The Marrickville Peace Park was the location for a local observance of the International Day of Peace on Wednesday 21 September. Organised by the Gallipoli Centenary Peace Campaign (GCPC), the lunchtime event gave participants an opportunity to reflect on war and violence in the world today together with strategies for achieving peace.
Peace and the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals
This theme for this year’s Peace Day was ‘The Sustainable Development Goals: Building Blocks for Peace.’
The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), officially known as ‘Transforming Our World: the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development’ comprises a set of 17 aspirational ‘Global Goals’. They include 169 targets for these goals and 304 indicators to test compliance.
The SDGs were unanimously adopted by the 193 Member States of the United Nations at a summit of the world’s leaders in New York in September 2015.
In relation to the ideal of peace, the UN states: “We are determined to foster peaceful, just and inclusive societies which are free from fear and violence. There can be no sustainable development without peace and no peace without sustainable development.”
The ambitious 2030 agenda calls on countries to begin efforts to achieve these goals over the next 15 years. It aims to end poverty, protect the planet, and ensure prosperity for all.
Many of those who had gathered to observe the International Day of Peace offered critical reflections on the prospects for peace and the United Nation’s strategy to achieve the 17 Sustainable Development Goals.
These reflections included:
- GCPC’s successful campaign to have Richardson’s Lookout declared ‘Richardson’s Lookout – Marrickville Peace Park’;
- The purpose of the Peace Park which is to promote genuine remembrance, namely (a) recognising all those that suffered and perished in wars along with those that opposed foreign wars and (b) learning from the lessons of these wars i.e. their causes and how the nation became involved, so that similar tragedies can be avoided in the future;
- The need for official recognition of the Frontier Wars and the role these played in the dispossession and dislocation of Indigenous peoples;
- The reading of an ‘Open Letter to the United Nations’ which criticised the capacity of the United Nation’s strategy to achieve the 17 Sustainable Development Goals without directly addressing income inequality and endless material growth;
- The US assassination campaign using weaponised drones to eliminate those deemed to be a potential threat to the US and the involvement of Pine Gap in the operation of this global terror campaign;
- The Independent and Peaceful Australia Network and its campaign to have Australia adopt an independent foreign policy;
- The need to make the International Day of Peace a much bigger event as well as the need for effective modes of activism to revitalise the peace movement in Australia;
- International Peoples Tribunal on the Nuclear Powers and the Destruction of Human Civilisation which was held between 6 and 8 July in Sydney.
Hope over Despair
The seemingly endless cycle of war and violence around the world today can lead to a sense of hopelessness and despair. That’s why one of the speakers emphasised the need to acknowledge the inspiring efforts of those individuals, institutions and social movements that have contributed to advancing our well-being and survival.
One such institution that should be applauded for its work in this regard is the UN’s Open-Ended Working Group on Nuclear Disarmament (OEWG). The OEWG held three international sessions during this year that discussed “concrete effective legal measures, legal provisions and norms that would need to be concluded to attain and maintain a world without nuclear weapons”.
During the final session of OEWG held in Geneva, it was reported that 107 nations expressed their support for the convening of a conference in 2017 to negotiate a legally binding instrument to prohibit nuclear weapons, leading towards their total elimination. This proposal formed the key recommendation in the working group’s report, adopted on 19 August with overwhelming support.
Regrettably Australian diplomats once again tried to sabotage proceedings by leading the efforts of nuclear alliance states in the UN working group to push their so-called “progressive approach” (i.e. disarmament measures that have been tried unsuccessfully for twenty years) and to argue against a ban.
As Richard Lennane in The Interpreter pointed out “(t)hese arguments were never very plausible, but their main flaw was their obvious insincerity. The real reason for Australia’s opposition to a ban treaty (that a ban will make it more difficult for Australia to continue its reliance on extended nuclear deterrence) was never mentioned. The transparent dishonesty in Australia’s rhetoric only increased scepticism of Australia’s commitment to nuclear disarmament”.
The media release associated with this event can be read here.