States Adopt ‘Olympic Truce’ Draft, Recognizing Sport as Driver of Development
The 193 Member States of the United Nations must resist every temptation to turn the General Assembly into a platform for “red lines” and “static positions”, the world body heard today, as it adopted its annual “Olympic Truce” draft resolution ahead of a debate on how best to revitalize its work.
“This Hall should be a place for dialogue, a place we enter with ideas and proposals,” said Assembly President Miroslav Lajčák (Slovakia) in opening remarks. States might be tempted to pursue their own narrow interests through the organ’s work, leading to a win for one person, one State or one group, but “we will all lose” through such an approach, he cautioned.
Spotlighting recent strides in revitalizing the Assembly’s work, he pointed at the more transparent selection and appointment of the Secretary‑General and new ethics guidelines for the President’s Office. Going forward, discussions would focus on the conduct of election campaigns, strengthening interactions with permanent missions and establishing a longer‑term, more transparent rotation of the chairs of the Assembly’s Main Committees, he added.
In the ensuing debate, delegates outlined their positions on the four thematic clusters related to the Assembly’s revitalization — its role and authority; working methods; selection and appointment of the Secretary‑General and other executive heads; and strengthening accountability, transparency and institutional memory in the Office of the President of the General Assembly.
Many noted that any changes should be harmonized with broader organizational reforms advocated by Secretary‑General António Guterres. Others emphasized that the ultimate goal was to create an Assembly — and a wider United Nations system — that was more effective, transparent, inclusive and “fit‑for‑purpose” in the twenty‑first century.
In that vein, the representative of the Philippines encouraged, on behalf of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), faithful implementation of Assembly resolution 71/323, noting that, among other things, it called upon the President to present concrete revitalization proposals.
The representative of the Maldives emphasized that, whereas the conduct of meetings had improved, there remained a need to consider why so many resolutions and actionable mandates were not being executed. Additionally, enhanced coherence between the Assembly’s Main Committees, the Economic and Social Council and the Security Council would render all those bodies more effective in helping States to implement the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and its 17 Sustainable Development Goals.
Commending recent achievements, she said the process for appointing the current Secretary‑General had demonstrated unprecedented levels of transparency and enhanced the Assembly’s integrity. Echoing her support for the Assembly’s role in that regard, Algeria’s representative called, on behalf of the Non‑Aligned Movement, for the compilation of lessons learned from the last selection process, while stressing that the General Assembly’s overall authority must be enhanced.
Prior to that discussion, the Assembly considered the role of sport in promoting peace and development. In adopting the draft resolution “Building a peaceful and better world through sport and the Olympic ideal” (document A/72/L.5) without a vote, the Assembly urged Member States to observe the historic concept of the “Olympic Truce”, allowing the safe passage, access and participation of athletes from the seventh day before the start of the upcoming XXIII Olympic Winter Games until seven days after the end of the XII Paralympic Games. Both will be held in PyeongChang, Republic of Korea.
Lee Hee‑Beom, President of the 2018 Games Organizing Committee, introduced that draft, expressing hope that the Olympic events would provide a window of opportunity for the promotion of peace and cooperation in north‑east Asia.
In a special address to the Assembly, Yuna Kim, Olympic gold medallist in figure skating and Goodwill Ambassador for the 2018 Games, said the event would also offer a chance to share the Olympic spirit with all peoples across the world, while serving as a model for future games.
Greece’s delegate said the “Olympic Truce” concept, from antiquity to modern times, reflected a need to make peace an attainable goal. “We should bear in mind that in a world of differences, inequalities and conflicts, even an agreement for a temporary truce is an achievement for the international community,” he said.
An observer for the International Olympic Committee emphasized the unique role of sport in building bridges and fostering peace and understanding. Given the current landscape of international instability, symbols of friendship and solidarity were more needed now than ever before, he stressed.
Also speaking today were representatives of Monaco, Belarus, Kuwait, Singapore, Israel, Brunei Darussalam, Qatar, Japan, Cuba, India, Bahrain, Tunisia and Indonesia, as well as the European Union delegation.
The Assembly will reconvene at 3:30 this afternoon, to elect the single remaining member of the International Court of Justice.
