General Assembly and Uniting for Peace, side-tracking the Security Council.

Let us all support him implementing Decades, Years, Weeks and Days.

We are one humanity in one world with many faultlines. Let the UN conscience be ours…

Originally published at Transcend Media Service, TMS, here.

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