New York, 21 September 2002

The peace bell at UN Headquarters, cast from coins donated by children on all continents, is a symbol of global solidarity. A gift of Japan, it is also a reminder of the human cost of war.

"Long live absolute world peace", reads the inscription on its side. Every year on the International Day of Peace, people throughout the world gather to reiterate that sentiment, to remember the victims of conflict, and to rededicate themselves to the age-old quest of building a safer and more just world.

This year marks the beginning of a new peace-day tradition. The General Assembly has decided that from now on, the International Day of Peace will be observed every year on 21 September, as "a day of global ceasefire and non-violence". Therefore I call on all nations and all people to cease all hostilities for the entire day.

Twenty-four hours: to give relief workers a safe interlude for the provision of vital services; to offer mediators a building block towards a wider truce; to allow all those engaged in conflict to reconsider the wisdom of further violence.

Twenty-four hours: not a long time, but enough for the world's leaders to begin to listen to their peoples. Some of those peoples want an end to repression and intolerance - and would say so publicly if they could exercise their fundamental rights and freedoms. Others want relief from poverty and despair, and would also be more vocal about it were they not so burdened with the daily struggle of providing food and shelter for their families.

Leaders have a special responsibility to hear the message of International Peace Day. May it resound far and wide.

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