International Day of Peace has been observed around the world on 21 September every year since 1982. The United Nations (UN) General Assembly established this day to coincide with its opening session, which is held on the third Tuesday in September. According to the UN General Assembly, September 21 commemorates “devotion to strengthening the ideals of peace, both within and among all nations and peoples.” In 2001, by unanimous vote, the General Assembly established September 21 as an annual day of non-violence and cease-fire.
The theme of this year’s commemoration, “Partnerships for Peace – Dignity for All,” aims to highlight the importance of collaboration between all segments of society and to strive for peace. The theme also highlights a shift in the way the UN and other international organizations view the sources of foreign assistance. Over the last 30 years, private giving has surpassed ODA and now accounts for nearly 80% of development assistance. The work of the UN would not be possible without thousands of partnerships between the private sector and civil society.
Following this year’s International Day of Peace, several major multinational corporations from a variety of industries partnered with the UN’s World Food Programme (WFP) to help raise awareness about the vital role that food assistance plays in creating a more peaceful world. These companies donated digital and television network time for a 30 second advertisement that shines a spotlight on WFP’s work. The advertising campaign, currently airing in 38 countries, is meant to show consumers how they can support the refugees and displaced people who are struggling to feed their families. According to WFP Executive Director Ertharin Cousin, “Food assistance plays a powerful role in times of conflict by saving lives and alleviating suffering. Food brings and keeps families together. Food security gives families hope during desperate times while eliminating the need for families to resort to extreme and harmful measures as the only option for survival.” The WFP’s emergency response fund will use the money raised by this effort to help its most critical operations, like those in Syria, Iraq, South Sudan and Yemen.
McDonald’s is spearheading the multi-million dollar Peace Day. When the fast food corporation approached the UN to discuss a potential partnership, UN officials asked the company to raise awareness of the refugee crisis and encourage people to donate to the WFP. McDonald’s CEO Steve Easterbrook did not hesitate and issued a statement: “If anyone can help an international effort to help feed refugees and the fight against hunger, it’s us.” McDonald’s went on to enlist the support of global philanthropy leaders like Google, Facebook, DreamWorks Animation, United Airlines, MasterCard, OMD, and Twitter, as well as other food and beverage giants like Cargill, McCain Foods, and Burger King.
The WFP has been outspoken in its praise of McDonald’s and its partners for their efforts in the Peace Day campaign. Jay Aldous, WFP Director of Private Sector Partnerships, noted that “The private sector has a significant role to play in ending hunger and promoting peace…And this global effort is a powerful example of brands coming together with one voice to make a tangible impact in the lives of vulnerable people.” As conflicts in the Middle East escalate the refugee crisis and stretch humanitarian resources, McDonald’s can be commended for both the timeliness and scale of its campaign.
In collaboration with WFP, McDonald’s and its Peace Day campaign partners illustrate the ever-growing need and impact of private sector philanthropy in global humanitarian assistance. As Ms. Cousin noted, “Humanity has one future together. This effort provides a great example of people and companies joining forces to make sure we achieve the goal of a zero hunger future.”