2021 International Day of Peace: ECPC Chair on the role of education in building peace through ECD


ECPC Chair joins U.N. officials and the International Association of University Presidents in observing the 2021 International Day of Peace at a global hybrid event, hosted by CETYS University

World Peace Day greeting illustration, International social help concept. Paper origami dove of peace with olive branch. © Lovekish4u | Dreamstime.com
World Peace Day greeting illustration, International social help concept. Paper origami dove of peace with olive branch. © Lovekish4u | Dreamstime.com

by Michael F. McCarthy, ECPC News

The International Day of Peace

Every year on September 21, the world observes an International Day of Peace. On this day, we are reminded of our common good and continued goal to work together to develop and invest in a more prosperous, just, equal, socially cohesive, and peaceful world.


The International Day of Peace has been celebrated for four decades since its establishment by the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) in 1981. Each year, the U.N. recognizes and promotes the Day by observing a unique theme. But, on 21 September, 2001, the Day became much more than a symbolic gesture of peace, when the UNGA called for all countries to unify and engage in a 24 hour “global ceasefire and non-violence . . . to honour a cessation of hostilities” in observance of this Day (Resolution 55/282).

2021 Theme · Recovering better for an equitable and sustainable world

This year, the UNGA called on each country to observe and support the 2021 International Day of Peace theme Recovering Better for an Equitable and Sustainable World. The UNGA highlighted the stark reality of the COVID-19 vaccine distribution — more than 100 countries have not yet obtained any doses. The Assembly also emphasized that people living in conflict have unlikely not received adequate healthcare during this critical time. The UNGA underscored the importance of creating and sustaining peace as the international community moves forward in its recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic crisis, and resulting multi-leveled challenges. As the world prepared to celebrate the 2021 day of peace, the UNGA issued a reminder:

“[T]he pandemic has been accompanied by a surge in stigma, discrimination, and hatred, which only cost more lives instead of saving them: the virus attacks all without caring about where we are from or what we believe in. Confronting this common enemy of humankind, we must be reminded that we are not each other’s enemy. To be able to recover from the devastation of the pandemic, we must make peace with one another” (United Nations General Assembly, 2021).

CETYS · The role of higher education in building peace

On October 5th, Dr. Rima Salah, Chairperson of the Early Childhood Peace Consortium (ECPC), joined with imminent U.N. and international higher education experts at the Center for Technical and Higher Education (CETYS) University, located in Mexico, that honored and observed the 40th anniversary of the International Day of Peace.

CETYS Universidad International Day of Peace event poster

Distinguished speakers:

  • Welcome remarks by Ramu Damodaran, former Chief, Academic Impact of the United Nations
  • Video message from Ban Ki-Moon, 8th Secretary-General of the United Nations
  • Opening remarks by Dr. Fernando León García, President CETYS University
  • Remarks by Dr. Francisco Rojas, Rector, University for Peace (Costa Rica)
  • Remarks by Ambassador Fatima Kyari Mohammed, African Union Permanent Observer to the United Nations
  • Remarks by four Presidents, Members of International Association of University Presidents: Dr. Pornchai Mongkhonvanit, Siam University (Siam); Dr. Michele Nealon, Chicago School of Professional Psychology (U.S.A.); Dr. Henri Hatayama, JF Oberin University (Japan); and Dr. Kyun Tae Hahn, Kyung Hee University (South Korea)
  • Remarks by Dr. Thomas Hill, Peace Studies, New York University
  • Remarks by Diya Abdo “Every Campus a Refuge” initiative
  • Remarks by Dr. Rima Salah, Yale School of Medicine, Early Childhood Peace Consortium (ECPC)
  • Video message from U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres
  • Closing remarks by Dr. Fernando León García, President CETYS University

Higher education produces scientific evidence that supports the transformative power of early childhood development (ECD) in building more peaceful societies

Dr. Rima Salah, ECPC Chair and Volunteer Faculty at the Yale Child Study Center, speaks on behalf of the Yale School of Medicine

Dr. Rima Salah, Chair — Early Childhood Peace Consortium (ECPC). Photo: N. Fallon
Rima Salah, PhD — Chairperson Early Childhood Peace Consortium. Photo: N. Fallon

In her remarks to the CETYS hybrid audience, Dr. Salah echoed the sentiments expressed in this year’s theme, but also provided a distinctive perspective on achieving peace by focusing on the state of women, children, refugees, and those living in and being victimized by a perpetual state of war and conflict.

