Each year, the United Nations promotes awareness of and action on a wide range of political, social, cultural, humanitarian, and human rights issues through a range of International Days focused on particular issues. The first UN International Day – Human Rights Day, set on 10 December – was approved in 1950. Today there are dozens of International Days, but also international weeks, years and even decades observed.
UN International Days are recognised and celebrated by governments, NGOs and organisations around the world, and now increasingly by businesses and business schools. These events give opportunities for business schools to raise awareness about specific issues with their students and staff and to take action on these issues within their communities. They also provide topics for in-class discussions or assignments.
Below is a selection of the internationally celebrated UN Days taking place between January and May 2014 that might be of interest. For a full list, please visit the UN website.
World Day of Social Justice (20 February) supports the efforts of the international community in poverty eradication, the promotion of full employment and decent work, gender equity and access to social well-being and justice for all.
International Women’s Day (8 March) has been observed since the early 1900s. It is a large-scale event that honours women’s advancement while diligently reminding of the continued vigilance and action required to ensure that women’s equality is gained and maintained in all aspects of life. It is an official holiday in several countries around the world including China, Cuba, and Laos. The 6th Annual Women’s Empowerment Principles (WEPs) Event will be convened by the UN Global Compact and UN Women in New York on 5-6 March.
International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (21 March). On this day, in 1960, police opened fire and killed 69 people at a peaceful demonstration in Sharpeville, South Africa, against the apartheid “pass laws.” Proclaiming the Day in 1966, the UN called on the international community to redouble its efforts to eliminate all forms of racial discrimination, guided by the International Convention of the Elimination of Racial Discrimination.
International Day of Forests and the Tree (21 March) celebrates and raises awareness of the importance of all types of trees. Countries are encouraged to undertake local, national and international efforts to organise activities involving forests and trees, such as tree planting campaigns
World Water Day (22 March) is a means of focusing attention on the importance of freshwater and advocating for the sustainable management of freshwater resources. The theme this year is Water and Energy. Learn more about the UN Global Compact’s CEO Water Mandate, which seeks to mobilise a critical mass of business leaders to advance corporate water stewardship.
World Intellectual Property Day (26 April) promotes discussion of the role of intellectual property in encouraging innovation and creativity.
World Press Freedom Day (3 May) celebrates the fundamental principles of press freedom; to evaluate press freedom around the world, to defend the media from attacks on their independence and to pay tribute to journalists who have lost their lives in the exercise of their profession.
World Telecommunication and Information Society Day (17 May) aims to help raise awareness of the possibilities that the use of the Internet and other information and communication technologies can bring to societies and economies, as well as of ways to bridge the digital divide. The theme for 2014 is Broadband for Sustainable Development.
World Day for Cultural Diversity for Dialogue and Development (21 May) provides an opportunity to promote culture in its diversity and in all its forms: tangible and intangible heritage, creative industries, goods, and services.
International Day for Biological Diversity (22 May) aims to increase understanding and awareness of biodiversity issues. The theme for 2014, Islands and Biodiversity, coincides with the 2014 International Year of Small Island Developing States (SIDS).
– Do you have anything planned for these International Days? Share your events in the comments section below. –