The International Day of Friendship is an initiative that followed a proposal made by UNESCO which was taken up by the UN General Assembly in 1997. It defined the Culture of Peace as a set of values, attitudes and behaviors that reject violence and endeavor to prevent conflicts by addressing their root causes with a view to solving problems.
In its resolution of 1998, proclaiming the International Decade for a Culture of Peace and Non-Violence for the Children of the World (2001–2010), the General Assembly recognized that children are caused enormous harm and suffering through different forms of violence. It emphasized that the promotion of a culture of peace and non-violence should be instilled in children through education. If children learn to live together in peace and harmony, it will contribute to the strengthening of international peace and cooperation.
The Declaration and Program of Action on a Culture of Peace, adopted in 1999, outlined eight areas of action for nations, organizations and individuals to undertake in order for a culture of peace to prevail:
- foster a culture of peace through education
- promote sustainable economic and social development
- promote respect for all human rights
- ensure equality between women and men
- foster democratic participation
- advance understanding, tolerance and solidarity
- support participatory communication and the free flow of information and knowledge
- promote international peace and security
The International Day of Friendship is also based on the recognition of the relevance and importance of friendship as a noble and valuable sentiment in the lives of human beings around the world.
The day has been celebrated in several southern South American countries for many years, particularly in Paraguay, where the first World Friendship Day - International Friendship Day was proposed in 1958. The idea of a World Friendship Day was first proposed on July 20, 1958 by Dr. Ramon Artemio Bracho during a dinner with friends in Puerto Pinasco, a town on the River Paraguay about 200 miles north of Asuncion, Paraguay.
Out of this humble meeting of friends, the World Friendship Crusade was born. The World Friendship Crusade is a foundation that promotes friendship and fellowship among all human beings, regardless of race, color or religion. The World Friendship Crusade lobbied the United Nations for many years to recognize July 30th as World Friendship Day and finally on April 27, 2011, the General Assembly of the United Nations declared July 30th as official International Friendship Day and invited all Member States to observe the International Day of Friendship in accordance with the culture and customs of their local, national and regional communities, including through education and public awareness-raising activities. However, some countries, including India, celebrate Friendship Day on the first Sunday of August. In Oberlin, Ohio, Friendship Day is celebrated on April 8th each year.
Friendship Day was originated by Joyce Hall, the founder of Hallmark cards in 1930, (and was intended to be August 2nd), and a day when people celebrated their friendships by holiday celebrations. Friendship Day was promoted by the greeting card National Association during the 1920s but met with consumer resistance - given that it was too obviously a commercial gimmick to promote greetings cards. By the 1940s the number of Friendship Day cards available in the US had dwindled and the holiday largely died out there. There is no evidence to date for its uptake in Europe; however, it has been kept alive and revitalized in Asia, where several countries have adopted it. While initially created by the greeting card industry, evidence from social networking sites shows a revival of interest in the holiday due to the spread of the Internet, particularly in India, Bangladesh, and Malaysia. Digital communication modes such as the Internet and mobile phones have helped to popularize the custom, since greeting friends en masse is now easier than before. Those who promote the holiday in South Asia attribute the tradition of dedicating a day in honor of friends to have originated in the U.S. in 1935, but it actually dates from 1919. The exchange of Friendship Day gifts like flowers, cards and wrist bands is a popular tradition of this occasion. Friendship bands are very popular in India, Nepal, Bangladesh and parts of South America.
In honor of Friendship Day in 1998, Nane Annan, wife of UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan, named Winnie the Pooh as the world's Ambassador of Friendship at the United Nations. The event was co-sponsored by the U.N. Department of Public Information and Disney Enterprises, and was co-hosted by Kathy Lee Gifford.
The world is filled with too much hatred, too much fighting and too much mistrust of others. The International Day of Friendship is certainly an opportunity to stop, and to reverse, these worldwide problems. Today is a time to encourage efforts towards peace, and to build bridges among different people. It is a day of respect for others, and a day to celebrate diversity. On an individual level, use this day to promote friendship in big and small ways. Begin by "extending an olive branch" to a sibling or a family member, a neighbor, or an old friend whom you had a falling out with. If we all try just a little the world will be a friendlier, more peaceful place.
Sources: www.un.org, Wikipedia.org, holidayinsights.com