The proposal to establish an annual international day of light has received further support in the form of an endorsement by the executive board of UNESCO. The proposal came in the wake of the successful 2015 International Year of Light (IYL 2015), held in February 2015 to raise global awareness about how light-based technologies benefit modern society.
The International Day of Light will serve as a legacy to IYL 2015, providing an annual focal point for the continued appreciation of the central role that light plays, and reinforcing the important messages expressed during IYL 2015. The celebration would be held on 16 May every year from 2018, marking the anniversary of the first successful firing of a laser.
SPIE, the international society for optics and photonics, has welcomed the endorsement by UNESCO, along with other founding partners of IYL 2015. ‘SPIE welcomes, and strongly supports, the establishment of an International Day of Light by the United Nations,’ commented SPIE president Robert Lieberman, ‘Optics and photonics — light science and technology — touch human lives every day, and profoundly influence society through improved health, better communication, cleaner energy, more efficient manufacturing, greater agricultural production, and many other ways.’
The International Day of Light proposal was introduced by sponsors Ghana, Mexico, New Zealand and the Russian Federation, and was examined by the UNESCO executive board during its 200th session in Paris on 4-18 October. The resolution was adopted with 15 additional co-sponsors from countries such as Argentina, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Egypt and Iran.
The International Day of Light will continually emphasise how light affects the population in areas of science, culture, education, sustainable development, medicine, communications and energy. As with IYL 2015, the broad theme of the day will allow many different sectors of society to participate in activities around the world that will raise awareness of science and technology, as well as art and culture and their importance in achieving the goals of UNESCO in promoting education, equality and peace.
According to SPIE CEO Eugene Arthurs, continuing to raise awareness of this topic is important as ‘the UN-declared IYL 2015 observance made many of us more aware of widespread inequities such as light poverty, the many with no access to even simple eyeglasses, and the very uneven access to the light-powered internet for education and commerce.’ Among others, Arthurs recently delivered the final report of IYL 2015 to UNESCO headquarters.
‘Establishing the International Day of Light will provide an annual reminder of the progress of photonics-enabled technologies,’ Arthurs continued. ‘It will help us inspire more talented young people to take up careers in the field, to fulfil the enormous potential of which the IYL gave us a glimpse. And we can judge ourselves by how much progress we have made in bringing the gifts of light to all humankind.’