Dr. Salah expressed the importance of investing in the “transformative power of early childhood development.” She explained that “there is merging and well-established scientific evidence from multiple disciplines, which include neuroscience, epigenetics, psychology, and economics, that continue to substantiate the link between the early years of life and early environment with long-term well-being, violence prevention, and behavior linked with building whole peaceful communities.” Much of this new knowledge, she said, is being developed by notable research scientists at the Child Study Center, Yale School of Medicine, Yale University, and other partners.

READ Pathways to a more peaceful and sustainable world: The transformative power of children in families. Development and Psychopathology (2021).

►READ The promise of parent-child education programs on improving parenting practices and reducing stress in conflict-exposed families. Yale School of Medicine (YSM) News, (2020, April 30).

Although the investment in early childhood development plays a critical role in contributing to the development of more peace-minded societies, Dr. Salah stressed that the danger our young children face is still significant, asserting that “43 percent of all children under 5 years of age in the world are at risk of not achieving their developmental potential.” She continued, “The risk factors include poverty, abuse, neglect and exploitation as well as inadequate care and lack of opportunities.” Dr. Salah further underscored the point that these threats are “compounded by situations of war, violent conflict, and displacement to which families and children are exposed, disrupting the fabric of their societies.”

READ COVID-19 and Beyond: Hope and Promise in the Eyes of the Child. Top experts advance a Global Call to Action at the G20 Civil Society (C20) Summit 2020 in response to the state of the world’s most vulnerable children during the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond

These threats, Dr. Salah explained, can have an adverse impact on our children. She emphasized to the audience that “what is even more alarming and should concern us all is the lasting negative impact of . . . violence, structural and systemic, on young children.” These problems, Dr. Salah explained, can “include major emotional and behavioral problems, which can become self-perpetuating cycles that continue for generations, and eventually affect our societies and communities.”

In her concluding remarks, Dr. Salah outlined a clear vision for developing a more peaceful world. She called on the international community to:

  1. Empower every woman, man, girl, and boy. Help them rebuild their lives, fulfill their human rights, and restore their dignity;
  2. Persist in the pursuit of knowledge. Address the gaps in science with a focus on interdisciplinary research to reinforce the evidence that participation of families, women, youth, and children in all aspects of building and sustaining peace is transformative and has a tangible impact on building peaceful, just, and inclusive societies; and
  3. Reinforce the evidence. Quality early childhood programs cannot only disrupt cycles of injustice and inequality, but build a strong foundation for social justice and social cohesion

Most importantly, Dr. Salah underscored the importance of collaboration. She made it known that these efforts cannot be done in isolation, but are a “shared responsibility” between governments, policy makers, and academic institutions. This shared responsibility, according to Dr. Salah, also comes with a shared focus. She called on the international community to put forth the best “interest[s] of [the] people.”

Dr. Salah’s remarks make it clear — we cannot achieve peace alone, and we need our children, the future leaders of the world, to help us achieve it.

Rima Salah, PhD, Chair of the Early Childhood Peace Consortium (ECPC), has served as Former Assistant Secretary-General of the United Nations, Former Deputy Executive Director of UNICEF, Former Deputy Special Representative of the Secretary-General to the U.N. mission in Central African Republic and Chad, served on the United Nations High-Level Independent Panel on Peace Operations, Volunteer Faculty Yale Child Study Center. Salah is recipient of the 2021 Peacemaker Award from the Center for Peace and Conflict Resolution (CPCR) at the J. Reuben Clark Law School at Brigham Young University.


United Nations General Assembly (2021, September 1). 2021 theme: Recovering better for an equitable and sustainable world. United Nations International Day of Peace. https://www.un.org/en/observances/international-day-peace

About the ECPC

The Early Childhood Peace Consortium (ECPC) is a global movement of United Nations agencies, Non-Governmental Organizations, academia, practitioners, and the private sector focused on sharing scientific and practice-based evidence on how investment in early childhood development (ECD) can contribute to sustainable peace, social cohesion and social justice. We recognize that investing in ECD is a powerful and cost-effective strategy for reducing violence, poverty, and exclusion and for building peaceful societies.

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