The UN launched the United Nations Year for Tolerance in 1995, proclaimed by the UN General Assembly in 1993 at the initiative of UNESCO. Tolerance was held to be an 'endangered virtue' in many parts of the world, particularly those who were under racial and religious wars, such as those in Bosnia and Rwanda.
UNESCO said that five key planks were required to overcome intolerance: law, education, access to information, individual awareness and local solutions. Under the declaration, tolerance is thus a political, legal and moral duty to protect and preserve human rights.
In 1995, a press conference was held at the United Nations by 12-year-old Mark Semotiuk who launched his book "401 Goofy Jokes for Kids" which united kids from Ukraine, Canada and the United States, as one of the symbols for the United Nations Year for Tolerance.
In Mark’s own words, “As a second generation Ukrainian-Canadian I attended a Ukrainian-bilingual elementary school. After a presentation by Junior Achievement, my class was challenged by our teacher do something entrepreneurial. I wanted to help build bridges between Canada (where I lived), the United States (where my extended family lived) and Ukraine (where my ancestors lived). I decided to write a joke book by collecting jokes from children in Ukraine and translating them into English.
I wrote to a Ukrainian newspaper asking kids to write me letters with their best jokes in exchange for a dollar. I ended up receiving hundreds of responses with some great jokes and moving stories. After translating the jokes into English, I self-published “401 Goofy Jokes for Kids.” The book ended up becoming a Canadian bestseller and the profits were donated to Junior Achievement, the Children of Chernobyl and the Ukrainian-Bilingual school system.”
Mark was invited to a press conference at the United Nations and his book was promoted as a symbol of the Year of Tolerance. As he says, “I hope that 21 years later the message lives on!”