November 16 marks the International Day of Tolerance. This day, we commemorate tolerance. What is this day for? What is tolerance to begin with? What are we celebrating? Let’s uncover this one by one.

What is tolerance? 

Tolerance “is respect, acceptance and appreciation of the rich diversity of our world’s cultures, our forms of expression and ways of being human,” as defined by the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization’s (UNESCO) 1995 Declaration of Principles on Tolerance.

The International Day of Tolerance

The UN General Assembly created the International Day of Tolerance in 1996 through the resolution 51/95. This is a response to the United Nations Year for Tolerance, an initiative to highlight the value of tolerance in humankind.

In line with this, the UNESCO-Madanjeet Singh Prize for the Promotion of Tolerance and Non-Violence is also celebrated every two years to reward “significant activities in the scientific, artistic, cultural and communication fields aimed at the promotion of a spirit of tolerance and non-violence,” according to the UN.

During the International Day of Tolerance, the Prize presents the winner with a US$ 100,000 prize. The Prize was last held in 2018, where Canadian filmmaker Manon Barbeau and The Coexist Initiative were given the award. The Prize will again pick a winner in 2020.

Embracing diversity

Tolerance is not indifference. To uphold tolerance is them to uphold the rights and freedoms of others. Humans are inherently diverse.  By accepting the natural diversity we have, it will be possible for all of us to peacefully coexist and live our best lives. Tolerance is embracing diversity.

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Concrete steps

How can we promote tolerance? UN outlines five key steps:

  1. Governments should enforce human rights laws. They should also ensure and equal access to the courts so that people will not take justice into their hands in facing inequalities and disputes.
  2. Imbibing an open mind to our children and instilling upon them a culture of respect for diversity is the best environment for tolerance to flourish.
  3. Access to information must be promoted. This can be done by developing policies to forward press freedom and press pluralism.
  4. Self-awareness is important. We should check ourselves is we ourselves our tolerant. We should not be the sources of the intolerance we intend to eliminate.
  5. We must act. We cannot rely only our leaders to fight intolerance. We can also participate in grassroots organizations, express solidarity for those who are victims of intolerance and discredit hateful propaganda spread around the internet and through other means.
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