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International Day for Tolerance

On December 12, 1996, the United Nations General Assembly adopted resolution 51/95, which invited UN member states to observe the International Day for Tolerance on November 16 each year. The resolution came about after—and was a follow-up to—the United Nations Year for Tolerance, which took place in 1995, after being proclaimed in December 1993. Prior to the General Assembly resolution, the International Day for Tolerance had been proclaimed by UNESCO in the Declaration of Principles on Tolerance, which was adopted by UNESCO member states on November 16, 1995. The Declaration also articulates that "tolerance is respect, acceptance and appreciation of the rich diversity of our world's cultures, our forms of expression and ways of being human." Additionally, it says that tolerance recognizes the universal rights and fundamental freedoms of others; that tolerance is a moral duty, as well as a political and legal requirement for countries, groups, and individuals; and that tolerance ensures that the diverse communities around the world can exist.

The UN has expressed that intolerance can take the shape of discrimination, marginalization, injustice, and violence, and they have outlined five ways that it can be fought, including through law, education, access to information, individual awareness, and local solutions. Firstly, in regard to the law, governments must enforce human rights laws and must take on hate crimes and discrimination against minorities by individuals, private organizations, or government officials.

Secondly, intolerant attitudes, ignorance, and fear can be countered at an early age through education, both inside and outside of school. Education will help children develop the ability for independent judgment, critical thinking, and ethical reasoning. Thirdly, access to information is needed to fight intolerance. This manifests itself in press freedom and press pluralism, which makes it easier for people to differentiate between facts and opinions. Fourthly, individual awareness is imperative. People should become aware of the link between their own behavior and the negatives of mistrust and violence that permeate society; they should self-reflect and question their own level of tolerance. Finally, governments can't be relied on to solve all problems, and individuals must act on their own and should work on local solutions to help solve global problems. Nonviolent, grassroots organizing can be used to show solidarity with victims of intolerance.

Events are held on the International Day for Tolerance. For example, the United Nations Department of Public Information has hosted educational events, including one that screened international short films created for YouTube and showcased the projects of students, including some related to the 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

The UNESCO-Madanjeet Singh Prize for the Promotion of Tolerance and Non-Violence is given out every other year on the International Day for Tolerance. Created by UNESCO in 1995 as part of the United Nations Year for Tolerance, and in honor of the 125th anniversary of the birth of Mahatma Gandhi, the prize is given out to people, organizations, and institutions, and "rewards significant activities in the scientific, artistic, cultural or communication fields aimed at the promotion of a spirit of tolerance and non-violence."

How to Observe

Here are a few ideas on how to observe the day:

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