Sport for Development and Peace
MIROSLAV LAJČÁK (Slovakia), President of the General Assembly, said that sport had not always been associated with the United Nations. Yet, sport had immense potential to bring people together, much like the United Nations, as both were founded on universal values. “We may speak different languages and have different viewpoints, but when we step out on a field or court, we have one goal,” he added.
Sport had helped to open doors into communities where the United Nations was serving, he said. Citing some examples, he said sport had been instrumental in integrating child soldiers back into their communities. “Sport alone cannot stop conflict, but I believe a football or a puck is a better peacebuilding tool than a gun,” he said, adding that sport brought people together and evoked enthusiasm rather than fear, with the Olympic Games and the United Nations aspiring towards the same ideal. “Whether athletes or diplomats, we must show that humanity can triumph politics.”
For young people, sport can give hope for a brighter future and provide a route out of poverty, he said, emphasizing: “We must reach out to young people in a way that resonates with them.” In that context, sport offered a major opportunity. Going forward, the link between sport and the United Nations must be strengthened. A major opportunity to contribute positively to the situation on the Korean Peninsula would arise in February when the Winter Olympics would be hosted in the Republic of Korea, he said, urging all Member States to work together to overcome cultural and political divides.
LEE HEE-BEOM (Republic of Korea), President and Chief Executive Officer of the 2018 PyeongChang Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games Organizing Committee, introduced the draft resolution “Building a peaceful and better world through sport and the Olympic ideal” (document A/72/L.5), recalling that in fewer than 90 days, the world would come together to participate in his country. All preparations for the event had been completed, including the construction of new roads and a high‑speed train. In the General Assembly, the “Olympic Truce” draft resolution was a tradition that reminded the world of the necessity to cease all conflicts, at least during the duration of the Games, beginning seven days before the start of the event and concluding on the seventh day after the closure of the Paralympic Games.
“The Olympic Truce is to ensure the safe passage of the athletes and all other Olympic‑accredited personnel when they travel to and from the Olympic Games,” he said, adding that the draft resolution demonstrated the Assembly’s strong wish that the Games would help foster an atmosphere of peace, development, tolerance and understanding on the Korean Peninsula and northeast Asia. On the Korean Peninsula, people still remembered examples of that truce from the 1998 Olympic Games in Seoul, which had provided an opportunity to bring together the East and West for peace, harmony and reconciliation. During the 2000 Olympic Games in Sydney, the delegations of the Republic of Korea and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea had walked into the stadium together hand in hand under the same flag, demonstrating the power of sport to unite people regardless of politics and religion. Describing a number of related educational and training programmes that had been implemented since that time, he declared: “We, Koreans, hope that these […] Olympic Games will provide a window of opportunity for promoting peace and economic cooperation in northeast Asia.”
YUNA KIM, Olympic gold medallist in figure skating and Goodwill Ambassador for the 2018 PyeongChang event, said the Olympic spirit transcended race, region, religion and language. Indeed, it concerned with the preservation of human dignity across all borders. Expressing hope that she would witness the special power of sport today as the Assembly adopted the draft resolution before it, she said the “graceful and universal language of sport”, to be demonstrated at the upcoming PyeongChang Games, was a great opportunity to reach across the border between the Republic of Korea and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. The event would also offer a chance to share the Olympic spirit with all people across the world, while serving as a model for all Olympic and Paralympic Games to come.
ISABELLE F. PICCO (Monaco) said the eyes of the world would be drawn to the upcoming Olympic Games. The United Nations, like the Olympic movement, had many ambitious agendas. Just as the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development had the potential to make a great contribution to humanity, the promotion of human rights was intrinsic to the Olympic Games. Moreover, education, health, inclusion and gender equality all contributed to the implementation of the 2030 Agenda. Similarly, sport was a powerful tool to demonstrate that the same rules applied to all equally. In that vein, youth must be inspired to help build a future of peace and fraternity.
IRINA VELICHKO (Belarus) said that against a landscape of international instability, the upcoming Olympic Games had a major opportunity to facilitate the promotion of universal ideals. For Belarus, developing a physical culture and sport was one of the key areas of its national policy. She condemned any attempts to use sport for political gain. Today’s draft resolution must strengthen the role of sport in attaining peace and development, she said, adding that sport promoted respect for tolerance and equality based on friendship and solidarity.
