Since 1931, the International Voluntary Service (IVS) has been committed to the goal of peace. Our 2019 campaign marking the UN International Day of Peace, launched two months ago, culminated last week with an event in the European Parliament Liaison Office in Edinburgh and at the plenary session in the European Parliament in Strasbourg. The UN International Day of Peace, observed annually on 21st September, was established in 1981 to strengthen the ideals of peace, both within and among all nations and peoples. Last year, the importance of Peace Day was discussed in the Scottish Parliament, following the motion raised by Bill Kidd MSP.
This year, the European Parliament elections took place in May, the United Kingdom is about to leave the European club and the EU itself faces both external and internal threats. Given these matters, IVS found important to expand its Peace Day campaign on a European level this year. We were eager to bring the idea of Peace Day to the European Parliament plenary session, however, at the same time, emphasise its Scottish context.
Firstly, thanks to the support of Sheila Ritchie MEP (Liberal Democrats/Renew Europe), IVS was able to raise awareness of the barriers to peace on the continent. Mrs Ritchie, alongside a number of her Liberal Democrat colleagues in the European Parliament, wore an IVS peace dove lapel pin on the days running up to the Peace Day. The initiative gained cross-national support as, for example, Swede Karin Karlsbro MEP (Liberals/Renew Europe) got involved, too.
Furthermore, members of the Renew Europe Group in the European Parliament organised a photocall with flashcards highlighting the upcoming 20th anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement (GFA). The cross-party initiative was embraced beside Mrs Ritchie by Naomi Long (Alliance Party/Renew Europe), Billy Kelleher (Fianna Fail/Renew Europe), Catherine Bearder (Liberal Democrats/Renew Europe) and many more. In a follow-up of the plenary session, the cross-party group launched a UK Government petition in favour of peace and the GFA.
The second layer of our Peace Day campaign took place in Edinburgh. In cooperation with the local European Parliament Liaison Office, we organised a Peace Day event on the 20th September, one day before the official celebration. A round-table-style event was attended by several engaging speakers. Liberal Democrats’ campaigner in Edinburgh South Fred Mackintosh, Flavia Tudoreanu from the Scottish Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament and Douglas Young, UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) promoter from Orbis Expeditions, all delivered speeches on various aspects of peace and global development.
Moreover, IVS director Hilary Campbell spoke about our volunteering activities, and Chris Pettigrew launched IVS’s SDG16 report that assesses Scotland’s performance in peace, justice and strong institutions. At the end of the meeting, a fruitful debate with all speakers took place as the SDG16 report and nuclear disarmament were discussed.