Since being founded by Jeremy Gilley in 1999, Peace One Day has achieved incredible success, including having the member states of the United Nations “unanimously adopt the first ever annual day of global ceasefire and non-violence on 21 September – Peace Day.” By observing peace and contributing to its growth on this day each year, millions of people around the world have enabled some amazing things to happen that wouldn’t have otherwise been possible.
Skytap joined Peace One Day as a corporate sponsor in 2015 to make even more millions of people aware of the impact that Jeremy and others have made, and to encourage others to join us in helping spread peace even further.
To help accomplish this, we recently had Jeremy on as a guest on The Skytap Podcast (available on iTunes and Soundcloud) to learn more about Peace One Day’s past accomplishments, goals for the future, and how others can help real peace one day become a reality worldwide.
Toward the end of the transcript below, you’ll find numerous links to how you can join the Peace One Day community, and other ways you can help the group in their efforts. We thank you for your time in listening to this special episode of The Skytap Podcast!
Noel: I’d like to talk in just a bit about some of the success that Peace One Day had last year—and what’s already in play for 2016. But for those who aren’t fully aware of what Peace One Day is, I’d love to get a little background as to what the mission is and maybe how it came to be.
Jeremy: Sure. Well, my name’s Jeremy Gilley. I’m the founder of Peace One Day. This journey began 17 years ago. I was a filmmaker, still am a filmmaker, but at that time, I wanted to make a film about peace.
I wanted to answer some big questions for lots of people around the world about whether humankind is fundamentally evil, is the destruction of the world inevitable, should I have children, is that a responsible thing to do, etc. Basically, I was concerned about what was happening and trying to make sense of the violence towards each other and, indeed, towards our environment.
As I was kind of cracking that concept up, I was thinking about where the starting point is for peace. That was what led me to go, well, “Where is the starting point for peace in the world?” And, of course, there wasn’t one, or certainly wasn’t one that people knew about.
That’s when I had the idea. Could I go on a journey to create the first ever ceasefire and non-violence with a fixed calendar date? A day of peace voted by every government of the world, unanimously adopted by the general assembly of the United Nations. When I set out on that journey to create that day, I had no idea that it was going to succeed.
In fact, actually, I thought it would probably fail. But I knew I would have an interesting film to make about trying to do something, which would, therefore, hold the structure of allowing me to be able to hear those other things coming through. Because obviously a good documentary needs a good arc. It needs good structure. It can’t just be a series of sound bites.
So anyway, after years of traveling, I feel like I could say that the world did unanimously adopt a day of peace. Then I went on another journey and made another film, which was called The Day After Peace, which people can see on the Peace One Day YouTube channel. That film documents the first real ceasefire that ever happened in Afghanistan. Everyone was involved, including the Taliban.
This ceasefire allowed WHO and UNICEF and others to be able to vaccinate children against polio. In fact, 1.4 million children. It was an extraordinary success. There was a decrease of violence of around 70%.
And it was that 70% decrease in violence then led me to the next phase of the journey. That was to institutionalize this day. If we could make sure that everyone knew about the day, then obviously other peace would break out on that day.
As I was doing that, McKinsey and Company measured the results for us, and have been for the past 4 years, so we could see how many people were exposed, how many people are aware of the day, and indeed what kind of behavioral change happens. People behaving more peacefully.
In fact, the McKinsey report can also be seen on the peaceoneday.org website.
We’ve been doing that for the last 2 years and the numbers are unbelievable. This was a big success last year. The numbers show that we exposed 1.5 billion people to the day. There were 709 million people, that’s 10% of the world, who were very much aware or engaged. The most important part was the decrease in violence which ran to around 13 million people who were changing their behavior.
I know your listeners will be thinking, “Hang on. What does that really mean?” What that really means, for example, if a school runs the Free Peace One Day education materials, which as a teacher or a parent you can access on the Peace One Day website, if they run those programs in their schools, then on the day people change their behavior because they’re thinking more peacefully. They’re thinking about their colleagues, their friends at school. Therefore, violence goes down, bullying incidences go down because they’re involved in action. There’s a kind of a roadmap for their realization for being involved in the peace process.
