The UN Calendar: The World’s Conscience

EDITORIAL, 7 Jun 2017

#484 | Johan Galtung – TRANSCEND Media Service

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, and 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.


Johan Galtung, a professor of peace studies, dr hc mult, is founder of TRANSCEND International and rector of TRANSCEND Peace University. Prof. Galtung has published more than 1500 articles and book chapters, over 470 Editorials for TRANSCEND Media Service, and more than 170 books on peace and related issues, of which more than 40 have been translated to other languages, including 50 Years100 Peace and Conflict Perspectives published by TRANSCEND University Press. More information about Prof. Galtung and all of his publications can be found at

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2 Responses to “The UN Calendar: The World’s Conscience”

  1. Dear Johann,

    I admire your optimism with regards to the United Nations, the Mafia I call United Necropolis, for their image is represented in my mind by a Universal cemetery. After 7 years in Geneva and in close contact with UN diplomats, politicians and general workers, I realised the UN is a Club of Nations that replaced the defamed League of Nations, who lead us into World War II.

    So keen was the new Club to make even more of a mess in the world, that they organised a specific “War Committee”, of war and killing experts. This committee is know as the UN Security Council, led by the United States, the only country in History to have killed a quarter of a million people in minutes, via little presents dropped over Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

    Since the creation of the UN we have seen a steady increase in armed conflicts around the world. They even decided to not only “watch” games of war, but get the UN involved as well, by creating the UN Armed Forces. As effective as pouring petrol onto a fire to limit the damage. Clever politicians !!!!

    The new UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres was elected, precisely because of his experience at organising wars, via his promotion of the the other multi-billion UN business: the Refugee Industry. Ten years at the helm of the UN High Commission for Refugees and having managed to treble the number of refugees, he was rewarded with the top job.

    Guterres says he wants “A UN of the Future to Effectively Serve All Member States“. This, in UN terms, means “All Member State – not only some – should benefit from the wars we facilitate. I see the UN as the makers of World War III.

  2. Pablo Cesinos says:


    We have two years for Namibia/Sourth Africa, two weeks for Namibia/South Africa and four days for Namibia/South Africa.

    Much as I respect the struggle in Southern Africa and the symbolic value of these 8 (!) named manifestations, countless suppressed peoples and cultures may reasonably ask why they have been left out.

    And therein lies one of the problems with this kind of symbolism. The naked politization of the idea. Should I use (or have used) these 8 occations and time spans on the stated conflicts, or would it have been more reasonable to think about other victims in a shared context?