International Day of Non-Violence

NEW RELEASES – On the day of birth of Mahatma Gandhi (2 October 1869), iconic figure and pioneer of the non-violent movement, the world celebrates the International Day of Non-Violence. The importance of non-violence as a fundamental tool in the progressive and peaceful evolvement of society should not be understated. Being non-violent means respecting the other’s fundamental rights before our own, cherishing the importance of our role as active members of society.


October the 2nd

In 2007, by adopting Resolution 61/271, the United Nations established the International Day of Non-Violence. Learning from the example of Mahatma Gandhi’s life, the global community has recognised that tolerance and cooperation can be more powerful tools than forceful interventions. Gandhi has been a real inspiration for non-violent movements for civil rights across the world. Throughout his life, Gandhi remained committed to his belief in non-violence “even under oppressive conditions and in the face of seemingly insurmountable challenges.”1


Gandhi’s action followed a precise philosophy behind it: respect of the rule of law and recognition of injustice by not following stigmatised written orders. In fact, Gandhi’s non-violent action included encouraging massive civil disobedience to British law (see for instance the historic Salt March of 1930.) Fundamentally, according to Gandhi, “it is irrational to try to use violence to achieve a peaceful society.”2

Whilst 2015 was marking the 70th anniversary of this International Day and in 2014 the global community was focusing on the resilience of older women and men as an example for all human beings, in 2016 the real focal point was the link between non-violence and sustainability. As UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has stated:

“We know that a culture of non-violence begins with respect for others, but it does not end there. To nurture peace, we must respect nature. I am pleased this year’s International Day of Non-Violence puts the focus on sustainability and the environment.”3


What is “non-violence”?

Fundamentally, “the principle of non-violence rejects the use of physical violence in order to achieve social or political change.”4 Often described as "the politics of ordinary people", this form of social struggle has been adopted by people all over the world in campaigns for justice and human rights.

‘Non-violence’ is a term that has been frequently used as a synonym of ‘pacifism.’ However, the idea behind non-violent movements is different from the pacifist philosophy. In fact, pacifism is connected to the opposition of war. Instead, non-violence seeks to undermine the power of rulers through “withdrawal of the consent and cooperation of the populace.”5 Thus, non-violent movements are active and strongly engaged with the political and social need for a progressive change.


Inciting violence in the Philippines

Whilst the world tries to depart from the enactment of forceful practices and human rights abuses, the Philippines are experiencing today a very different situation: incitement of violence by the President himself, Rodrigo Duterte.

The people of the Philippines, as Amnesty International has reported, have been suffering human rights abuses on many different levels. “Torture and other ill-treatment by police continued in a climate of impunity for human rights violations. There were no convictions under laws criminalizing torture and enforced disappearances.”6 With journalists, lawyers and Indigenous Peoples killed on a daily basis, human rights groups accused an armed militia “allegedly trained by the military of being behind the killings.”7

In a climate of abuses and violations, President Duterte has repeatedly incited the population to violence, especially against drug users and dealers – as the CIPADH has previously covered. As Oliver Holmes, from the Guardian, reported, Rodrigo Duterte publicly stated:

“Hitler massacred three million Jews ... there’s three million drug addicts. There are. I’d be happy to slaughter them.”8

Now, Kate Lamb – British journalist – seems to have evidence of the involvement of governmental armed forces in these operations of “drug cleansing” which led to the extra judicial killing of more than 3,600 people since 1 July 2016. For the first time, a serving officer is revealing the working mechanisms of a campaign “to rid the streets of unwanted citizens.”9 This officer claimed that he has been part of one of the 10 highly secretive police teams “coordinated to execute a list of targets: suspected drug users, dealers and criminals.”10 As much as this is just the first of many evidences that could fully prove the actions of such special operational police teams, Brad Adams, the executive director of the Asia division at Human Rights Watch, stated that this scenario could be “extremely credible.”11

Hence, ultimately, the importance of a day like the 2nd of October is even more highlighted considering the issues surrounding a country like the Philippines. The incitement of violence and the complete disregard of human rights need to be fought against. Moreover, perhaps, the tool that could be used in response to this incitement of violence is non-violence itself.



1United Nations, International Day of Non-Violence – 2 October. Available at:





6Amnesty International, “Philippines 2015/2016 – Annual Report.” Available at:


8HOLMES Oliver (October 2016) “Rodrigo Duterte vows to kill 3 million drug addicts and likens himself to Hitler”, the Guardian. Available at:

9LAMB Kate (October 2016) “Philippines secret death squads: officer claims police teams behind wave of killings”, the Guardian. Available at:





MR - Research Assistant at CIPADH



Al Jazeera English, “Human Rights Watch: Duterte inciting more deaths in the Philippines” (September 2016). In: YouTube. Available at:

Amnesty International, “Philippines 2015/2016 – Annual Report.” Available at:

BBC News, “Philppines' Rodrigo Duterte on drug-pushers and Pope” (May 2016). In: YouTube. Available at:

HOLMES Oliver (October 2016) “Rodrigo Duterte vows to kill 3 million drug addicts and likens himself to Hitler”, the Guardian. Available at:

LAMB Kate (October 2016) “Philippines secret death squads: officer claims police teams behind wave of killings”, the Guardian. Available at:

OHCHR (June 2007) “Resolution 61/271. International Day of Non-Violence”, General Assembly, 61st session, United Nations. Available at:

United Nations, International Day of Non-Violence – 2 October. Available at: