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"There are many causes that I am prepared to die for but no causes that I am prepared to kill for." - Mahatma Gandhi - The Story of My Experiments with Truth, 1927

"Non-Violence", a sculpture by Karl Fredrik Reutersward, sits permanently outside UN Headquarters in New York. UN Photo

The International Day of Non-Violence is marked on 2 October, the birthday of Mahatma Gandhi, leader of the Indian independence movement and pioneer of the philosophy and strategy of non-violence.

According to General Assembly resolution A/RES/61/271 of 15 June 2007, which established the commemoration, the International Day is an occasion to "disseminate the message of non-violence, including through education and public awareness". The resolution reaffirms "the universal relevance of the principle of non-violence" and the desire "to secure a culture of peace, tolerance, understanding and non-violence".

Introducing the resolution in the General Assembly on behalf of 140 co-sponsors, India’s Minister of State for External Affairs, Mr. Anand Sharma, said that the wide and diverse sponsorship of the resolution was a reflection of the universal respect for Mahatma Gandhi and of the enduring relevance of his philosophy. Quoting the late leader’s own words, he said: "Non-violence is the greatest force at the disposal of mankind. It is mightier than the mightiest weapon of destruction devised by the ingenuity of man".

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Secretary-General's Message on the International Day of Non-Violence, 2 October 2009

Mahatma Gandhi, whose legacy this annual observance celebrates, once observed that “non-violence, to be worth anything, has to work in the face of hostile forces”. In today’s world, we face many hostile forces -- multiple and persistent crises that demand a response from leaders and grass roots alike.

Gandhi understood that a powerful idea could change the world. He knew that individuals, working alone and together, could realize what others might dismiss as impossible dreams. Inspired by Gandhi’s life of non-violence, the United Nations today works to end violence.

We strive, for example, to rid the world of weapons of mass destruction. Our recent WMD campaign -- we must disarm -- sought to raise awareness about the high cost of weapons of mass destruction. Recent initiatives and meetings, including last week’s Security Council summit on nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation, have improved prospects for reductions in global arsenals. We must sustain this momentum, and press for success at next year’s Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty Review Conference and beyond.

The call to non-violence need not apply only to the use of deadly weapons. The United Nations and its grass-roots partners have long campaigned to stop the human assault on our planet. Greenhouse gas emissions have been part of this onslaught, and now threaten catastrophic climate change. I urge activists everywhere to turn up the heat on world leaders to seal a deal at the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen in December.

The appalling violence inflicted on women and girls throughout the world must also be at the centre of our concerns. An estimated 150 million women and girls are victimized each year. Rape is increasingly widespread as a weapon of war. Victims of sexual coercion are more likely to suffer sexually transmitted diseases, including HIV/AIDS. I urge all partners to join my UNiTE to End Violence against Women campaign, which aims to raise awareness and funds to fight this problem in all parts of the world -- since no country is immune.

On this International Day, let us celebrate -- and embody -- the legacy of Mahatma Gandhi by heeding his call for a movement of non-violence. Let us end violence in all its manifestations, and strengthen our collective work for a safer, greener and more peaceful world.

Ban Ki-moon
Message from H.E. Dr. Ali Abdussalam Treki, President of the UN General Assembly

The choice of this date was fitting, it being the birth date of Mahatma Gandhi, who is recognized the world over as a symbol of non-violence - inspiring individuals and peoples to seek their rights, resist colonialism, foreign rule, prejudice and racism through peaceful means.

In its resolution 61/271, the General Assembly acknowledged that “non-violence, tolerance, full respect for all human rights and fundamental freedoms for all, democracy, development, mutual understanding and respect for diversity are interlinked and mutually reinforcing”.

By promoting these values, by fostering a culture of peace, tolerance and non-violence, we can not only counter those who seek to incite a clash of civilizations, but also equip ourselves better to collectively address the multiple challenges with which we are confronted today. This can ease inter-religious and cross-cultural tensions and help overcome complex and deep-rooted hostilities and rivalries that threaten peace and impede development. The United Nations is best placed to harmonize this effort.

I believe we also need to address the root causes which often lead to violence and conflict. We need to promote human rights, justice, equality, social progress and respect for law. Along with non-violence and dialogue, these universal values are part of all religious and secular beliefs and systems. In the preamble of the UN Charter, we the peoples, committed “to practice tolerance and live together in peace with one another as good neighbours” and “to unite our strength to maintain international peace and security” and to ensure that “armed force shall not be used, save in common interest”. For the maintenance of international peace and security, I believe the essence of the Charter is in the provisions related to “pacific settlement of disputes”, which we should promote fully in the context of non-violence.

In Gandhi’s own words:

“Non-violence is a power which can be wielded equally by all - children, young men and women or grown-up people- provided they have a living faith in the God of Love and have, therefore, equal love for all mankind”.

The life and leadership of Mahatma Gandhi

Gandhi, who helped lead India to independence, has been the inspiration for non-violent movements for civil rights and social change across the world. Throughout his life, Gandhi remained committed to his belief in non-violence even under oppressive conditions and in the face of seemingly insurmountable challenges.

The theory behind his actions, which included encouraging massive civil disobedience to British law as with the historic Salt March of 1930, was that "just means lead to just ends"; that is, it is irrational to try to use violence to achieve a peaceful society. He believed that Indians must not use violence or hatred in their fight for freedom from colonialism.
Definition of Non-Violence

The principle of non-violence — also known as non-violent resistance — rejects the use of physical violence in order to achieve social or political change. Often described as "the politics of ordinary people", this form of social struggle has been adopted by mass populations all over the world in campaigns for social justice.

Professor Gene Sharp, a leading scholar on non-violent resistance, uses the following definition in his publication, The Politics of Nonviolent Action:

"Nonviolent action is a technique by which people who reject passivity and submission, and who see struggle as essential, can wage their conflict without violence. Nonviolent action is not an attempt to avoid or ignore conflict. It is one response to the problem of how to act effectively in politics, especially how to wield powers effectively."

While non-violence is frequently used as a synonym for pacifism, since the mid-twentieth century the term non-violence has been adopted by many movements for social change which do not focus on opposition to war.

One key tenet of the theory of non-violence is that the power of rulers depends on the consent of the population, and non-violence therefore seeks to undermine such power through withdrawal of the consent and cooperation of the populace.

There are three main categories of non-violence action:

* protest and persuasion, including marches and vigils;
* non-cooperation; and
* non-violent intervention, such as blockades and occupations.


On Friday, 2 October 2009, from 5 to 6 p.m. in the Penthouse of the Dag Hammarskjöld Library in New York, there will be a commemoration of the International Day of Non-Violence and release of a commemorative stamp by the United Nations Postal Administration.


An informal plenary meeting of the UN General Assembly to commemorate the International Day of Non-Violence 2008 was held on Thursday, 2 October 2008 from 9.30 to 10 a.m. in the General Assembly Hall. The ceremony included opening remarks by the President of the General Assembly as well as by the Secretary-General.

The Minister for Foreign Affairs of South Africa, H.E. Ms. Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma; and the External Affairs Minister of India, H.E. Mr. Pranab Mukherjee, also addressed Member States.


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