Tough Questions for Michael
1994 Lillehammer, Norway: The Olympic Truce is used to allow the safe passage and participation of athletes from the former Republic of Yugoslavia.
1998 Nagano, Japan: The Olympic Truce is used as the basis of a mediation mission by the UN Secretary General to Iraq.
2000 Sydney, Australia: During the opening ceremony the South and North Korean delegations enter the stadium together under a single flag in a gesture towards the spirit of Olympic Truce.
2004 Athens, Greece: The Olympic Truce Organisation (Lausanne) and the Olympic Truce Museum (Athens) established to promote the Olympic truce.
2010 Vancouver, Canada: Produced schools course material on the Olympic Truce. Appointed the first patron for the Olympic Truce, Right Honourable Michaëlle Jean, Governor General of Canada. Sent surplus medical supplies to assist the earthquake victims in Haiti.
When will the London 2012 Olympic Truce be observed?
UN Resolution will cover 59 days—from seven days before the opening of the Olympic Games (20 July, 2012) until seven days after the conclusion of the Paralympic Games (16 September, 2012).
London 2012 Cultural Olympiad will cover 93 days—opening with a concert around the theme of truce in Northern Ireland on 21 June, 2012 and concluding on the International Day of Peace with a major concert in the Olympic Stadium on 21 September, 2012—both concerts are being organised by Peace One Day.
The Olympic Flame, symbol of the Truce, will be lit in Olympia in March 2012 and arrive in the UK on Friday 18 May, 2012. It will then be relayed around the UK for 70 days by approximately 8,000 torch bearers.
Who will propose the Olympic Truce for London 2012?
The Olympic Truce Resolution will be proposed during the sixty-sixth session of the General Assembly of the United Nations in New York which commences in September, 2011.
The Truce Resolution is traditionally proposed to the General Assembly jointly by the Chairman of the Organising Committee of the Olympic Games and the president of the International Olympic Committee.
A specific date is yet to be set for the proposing of the Truce.
What is the current position of the Coalition government on the Olympic Truce?
The position of the Government concerning the Olympic Truce in respect of London 2012 was set out by Baroness Rawlings in response to a debate in the House of Lords initiated by Lord Bates on 11 October, 2010:
“the Government take the truce very seriously and will be taking measures to make sure that it is properly observed and promoted in relation to the 2012 Olympic & Paralympic Games.”
The position of the Government on the Olympic Truce Resolution was set out in a Written Parliamentary Answer by Lord Shutt to a Question tabled by Lord Bates and published on 21 July, 2010:
‘The Government fully support the work of the United Nations and specifically supported these resolutions to demonstrate our support for the ambitions of the respective host countries. While each resolution reflects the specific ambitions of the individual host country, they represent a consistent ideal, “to use sport to promote peace, dialogue and reconciliation in areas of conflict”. The Government believe that the benefits of sport can have a positive influence on both individuals and nations and we support the promotion of this positive message’
The Government’s latest statement on ideas for the Olympics given in answer to an oral Question by Lord Bates on 15 December, 2010 by Baroness Frognal suggested that the government were ‘open to ideas on how the Olympic Truce could be implemented’:
“It is quite difficult to look back for examples of what has happened in countries which have previously declared their support for the Olympic Truce but have found it difficult to achieve particular outcomes to demonstrate it. It is early days at the moment and we welcome ideas on how something positive can come out of our Olympic Games in 2012.”
In an answer to a question clarifying the process for evaluating ideas on the Olympic Truce the response of the government was:
Lord Bates: To ask Her Majesty’s Government, further to the Written Answer by Baroness Garden of Frognal on 15 December (Official Report, col. 605-7), what mechanism they have to collate and evaluate ideas for implementing the Olympic truce at the London 2012 Olympic Games.
Baroness Garden of Frognal: Suggestions on how the Olympic truce could be promoted can be addressed to Ministers in the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. Such suggestions will be considered as they are received.
What arguments are there in favour of the UK being the first host government of the Games in the modern era to take the Olympic Truce seriously?
They have said so:
“the Government take the truce very seriously and will be taking measures to make sure that it is properly observed and promoted in relation to the 2012 Olympic & Paralympic Games.” Baroness Rawlings 11 October, 2010
The Olympic Truce is consistent with Coalition foreign policy:
The National Security Strategy—A Strong Britain in an Age of Uncertainty–: (2) Tackle root causes of instability. (6) Help resolve conflicts and contribute to stability.
Strategic Defence & Security Review: “We must get better at treating the causes of instability, not just dealing with the consequences…A key principle of our adaptable approach is to tackle threats at source. We must focus on fragile and conflict affected countries where the risks are high….We will deliver this support through an integrated approach that brings together our diplomatic, development, defence and intelligence resources”
In his most recent Statement to the House of Commons on the ongoing conflict in Afghanistan the prime minister said: “Insurgencies usually end with political settlements, not military victories….That is why I have always said there needs to be a political surge to accompany the military one.”
The Coalition government has expanded the ‘Conflict’ pool to strengthen conflict prevention and resolution efforts increasing from £229 million in 2010/11 to around £300 million in 2014/15.
The Coalition has planned a significant expansion of the overseas development assistance budget to 0.7% of GNI by 2013; with 30% of ODA to support fragile and conflict affected states.
The Olympic Truce is consistent with the themes of the ‘Big Society’ and community cohesion:
Security is justifiably the greatest concern surrounding the Olympic Games; making the London Games the first Games the first in the modern era to take the Truce seriously could soften the global ‘mood music’ of the Games without diminishing the hard security measures already in place.
The Diamond Jubilee of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II.
Strong UK observance would raise the bar for future Olympic Games hosts especially Sochi, Russia (2014) and Rio de Janeiro, Brazil (2016).
