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David Porter » Articles at Suite 101 » National and International Days, Weeks, Years Around the World

National and International Days, Weeks, Years Around the World

United Nations: Designates Times for Awareness - Pensiero
The UN designates special days, weeks and years to celebrate something or somebody, or raise awareness about a cause. They’re not alone. Others cash in too.

The United Nations designates dates ‘to draw attention to major issues and encourage international action to address concerns of global importance and ramifications’. For financial reasons and to avoid ‘trivialization’, they don’t name every year or day, but when other organisations do it too, their impact may be diluted.

UN ‘Years’ Since 1959

First, was 1959/60, World Refugee Year; 1965 was International Cooperation Year; 1967, Tourism and 1968, chiming with the political zeitgeist, International Year for Human Rights. Then followed 1970 with Education; 1971, Action to Combat Racism & Racial Discrimination; 1974, Population; 1975, Women; 1978, Anti-Apartheid; 1979 was Year of the Child; 1981, Disabled Persons. 1982 was politically overt: Mobilisation for Sanctions Against South Africa.

1983 was styled World Communications Year and 1985 Youth Year. 1986 was Peace followed by Shelter for the Homeless. 1990 was Literacy; 1992, Space and 1993 Indigenous People. 1994’s double label: Family and Sport & Olympic Ideal, was followed by 1995’s Tolerance, 1996 with Eradication of Poverty.

1998’s focus was Ocean; 1999’s Older Persons; 2000, Culture of Peace plus Thanksgiving; 2001 had Volunteers, plus Dialogue among Civilisations plus Mobilisation against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance. 2002 saw Mountains, plus Culture Heritage plus Ecotourism. 2003 was Fresh Water, 2004 commemorated the Struggle Against Slavery & Its Abolition, plus Rice.

2005 had Microcredit plus Sport & Physical Education; 2006, Deserts & Desertification; 2008, The Potato, Planet Earth, Sanitation, Languages. 2009 was Human Rights Learning, Reconciliation, Natural Fibres, Astronomy. 2010 is Biodiversity, Rapprochement of Cultures, Youth Dialogue & Mutual Understanding, Forests, Chemistry.

International Days and Weeks

UN agencies or programmes lead promotions, like World Health Organisation (WHO) or Educational Scientific & Cultural Organisation (UNESCO). In January there’s Holocaust Victims Memorial Day (27); 20 February, World Day of Social Justice, followed by International Mother Language Day.

March has Day for Women, Women’s Rights & International Peace (8th), elimination of Racial Discrimination (21st) and a week of Solidarity with Peoples Struggling against Racism and Racial Discrimination, World Water Day (22nd) and World Meteorological Day (23rd). 4th April is Mine Awareness; 7th, World Health; 23rd, Book and Copyright.

May is busy: Press Freedom (3rd), Families (15th), Information Society (17th), Cultural Diversity (21st), Biological Diversity (22nd), UN Peacekeepers (29th), No-Tobacco (31st) and a week of Solidarity with Peoples of Non-Self-Governing Territories. June sees Innocent Children Victims of Aggression (4th), Environment (5th), Combatting Desertification & Drought (17th), Refugees (20th), Public Service (23rd), 26th is Against Drug Abuse & Illicit Trafficking and Supporting Victims of Torture.

First Saturday in July is Cooperatives; 11th, Population. August has World’s Indigenous People (9th), Youth (12th), Slave Trade Abolition (23rd); while September promotes Literacy (8th), Democracy (15th), Ozone Layer (16th), Peace (21st) and Maritime in final week.

1st October is Older Persons; 5th for Teachers; 4th – 10th for Space; first Monday for Habitat; second Wednesday for Natural Disaster Reduction. There’s a week for Disarmament and days for Post, Mental Health, Poverty Eradication and Food, beside UN Day – 24th.

November has Preventing Exploitation of Environment in War & Armed Conflict (6th), 14th for Diabetes, 16th for Tolerance, third Sunday to remember Road Traffic Victims, 20th for Children & African Industrialization, 21st for Television, 25th for Elimination of Violence Against Women and 29th for Solidarity with Palestinian People.

December is crammed: AIDS (1st), Abolition of Slavery (2nd), Disabled (3rd), Economic & Social Development (5th), Civil Aviation (7th), Anti-Corruption (9th), Human Rights (10th), Mountains (11th), Migrants (18th), Human Solidarity (20th).

Decades and Long Awareness

On-going internationally-declared decades include Industrial Development for Africa, Asian & Pacific Disabled Persons, Combatting Racism & Racial Discrimination, all 1993-2002 or 2003. One for Indigenous People began in 1994. 1995 began Decade for Human Rights Education; 1997, Eradication of Poverty; 2001, Culture of Peace & Non-Violence for Children, Eradication of Colonialism, and Rolling Back Malaria.

World’s Indigenous People, Education for Sustainable Development, Water for Life decades began in 2005. Since then, regions affected by Chernobyl disaster, fight against desertification and more on poverty have started. As one decade ends, another is designated, since highlighted problems are stubborn to solve.

National Designations Are Important

Some public holidays are unique to USA. Thanksgiving Day (fourth November Thursday) dates from 1621 when the Pilgrim Fathers thanked God for safe arrival. Fourth of July commemorates the birth of the United States as an independent country.

There is also Martin Luther King Day (15 January, or third Monday); Presidents’ Day (third Monday in February); Memorial Day (fourth Monday of May) and 11th November in US and UK celebrate all war deaths; and Labor Day (first September Monday).

Groundhog Day (2 February) is rural tradition about length of winter; UK’s St Swithin’s Day (15th July) supposedly predicts rainfall for 40 days. All countries celebrate patriotic and historical anniversaries. It’s an evolving custom.

In Australia, a calendar marks events like National Nannas Day, Tree Day, Don Bradman’s Birthday and Australia Day. In the UK, the patron Saints of Scotland and Wales are celebrated (Andrew, 30th November; David, 1st March). Ireland marks St Patrick’s Day on 17th March, while Shakespeare’s birthday and St George’s Day in England, 23rd April, are celebrated sporadically.

Another commercial calendar has a range of themes to suit their business, to take January, for example: Hobby Month, with 3rd as Festival of Sleep Day, 5th is National Bird Day, 21st is Squirrel Appreciation Day, with fourth week, Celebrity Read a Book Week.

In short, organisations (public or business), can designate any time fragment they choose to highlight anything they wish to promote, stop, change or sell. It’s a successful branch of political campaigning.

First published on Suite 101, 24 July 2010.

Photo: United Nations: Designates Times for Awareness – Pensiero

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