BASHAR ALI ALDUWAISAN (Kuwait), expressing support for the messages enshrined in Assembly resolution 48/10 of 1993 on sport and the Olympic ideal, underlined the need to invest in youth and build better societies to help to combat crime, corruption and extremism. “The language of sport and athletes has always been the language of peace, security and solidarity, aimed at tackling violence and extremism,” he stressed, recalling that football had often brought together soldiers from enemy camps. Former President of South Africa Nelson Mandela had also used the African Football Cup to build unity and to combat apartheid. The Olympic and Paralympic Games provided a chance to spotlight the concepts of the “Olympic village” and the “Olympic ideal”, both of which aimed at promoting unity, peace and development. The principles of the International Olympic Committee and the United Nations were “two sides of the same coin”, he said, citing as an example the broad support received by the world’s first refugee athlete delegation at the 2016 Olympic and Paralympic Games in Brazil.
Ms. WONG LEE TING (Singapore) said the practice of sport instilled values of hard work, self‑discipline and determination in many societies. The unifying force of sport was reflected in the Olympic Games, she noted, adding that Singapore was implementing a national sport programme to encourage citizens to be active. Efforts were also promoting the participation of persons with disabilities and ensuring their access to sports facilities. National strategies had yielded clear results at the Olympic Games in Brazil, she said, stressing that the benefits of sport transcended national borders and inspired “a noble human spirit”.
ZEENA MOHAMED DIDI (Maldives), recalling how a team of refugees participating in the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro had provided optimism, courage and faith to millions of refugees around the world, said sport was a significant component of youth development. Maldives’ Sports Act aimed at promoting competitive events and cultural activities at all levels and the Government continued to invest in infrastructure, with projects designed to develop youth leadership skills and support networks outside the home. Such efforts also promoted opportunities for women, encouraging female participation to challenge traditional gender stereotypes. While sport was not a panacea for all societal problems, it did provide a sense of purpose, joy and hope.
ANAT FISHER TSIN (Israel), underscoring that “sport and peace are intertwined”, said the latter was a key ingredient for coexistence, goodwill, rebuilding communities, creating inclusive societies and empowering youth, women, girls and persons with disabilities. As a country in a conflict‑ridden region, Israel made it a point of ensuring that all young people learned to play on the same team. The Mifalot Chinuch initiative, founded by one of Israel’s largest football clubs, provided an effective platform to build bridges between Palestinians and Israelis, helping them to see each other as teammates and not as “the other”. That model had extended to local communities across the world, including in Cambodia and Rwanda. Israel had also recently led a local sport‑for‑peace effort in Nigeria, targeting children who had been displaced by Boko Haram.
Mr. SHARIFUDDIN (Brunei Darussalam) recognized the role of sport in advancing peace and development. Sport often led to friendship, mutual trust, respect and cooperation while also acting as a positive outlet for challenges facing young people today, such as drug abuse and unemployment. For his country, sport was recognized as a means to improve quality of life and related efforts remained a high priority for the Government. Among the range of Government‑assisted projects was an initiative allowing people to engage in sporting activities, which had contributed to promoting a healthy lifestyle.
Ms. ALABDULLA (Qatar) said the 2030 Agenda had highlighted the important role sport played in development. Qatar had successfully hosted a number of events and would hopefully host the 2022 World Cup. For Qatar, sport remained instrumental in creating a strong and healthy society and helped to strengthen relations among its citizens. Citing examples, she said the Ministry of Sport and Education was promoting a range of activities, including by partnering with other ministries.
TOSHIYA HOSHINO (Japan), noting that his country would host of the Olympic and Paralympic Games in Tokyo in 2020, recalled that the 1964 Games in that city had been a strong driver for rapid economic growth. Hopefully, the 2020 Games would enable Japan to promote transformative change while bringing hope to places affected by the 2011 earthquake and tsunami. Leading up to 2020, the Government was pursuing a sport programme to enable socio‑economic development in more than 100 countries. Japan would continue to promote sport so that Olympic Games in 2018 and 2020 could help to build a spirit of peace in the world.
