Photo: UN
Photo: UN

In this day and age, there are often clashes and differences of opinion, some more violent than others. While of of these now occur virtually, others can rapidly escalate into violence and bloodshed. Even a quick perusal of the news throws up countless instances of communal clashes, caste-based violence, religious intolerance and more.

It is with this situation (with the specific instances varying over time) in mind that UNESCO's member states on 6 November 1995 adopted a Declaration of Principles on Tolerance. Since then, the UN has observed the day as the International Day for Tolerance. Incidentally, 1995 had been proclaimed as the United Nations Year for Tolerance by the UN General Assembly in 1993 at the initiative of UNESCO. In 1996, the UN General Assembly passed a resolution and invited UN Member States to observe the International Day for Tolerance on 16 November.

As the UN observances webpage notes, the Declaration "affirms that tolerance is respect and appreciation of the rich variety of our world's cultures, our forms of expression and ways of being human". It states that tolerance is not only a "moral duty" but should also be backed by political and legal requirements for individuals, groups and States.

If needed, the Declaration also emphasises the need for states across the world to draft new legislation to ensure equality of treatment and of opportunity for all groups and individuals in society. It also suggests the use of local solutions as well as an improved education and greater access to information to create additional awareness in people, thus boosting their tolerance towards outgroups.

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Free Press Journal