The day is very practical. I think the call for people to know is that 97% of the violence that’s going to happen today, or thereabouts, is going to happen in our homes, our communities, our places of work and schools. Back to where the big bulk of violence is happening is about 3-4% is happening in warzones and through terrorism. The real war that humanity faces is one that we can all have an impact on.
That’s why the day of peace is so crucially important. Whether you’re at work, or you’re in your community, or you’re at home, or in the school. We all have a role to play. We can all pull people together. We can all participate in creating a more peaceful world. In fact, the only way that peace is going to break out, here in the world that we live in, is if we all become involved in the process. It’s not about governments. It’s about all of us embracing the day and manifesting action with those around us.
That’s a very quick 17 years condensed into about 3.5 minutes.
Noel: I love that approach of not being afraid of going about it, even if it fails—because, again, this is about trying to get peace on one day across the entire world, which is a lofty idea. An idea that some would say, “Ah, that will never happen.” But like you just said, if it makes any impact at all, it’s only going to snowball. It’s only going to make it easier year after year just by the fact that millions more people are aware of this effort that so many others are making.
Jeremy: I think if we want to lift the level of consciousness around the fundamental issues that humanity faces, then that’s probably is going to come out of a moment of real serious unity. The likes of which have never been seen in the world before. We’ve never come together as one. Our world has never come together as one and the time has come for that to happen. Your children are going to come home and go, “Dad, it’s Peace Day today. The entire world is united around the most fundamental issue that we face.”
Of course, if that happens then great things will occur because in the mind of young people they’re going to have hope, they’re going to be inspired. What kind of creative ideas are going to come out of that sense? To actually live in a world that can get together and can be one in a true moment of intercultural cooperation, which the academics are saying is key to humanities survival.
You lay 365 mountains in front of you. You can only climb one mountain at a time. If you’ve never climbed 365, and you climb one, when you get to the top and you see that view, then you know what’s out there and you know it’s achievable. That’s what makes you climb again.
We’re talking about peace building here. Right now we’re just … This is all about peace-building and peace-building is built one brick at a time, one day at a time; and that’s what is happening.
Also, one day just doesn’t happen because one day you wake up and you make it happen. It’s a year of planning. It’s 6 months of planning. All the while, whilst you’re planning you’re thinking about peace. It’s all about the journey, it’s not about the end result. The mountain climber is fixated on the grip. He’s not fixated on the view. Because actually the grip is where it’s really exciting anyway.
I also think that when you fall down and you lose your grip actually that’s what makes you get up again and that’s what makes you learn whether you have the right rope or the right shoes or whatever it was, you know what I mean?
I think that for me, life is about failing. I think we should be celebrating our failures much more than we do because that’s what makes us who we are. I think there’s a lot of merit in relation to this day, like Mother’s Day. On Mother’s Day, I give my mother flowers and I tell her I love her. It took me weeks to think about that moment. It’s crucially important that such a thing happens.
Well now let’s imagine that on a global scale where we think about our world and the things that will come from that are extraordinary. Not only, of course, the fact that violence is decreasing massively. You’re talking about numbers that have never been seen before, in my opinion. We think that this is a day where more people are thinking about peace now than any other day of the year.
We also think that this is a day where there’s the greatest reduction of violence in the world, on one given day. Wow! That would have never have happened unless we had chosen a day. We didn’t say, “Oh, we just want to decrease violence 365 days a year.” Well, that’s a massive goal. You have to simplify. You’ve got to break it down. It’s one brick at a time and that’s what it’s all about.
Noel: That’s right. You mentioned some of the accomplishments of last year, as far as the new numbers of people that are now aware of this. What are some of the things that are in play for 2016, or maybe some of the goals for the end of this year? Is it simply educating more people about what it’s about, or are there some other goals that are currently being worked on right now?
Jeremy: I’m grateful to the Howard G. Buffett Foundation. A few years ago Howard approached me to say, “Let’s run this work in the Great Lakes region of Africa.” We’ve been doing that and the results have been extraordinary. I know that he’s very happy with them. For us to go into the Great Lakes, particularly Burundi, Uganda, Rwanda and the DRC and raise awareness of this day, manifest action of this day, and sort of really construct this story from the region, that’s a big deal for us.