ANA SILVIA RODRÍGUEZ ABASCAL (Cuba) said a major achievement of the Cuban Revolution was establishing the enjoyment of sport as a right. Training physical education teachers helped to ensure universal access to sporting activities in the country. National efforts had been complemented by specialized training centres for athletes and the development of a robust sports medicine system. Noting Cuba’s international sporting achievements, she affirmed the country’s commitment to developing sports across the world. Despite obstacles imposed by the “criminal blockade” against Cuba, the country would continue to promote sport as a vehicle for peace.
MARIA THEOFILI (Greece), associating herself with the European Union, said the concept of the “Olympic Truce” had been born in the age of antiquity and followed for a period of 1200 years. Greeks viewed the Games as an opportunity to replace conflict with friendly competition. However, the ideal of a truce had also held great importance in the revival of the Olympic Games in the modern era. The International Olympic Truce Center, for the creation of which Greece actively engaged with the International Olympic Committee, provided a new dynamism to the pursuit of peace. Most importantly, the inclusion of the truce in the United Nations framework through the adoption of relevant resolutions granted a distinct role to the ideal. “We should bear in mind that in a world of differences, inequalities and conflicts, even an agreement for a temporary truce is an achievement for the international community,” she said. “Therefore, it is our responsibility to continue to promote the ‘Olympic Truce’ and spare no effort to ensure its actual implementation. It is our task to fulfil our responsibilities by observing the truce and thus making peace an attainable goal.”
SURYANARAYAN SRINIVAS PRASAD (India), recalling the close links between the principles underpinning sport and the 2030 Agenda, said the growing popularity of the Olympic Games and other championships had demonstrated that many star athletes had risen from situations of poverty and deprivation, offering a message of hope. Spotlighting the example of cricket, India’s national sport, he said many top athletes were involved in such campaigns as one aimed to promote hygiene among children. Further, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) sport for development programme helped to address violence and displacement in areas affected by the leftist insurgency and used sport mentors to help children deal with trauma and continue their education. “Sport is an important building block for a peaceful and better world,” he emphasized.
HAYFA ALI AHMED MATAR (Bahrain) said sport could be used to build peace, sustainable development, cooperation and health, as it could traverse borders and languages. Given its universal nature, sport had the potential to build strong partnerships and solidarity and fight against hate, violence and discrimination. It could also play an important role in helping to implement the 2030 Agenda. “Sports can be used as a way of strengthening and upholding human rights,” she said, adding that Bahrain supported the participation of women and persons with disabilities.
RAMZI LOUATI (Tunisia) underscored the crucial role of sport in promoting peace and development. It was also a major component of the Tunisian development plan, contributing to realizing the Sustainable Development Goals, particularly in the areas of health, education and women’s empowerment. Sport promoted tolerance and respect, empowered women, young people and local communities and established an understanding among peoples and neighbours. He underscored the importance of cooperation among Member States in order to implement “L.5” and wished the Republic of Korea success in hosting of the Olympic Games.
THOMAS BACH, an observer for the International Olympic Committee, said the shared goal of his organization and the United Nations was to make the world a better and more peaceful place, with “L.5” being an expression of that shared commitment. The truce ensured the halt of hostilities, allowing athletes to safely participate in the Games. Those Olympic values were eternal and just as relevant in today’s troubling times. “In our fragile world, polarization and mistrust are growing,” he said, adding that sport played a unique role to build bridges and foster peace and understanding. For Olympic athletes, “L.5” carried specific importance, he said, recalling how they competed and lived in close quarters during the Games, sharing stories and experiences from across the globe. “Our fragile world needs such symbols of friendship and solidarity more than ever before,” he said, adding that the upcoming Olympic Games would foster hope for such principles.
The General Assembly then adopted resolution A/72/L.5 without a vote.
Revitalization of Work
Mr. LAJČÁK, delivering opening remarks on the revitalization of the work of the General Assembly, highlighted several recent achievements. Among them were the increasing transparency in the process of selecting and appointing the Secretary‑General, the introduction of an oath of office and a code of ethics for the General Assembly President and the adoption of resolutions setting clear timeframes for elections, which had helped Member States to better prepare for serving in the Economic and Social Council and the Security Council.
