Subtitles section Play video Print subtitles I was basically concerned about what was going on in the world. I couldn't understand the starvation, the destruction, the killing of innocent people. Making sense of those things is a very difficult thing to do. And when I was 12, I became an actor. I was bottom of the class. I haven't got any qualifications. I was told I was dyslexic. In fact, I have got qualifications. I got a D in pottery, which was the one thing that I did get -- which was useful, obviously. And so concern is where all of this comes from. And then, being an actor, I was doing these different kinds of things, and I felt the content of the work that I was involved in really wasn't cutting it, that there surely had to be more. And at that point, I read a book by Frank Barnaby, this wonderful nuclear physicist, and he said that media had a responsibility, that all sectors of society had a responsibility to try and progress things and move things forward. And that fascinated me, because I'd been messing around with a camera most of my life. And then I thought, well maybe I could do something. Maybe I could become a filmmaker. Maybe I can use the form of film constructively to in some way make a difference. Maybe there's a little change I can get involved in. So I started thinking about peace, and I was obviously, as I said to you, very much moved by these images, trying to make sense of that. Could I go and speak to older and wiser people who would tell me how they made sense of the things that are going on? Because it's obviously incredibly frightening. But I realized that, having been messing around with structure as an actor, that a series of sound bites in itself wasn't enough, that there needed to be a mountain to climb, there needed to be a journey that I had to take. And if I took that journey, no matter whether it failed or succeeded, it would be completely irrelevant. The point was that I would have something to hook the questions of -- is humankind fundamentally evil? Is the destruction of the world inevitable? Should I have children? Is that a responsible thing to do? Etc., etc. So I was thinking about peace, and then I was thinking, well where's the starting point for peace? And that was when I had the idea. There was no starting point for peace. There was no day of global unity. There was no day of intercultural cooperation. There was no day when humanity came together, separate in all of those things and just shared it together -- that we're in this together, and that if we united and we interculturally cooperated, then that might be the key to humanity's survival. That might shift the level of consciousness around the fundamental issues that humanity faces -- if we did it just for a day. So obviously we didn't have any money. I was living at my mom's place. And we started writing letters to everybody. You very quickly work out what is it that you've got to do to fathom that out. How do you create a day voted by every single head of state in the world to create the first ever Ceasefire Nonviolence Day, the 21st of September? And I wanted it to be the 21st of September because it was my granddad's favorite number. He was a prisoner of war. He saw the bomb go off at Nagasaki. It poisoned his blood. He died when I was 11. So he was like my hero. And the reason why 21 was the number is 700 men left, 23 came back, two died on the boat and 21 hit the ground. And that's why we wanted it to be the 21st of September as the date of peace. So we began this journey, and we launched it in 1999. And we wrote to heads of state, their ambassadors, Nobel Peace laureates, NGOs, faiths, various organizations -- literally wrote to everybody. And very quickly, some letters started coming back. And we started to build this case. And I remember the first letter. One of the first letters was from the Dalai Lama. And of course we didn't have the money; we were playing guitars and getting the money for the stamps that we were sending out all of [this mail]. A letter came through from the Dalai Lama saying, "This is an amazing thing. Come and see me. I'd love to talk to you about the first ever day of peace." And we didn't have money for the flight. And I rang Sir Bob Ayling, who was CEO of BA at the time, and said, "Mate, we've got this invitation. Could you give me a flight? Because we're going to go see him." And of course, we went and saw him and it was amazing. And then Dr. Oscar Arias came forward. And actually, let me go back to that slide, because when we launched it in 1999 -- this idea to create the first ever day of ceasefire and non-violence -- we invited thousands of people. Well not thousands -- hundreds of people, lots of people -- all the press, because we were going to try and create the first ever World Peace Day, a peace day. And we invited everybody, and no press showed up. There were 114 people there -- they were mostly my friends and family. And that was kind of like the launch of this thing. But it didn't matter because we were documenting, and that was the thing. For me, it was really about the process. It wasn't about the end result. And that's the beautiful thing about the camera. They used to say the pen is mightier than the sword. I think the camera is. And just staying in the moment with it was a beautiful thing and really empowering actually. So anyway, we began the journey. And here you see people like Mary Robinson, I went to see in Geneva. I'm cutting my hair, it's getting short and long, because every time I saw Kofi Annan, I was so worried that he thought I was a hippie that I cut it, and that was kind of what was going on. (Laughter) Yeah, I'm not worried about it now. So Mary Robinson, she said to me, "Listen, this is an idea whose time has come. This must be created." Kofi Annan said, "This will be beneficial to my troops on the ground." The OAU at the time, led by Salim Ahmed Salim, said, "I must get the African countries involved." Dr. Oscar Arias, Nobel Peace laureate, president now of Costa Rica, said, "I'll do everything that I can." So I went and saw Amr Moussa at the League of Arab States. I met Mandela at the Arusha peace talks, and so on and so on and so on -- while I was building the case to prove whether this idea would make sense. And then we were listening to the people. We were documenting everywhere. 