We’re very proud of all of the incredible partners and individuals who are making this day really come to life in an area of the world that really needs it. Particularly for those young people that can have a real moment of hope, a day of hope out of all of this. When if you live in a conflict zone 365 days a year, let me tell you, that one day is significantly important. If we really want those young people in the Great Lakes region, or indeed anywhere in the world, to think that peace is possible, then we better demonstrate it. That’s what this is all about.
I think that the accomplishments that the Howard G. Buffet Foundation have allowed us to accomplish are fantastic. It’s a little bit like Skytap, supporting us with the work that we do to raise awareness of the big event we had in December with Mr. Paul Polman, the CEO of Unilever speaking. It’s corporations backing Peace One Day. If NGO is getting involved in the day then it’s major fate celebrating the day. It’s schools and universities all over the world, domestic violence organizations, non-governmental organizations, the UN system. This is a collective effort. This isn’t my day, this is your day. This is everybody’s day who is listening.
If we’re really committed as individuals to really seeing a more peaceful state of the world, then we’ve really got to get involved in the process. It’s no good sitting on the sofa and pointing the finger at governments because actually they’re not responsible for the bulk of the violence that happens. It’s an epidemic issue of serious magnitude. We all have to play a role and that starts at home. Peace starts at home. Let’s clean up our own homes, our own communities, make sure it’s happening in our schools where our children go. That’s how we’re going to see real impact in this world in the long term.
Noel: Absolutely. Speaking of the listeners, I know that when I first learned that we were a sponsor of this effort and then learned more about the group, I know that I instantly reached out wanting to know more of what I can do. This interview and being able to share it was something that I could do to spread the word.
For others that are listening, I would be shocked if a large number of listeners wouldn’t hear this and instantly want to know, “Well what’s something that one person can do?” Obviously, the cooperate assistance is awesome and I know that individual help is awesome as well. What are some things that an individual that hears this and says, “That’s it. I believe in this. How can I help?” What are some of the ways that those people can do that?
Jeremy: You can visit peaceoneday.org and find out a lot of information. I think that signing up to join the Peace One Day Community—those numbers count. I think following Jeremy Gilley on Twitter helps us. They’ll find a lot of information about what’s going on on a daily basis. Following on Instagram is great, too. Because all of these numbers matter. I think that somebody listening, they’ve got a family, and I think they pull them together on the 21st of September. Maybe a member of the family hasn’t been spoken to. Maybe this is the day where bringing everyone together we can forgive, we can reconcile our differences—that’s massive.
I think if your children go to school, make sure their teacher knows about the Peace One Day education materials . They’re free, and they can do that on the website. I think if there are some people that are part of corporations listening then they can contact us in the organization and join in with people like Skytap, who are fueling us to be able to do this work.
There are Patrons programs where an individual might want to become a patron of Peace One Day. They can find out information about that.
There might be an organization that has a media requirement. Peace One Day created a film organization that is part of our non-profit, where people are able to use us for any kind of filming needs that they have. That overhead supports the organization.
I think that doing things in the home, doing things in the community, doing things at the school, doing things in the workplace; these are the things that we want people to do on the 21st of September. Visit our site to find information.
It’s really up to the individual. It doesn’t matter if they’re doing it alone, or they’re doing it with a partner, or they’re doing it with a family; every action counts. Every single action counts.
Of course, an organization can also raise awareness. Just telling people about this day, getting them to embrace this day, watching The Day After Peace or short films that are on our website. Everyone needs to become involved. Peace now requires every single one of us to embrace and become a peace builder. That’s what we need to happen. We can’t just sit and expect it to change without contributing ourselves. I really hope that people do that.
Noel: Those are all great ideas and things that we’ll definitely help spread about as well. We’ll definitely have links to the websites there and the Twitter handle, and everything else for people to access. Thank you so much for your time today.
Jeremy: Well listen, thank you and a massive thank you to Skytap. We really appreciate them sponsoring us and we could not do it without organizations like yourself.