On a more personal level, he said, “action is needed from me, too”. As the second Assembly President to have taken the new Oath of Office, he had worked to uphold the high standards of transparency and ethics set out by his predecessors, including by providing full disclosure about the financing, staffing and travel of his Office. Noting that he would soon become the first Assembly President to publish a summary of his financial disclosure statement online, he said that on a daily basis, his agenda was posted on the Assembly’s website and his spokesperson provided media briefings. Prior to the start of the seventy‑second session, he had met with the Assembly’s General Committee to allow for a frank exchange of views, and met monthly with the presidents of the Security Council and the Economic and Social Council.
Looking ahead, he said, the Assembly’s current session would discuss issues related to the conduct of election campaigns, strengthening interaction between permanent missions to the United Nations and the Secretariat and options to establish a longer‑term and more transparent rotation of the chairs of its Main Committees. The issue of reform would also remain high on the Assembly’s agenda, he said, voicing concern over the lack of institutional memory within the President’s Office. As the most representative body of the United Nations, the Assembly gave all 193 Member States a voice and a vote. “This Hall should be a place for dialogue, a place we enter with ideas and proposals,” he said, adding that the chamber could not simply be a place for “red lines” and static positions. “This might be a tempting option,” he added, noting that it could lead to a win for one person, one State or one group. However, on the whole, he cautioned, “we will all lose” by taking such an approach.
SABRI BOUKADOUM (Algeria), speaking on behalf of the Non‑Aligned Movement, affirmed the importance of revitalization of the work of the General Assembly. He supported its stronger role in the selection of the Secretary‑General in full compliance with the Assembly’s mandate, including joint letters from the presidents of the Assembly and Security Council. He called on the presidents of both bodies to continue to hold informal meetings with candidates. For further improvement, practices in the election of heads of other entities in the Organization could be examined. Welcoming the nomination of women candidates, he called for the compilation of lessons learned from the last selection process.
Welcoming also the new Code of Ethics for the Assembly President, he called for expanding the institutional memory of the president’s office, including adequate briefings of successors. In general, he stated, the authority of the Assembly should be enhanced and public awareness increased. In addition, he suggested a range of ways to improve working methods. He pledged the Movement’s full support in strengthening the role of the General Assembly as the chief deliberative policy‑making organ as part of the effort to achieve inclusiveness, transparency and efficiency in the United Nations.
KIRA CHRISTIANNE DANGANAN AZUCENA (Philippines), speaking on behalf of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), said the revitalization process would make the United Nations more effective, transparent, inclusive and “fit‑for‑purpose”. Touching upon the process’ thematic clusters, she underscored the Assembly’s role as the chief deliberative and policy‑making organ of the United Nations. Regarding its working methods, she recommended the Assembly enhance areas of synergy and reduce any overlap on its agenda. Turning to the selection and appointment of the Secretary‑General and other executive heads, she said General Assembly resolution 71/323 must be implemented faithfully to ensure a transparent and inclusive selection process. In addition, the Secretary‑General must exercise independence on the selection of senior officials, while ensuring equal and fair distribution based on gender and geographical balance.
She also expressed support for the strengthening of the institutional memory of the Office of the Assembly President, calling for the full implementation of the relevant provisions. She went on to reaffirm ASEAN’s commitment to ensure the success of the ad‑hoc working group to revitalize the Assembly’s work. With the political will of all Member States, concrete results would be achieved, along with greater efficiency, transparency and accountability.
JOANNE ADAMSON, of the European Union delegation, said the recent ground‑breaking resolutions on revitalizing the General Assembly had seen the introduction of new and innovative ideas, including the selection and appointment of the Secretary‑General and strengthening the Assembly President’s Office. Those, and other examples, served as proof of how much could be achieved through constructive, reform‑oriented and consensus‑based work.
Effective multilateralism, with the United Nations at its core, was essential, she said, adding that the European Union strongly supported the Secretary‑General’s reform efforts. Strengthening the Organization and doing so based on sustainable funding was a top priority. An unceasing effort to find new and creative ways to work was also essential to bolster the effective delivery of mandates and the sustainable use of resources. Revitalizing the Assembly’s work was clearly foundational for the overall reform of the United Nations. Negotiations on the draft resolution should consolidate work that had been achieved to date, she said, highlighting the European Union’s continued engagement in the ad hoc working group.