76 countries in the last 12 years, I've visited. And I've always spoken to women and children wherever I've gone. I've recorded 44,000 young people. I've recorded about 900 hours of their thoughts. I'm really clear about how young people feel when you talk to them about this idea of having a starting point for their actions for a more peaceful world through their poetry, their art, their literature, their music, their sport, whatever it might be. And we were listening to everybody. And it was an incredibly thing, working with the U.N. and working with NGOs and building this case. I felt that I was presenting a case on behalf of the global community to try and create this day. And the stronger the case and the more detailed it was, the better chance we had of creating this day. And it was this stuff, this, where I actually was in the beginning kind of thinking no matter what happened, it didn't actually matter. It didn't matter if it didn't create a day of peace. The fact is that, if I tried and it didn't work, then I could make a statement about how unwilling the global community is to unite -- until, it was in Somalia, picking up that young girl. And this young child who'd taken about an inch and a half out of her leg with no antiseptic, and that young boy who was a child soldier, who told me he'd killed people -- he was about 12 -- these things made me realize that this was not a film that I could just stop. And that actually, at that moment something happened to me, which obviously made me go, "I'm going to document. If this is the only film that I ever make, I'm going to document until this becomes a reality." Because we've got to stop, we've got to do something where we unite -- separate from all the politics and religion that, as a young person, is confusing me. I don't know how to get involved in that process. And then on the seventh of September, I was invited to New York. The Costa Rican government and the British government had put forward to the United Nations General Assembly, with 54 co-sponsors, the idea of the first ever Ceasefire Nonviolence Day, the 21st of September, as a fixed calendar date, and it was unanimously adopted by every head of state in the world. (Applause) Yeah, but there were hundreds of individuals, obviously, who made that a reality. And thank you to all of them. That was an incredible moment. I was at the top of the General Assembly just looking down into it and seeing it happen. And as I mentioned, when it started, we were at the Globe, and there was no press. And now I was thinking, "Well, the press it really going to hear this story." And suddenly, we started to institutionalize this day. Kofi Annan invited me on the morning of September the 11th to do a press conference. And it was 8:00 AM when I stood there. And I was waiting for him to come down, and I knew that he was on his way. And obviously he never came down. The statement was never made. The world was never told there was a day of global ceasefire and nonviolence. And it was obviously a tragic moment for the thousands of people who lost their lives, there and then subsequently all over the world. It never happened. And I remember thinking, "This is exactly why, actually, we have to work even harder. And we have to make this day work. It's been created; nobody knows. But we have to continue this journey, and we have to tell people, and we have to prove it can work." And I left New York freaked, but actually empowered. And I felt inspired by the possibilities that if it did, then maybe we wouldn't see things like that. I remember putting that film out and going to cynics. I was showing the film, and I remember being in Israel and getting it absolutely slaughtered by some guys having watched the film -- that it's just a day of peace, it doesn't mean anything. It's not going to work; you're not going to stop the fighting in Afghanistan; the Taliban won't listen, etc., etc. It's just symbolism. And that was even worse than actually what had just happened in many ways, because it couldn't not work. I'd spoken in Somalia, Burundi, Gaza, the West Bank, India, Sri Lanka, Congo, wherever it was, and they'd all tell me, "If you can create a window of opportunity, we can move aid, we can vaccinate children. Children can lead their projects. They can unite. They can come together. If people would stop, lives will be saved." That's what I'd heard. And I'd heard that from the people who really understood what conflict was about. And so I went back to the United Nations. I decided that I'd continue filming and make another movie. And I went back to the U.N. for another couple of years. We started moving around the corridors of the U.N. system, governments and NGOs, trying desperately to find somebody to come forward and have a go at it, see if we could make it possible. And after lots and lots of meetings obviously, I'm delighted that this man, Ahmad Fawzi, one of my heroes and mentors really, he managed to get UNICEF involved.