Peace Day trekking in Afghanistan


School children and local community leaders were among the participants in a day-long walk in the Afghanistan's Central Highlands held today by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) to mark the International Day of Peace in 2010.

The trek is the culmination of a wider UNEP environmental awareness campaign, undertaken in conjunction with the UN Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA), designed to raise awareness of the significance of the Central Highlands' unique environment.

The message of peace and reconciliation was highlighted at today's trek and during a variety of arts, cultural and outdoor activities, including a Ceremony for Peace, staged in the countdown to Peace Day by UNAMA, UNEP and the Provincial Peace Committee of Bamyan.

'This is a crucial year in which we can together try to help the Afghans to find their own peace. So 21 September cannot be a celebration day but a day of thinking and re-motivating ourselves in order to help the Afghans to find peace after so many years of violence and difficulties', said Staffan de Mistura, UN Special Representative and Head of UNAMA.

Today the Trekking for Peace campaign finale began with speeches from the Governor of Bamyan Province, Habiba Sorabi, and representatives of the national Ministry of Agriculture, Irrigation and Livestock (MAIL), the National Environmental Protection Agency (NEPA), the Department of Youth and UNEP, as well as local community leaders.

Kite-flying on the mountains by local children ended the opening ceremony before the group set off on their five-kilometre alpine trek to over 3,500 meters above sea level.

Held annually on 21 September, the theme for Peace Day in 2010 was 'Youth, peace and development'. UNEP's work in Bamyan Province brings these themes together in a practical way by fostering awareness and action by young people to maintain a healthy local environment through dialogue and mutual understanding at the community level, UNEP said. UNEP is working to help communities come together to manage their natural resources. Working in partnership to manage natural resources as an effective tool for building peace within and between communities and has been at the heart of the Peace Day campaign.

The Central Highlands area includes Band-e-Amir, one of Afghanistan's most remarkable natural landscapes and the country's first national park, as well as the Ajar Valley Wildlife Reserve.

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