Ms. ZAHIR (Maldives) said the appointment process of the Secretary‑General had demonstrated unprecedented levels of transparency and had enhanced the integrity of the General Assembly. However, there was a need to consider the reasons why so many resolutions and actionable mandates were not being executed. Enhanced coherence among the Assembly’s Main Committees, Economic and Social Council and the Security Council would make the Organization more effective especially in aligning with the Sustainable Development Goals. Attention to funding and programmes under the Economic and Social Council, regional commissions and other subsidiary bodies would also be beneficial in achieving common milestones.
IRINA VELICHKO (Belarus), associating herself with the Non‑Aligned Movement, said regular thematic discussions and events would help to decrease the technical burden on Member States in their interaction with the Secretariat and to build a system of predictable dialogue. Recent positive developments included the Secretariat consulting with permanent missions on matters that concerned them and the Department of Management pilot programme containing a “one‑stop‑shop” option to express comments and concerns. She also welcomed the new version of the United Nations Journal to be rolled out in 2018, adding that permanent missions must be provided with the opportunity to give input on how to make the Journal more user‑friendly. Other positive contributions were the new voting ballot format and the ban on promotional materials in the General Assembly Hall. The effectiveness of the Assembly’s work was directly dependent on its ability to promptly respond to current and modern challenges. In that context, some agenda items had lost their relevance, she added, proposing to streamline the Assembly’s work by limiting the number of items on its agenda.
INA HAGNININGTYAS KRISNAMURTHI (Indonesia), associating herself with ASEAN and the Non‑Aligned Movement, said that given the deep connection between the 2030 Agenda and sustaining peace, the ad‑hoc working group must link its efforts with other reform initiatives, such as those aimed at the Security Council. Member States must be more meaningfully involved in the selection process for the next Secretary‑General. The number of high‑level events should be rationalized, focusing on actualizing commitments for concrete results, and improvement of the working methods in the Main Committees, the Assembly and its sub‑organs was vital. Underscoring the importance of identifying well‑qualified candidates for senior positions in the Organization, he emphasized the equal significance of maintaining a gender and geographical balance, particularly from under‑represented countries.
JOSEPH TEO CHOON HENG (Singapore) said the General Assembly must build on improvements already made to its working methods, notably with regard to election processes. In that regard, Singapore looked forward to elaborating a code of conduct for Member States during electoral campaigns, which should focus more on each candidate’s qualifications and abilities and less on gifts and lavish receptions. Improvements in the selection and appointment of senior United Nations officials must not be limited to the post of Secretary‑General, but extended to all senior appointments. Practical proposals should meanwhile be developed to address gaps and duplication in the Assembly’s agenda as they relate to the 2030 Agenda.
YASUHISA KAWAMURA (Japan) said the implementation of United Nations resolutions was critical for enhancing the efficiency of the General Assembly and ultimately was the responsibility of Member States. As such, he was pleased to see some examples of the adoption of General Assembly resolution 71/323 with regards to a new ballot format and candidate campaign material. Emphasizing the need to adequately fund the Assembly President’s Office, he said Japan would provide a voluntary contribution. Japan was also working actively towards improving working methods within the United Nations, he said, noting the change of election dates of the Security Council and Economic and Social Council from October to June, which was meant to allow new members more time to prepare for serving on those bodies.
SURYANARAYAN SRINIVAS PRASAD (India), associating himself with the Non‑Aligned Movement, said the effectiveness and relevancy of any institution lay with its ability to adapt to meet modern challenges. While the Assembly was the most representative international body and could not be compared to any other organization or institution, many believed the body had lost touch with its core responsibilities and was involved with too many processes. A part of the blame lay with the Assembly itself, despite its role as the collective voice of mankind. Its position as the chief representative organ of the United Nations must be restored and respected “in letter and in spirit” and it must lead in resolving transnational issues. The Ocean Conference and the election of the Secretary‑General were “shining examples” of how the Assembly could set the global agenda. Although progress had been encouraging, there was a long way to go, he said, noting that India would continue to make proposals. The United Nations’ continued relevance would depend largely upon its ability to keep abreast with new developments. “We must heed the call for United Nations reform,” he said, adding that the time had come to strengthen the role of the General Assembly.