Why is London ,as a host city, uniquely placed to bring the Truce back to being central for the Games?:
The most culturally and ethnically diverse city ever to host the Games;
The only city to have hosted the Games three times;
The place of the founding of the first Paralympic Games (formerly the International Wheelchair Games) started in 1946 after WWII to promote sport as a means of rehabilitation of wounded veterans;
London bears the scars of war and violence from the London Blitz to the suicide attacks on 7 July, 2005 the most deadly terrorist attack on the UK which was the day after the Games were awarded to London;
London was the location of the first meeting of the UN Security Council in 1946 (Church House, Westminster) and of the UN General Assembly (Methodist Central Hall, Westminster).
London was the location for the Live Aid concert which challenged the world to respond to the famine in Africa and Live 8 which saw the culmination of the Jubilee Campaign to remove the burden of debt on the poorest countries in the world.
London was the location for the Downing Street accord which broke the deadlock and prepared the ground for the truce in Northern Ireland.
London was the place where the first Act of any Parliament for the Abolition of Slavery was passed.
What is currently planned?
Display the Olympic Truce flag outside the Olympic Stadium and build a peace Wall in the Olympic Village which is signed by all competitors (this is a standard IOC requirement of all host cities).
Launch of educational package and web-site for schools called ‘Get Set Global’highlighting the history of the Olympic Truce, which is International Inspiration is London 2012’s official international sports legacy program.
Film Nations: Shorts Competition: Competition for schools/students aged 14-25 to produce short films around the theme of ‘Truce’.
Opening concert in Londonderry hosted by Peace One Day on June 21, 2012.
Closing Concert on International Peace Day 21 September, 2012 in the Olympic Stadium or 02 Arena.
This is a dangerous world and Britain is engaged in military action on a number of fronts; isn’t the notion of the Olympic Truce naive at best and dangerous at worst?
If that is the view of the British government then why don’t they simply refuse to propose the Olympic Truce to the UN General Assembly? I would disagree with them, but I would respect their decision. My point is that all nations will sign to say they will do something and they don’t what kind of message is that to send out into a dangerous world?
But are you suggesting that British forces serving bravely in Afghanistan should simply lay down their arms because the Olympics is on, wouldn’t that put their lives at risk?
It is an odd argument to suggest that a ceasefire should put our forces lives at risk. If a truce is to work then, as we know from our own experience in Northern Ireland, all sides need to agree to the ceasefire. The Olympic Truce would simply say that a signatory should take the initiative and make the offer of a ceasefire, it is up to the other party/parties as to whether they accept.
Aren’t these Resolutions just a case of ‘motherhood and apple pie’?
I don’t know, has anybody asked them? I know that in 2007 Peace One Day tried to broker a ceasefire for 24 hours on International Peace Day in Afghanistan in order for UNICEF to carry out vaccinations and immunisations of children caught in conflict zones: The Taliban agreed to that ceasefire and sent out a message to read out in Mosques calling for observance of the ceasefire which was also agreed by the Afghan government and NATO as a result tens of thousands of children received life saving medical treatment. Could we do this again for the Olympic Truce? That is one of the options which is being considered.
We know that the London Games in 2012 have a very real threat of terrorism hanging over them. Wouldn’t observance of the truce weaken our security for the Games?
This is a very serious matter. The threat to the Games is real. I would not advocate that we lower our guard for a minute. The safety of the competitors and the public must be a paramount concern. That said, is it possible that if we were to be the first country to take the Olympic Truce seriously in the modern era and were taking initiatives to provide immunisations and vaccinations in conflict zones, taking initiatives to broker dialogue in some conflict areas; promoting peace in Northern Ireland and encouraging inter-faith dialogue around peace, I don’t think that would increase the threat level surrounding the Games and it might just reduce it a by a fraction.
Couldn’t you do more to advance the cause of the truce by staying in Westminster?
I have tried that for the past year and have used all of the many levers we have as members of Parliament to make the case for the truce to be taken seriously, but so far there is not a single new initiative planned. The window of opportunity is closing on the truce because of the lead time involved in implementing initiatives and I wanted to do all that I could before it closed completely. What I am trying to do is to cat as small catalyst from which a movement could begin to take the truce seriously not only in the UK but also in the other countries who will sign the Resolution.
Isn’t it irresponsible to leave the House of Lords for almost a year?
It is possible that if the truce were implemented in some way by the UK government then it could result in some lives being saved and in the prospects for peace in some conflicts being enhanced. If you truly believe that, as I do, then I think it would be irresponsible not to try and do everything I could to bring it about.
You are a member of the Conservative Party isn’t this disloyal to them to embark upon such a public campaign?
As a member of the Conservative Party one of the areas in which I have taken greatest pride is in the way in which David Cameron, William Hague, Liam Fox and Andrew Mitchell have set about trying to reshape our foreign policy focusing on prevention of conflict rather than intervention in conflicts. There is a renewed belief in the United Nations. The new National Security Strategy states its objectives as being: (2) Tackle root causes of instability. (6) Help resolve conflicts and contribute to stability. They have massively extended the ‘Conflict pool’ towards £300 million focused on prevention and resolution of conflicts. Most importantly they have committed to massively increase the Overseas Aid budget because they want to honour our international obligation to do so. I believe that observance of the Olympic truce is entirely consistent with the approach which the Coalition government is taking. I am simply pointing out the connection with stated policy and consequential opportunity and obligation to act.
Surely you are being paid to do a job in Parliament rather than disappearing off walking through Europe at the tax payers expense?
In the House of Lords we only receive an allowance when we attend the House. I will be forgoing any allowances for a year and funding the all of the travel costs myself because I believe that the Walk will make a difference on this issue in a way that my staying in Parliament has not.