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Just another day – are international days a waste of time?


Just another day – are international days a waste of time?

There are now numerous international days which commemorate and promote a wide range of issues. So do they really achieve anything?


Talk like a what day?

On 19 September every year, revellers mark a very unusual occasion by greeting each other with “Ahoy matey”, dressing like pirates and drinking rum. In 2002, American columnist Dave Barry picked up on an idea and promoted it, enabling a concept that had begun as an inside joke between friends to grow and become a day marked by events around the world which has a following of over 125,000 on Facebook. Thus, “International Talk Like a Pirate Day” was born.

Needless to say, organisers are still waiting for UN recognition. In 2012, however, Barack Obama took part in the celebrations and in 2013 the US state of Michigan formerly recognised the day. As the resolution said:

As a Great Lakes state, one of Michigan’s main duties must be promoting worthy maritime initiatives. ITLPD would give Michiganders who feel a strong connection to our Great Lakes an opportunity to properly celebrate beloved maritime activities, past and present.

A day for everything

Other days with parodic overtones include Geek Pride Day, celebrated on 25 May to coincide with the anniversary of the release of the first Star Wars movie and International Beer Day, celebrated to ‘unite the world under the banner of beer’. These examples highlight, on the one hand, the potential for concepts that start as small ideas to gain relative notoriety and, on the other, the flippant ‘there is now an observance day for everything’ attitude with which some view international days.

There are, indeed, many international observance days, with varying levels of recognition and while these light-hearted celebrations focus on niche interests, many UN recognised international days focus on global issues with far reaching consequences. Celebrations such as International Women’s Day, World AIDS Day and World Water Day have been credited with raising the profile of the issues they highlight, mobilising the general public behind actions and supporting fundraising efforts.

Not just another day

On 6 April, the sport and development community has been granted a tremendous opportunity. Formal recognition of sport’s role in development is still relatively new and we now have the chance to reach out to a wider audience. Though in recent years we have achieved major successes in highlighting our work, there are a large number of potential supporters who may still not be aware of us. Consider, for example, the many multilateral or governmental organisations which support the development of sport but do not yet consider it as a tool for development.

Although celebrating our achievements is important, we must do more than simply use the occasion to pat ourselves on the back and communicate our achievements to those already aware of sport’s effectiveness as a tool. In short, we must prevent 6 April from becoming ‘just another day,’ or we will look back with regret at a missed opportunity.



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Paul Hunt


Tuesday, March 25, 2014 - 23:00