The Humanitarian (United Nations) programme places sport at the service of humanity by implementing in each country the Cooperation Agreements between the IOC and UN agencies. It also promotes the observance of the Olympic Truce declared by the UN General Assembly.
The United Nations (UN) was created in 1945, followed by its specialized agencies and programmes. Already in 1947, there was a campaign to establish working relations between the UN system and the Olympic Movement. This is how at the UNESCO general conference Armand Massard, president of the French National Olympic Committee and IOC member, made the following remark to the UN secretary General: “UNESCO stand for the organisation of the United Nations in the field of education, science and culture, the mere adding of the work ‘physical’ to either would be sufficient. Do not UNESCO and the IOC share the same ideals, in as much as they both aim at improving the individual on a moral and physical level, as well as contriving to being people together? The first aim is accomplished by means of public debates as well as literary and scientific works. The second by loyalty in stadium contests”.
Although the clear link between the two organisations is obvious to everyone today, it was, however, necessary to wait until 1976, before UNESCO called the first Conference of Ministers and Senior Officials in charge of Physical Education and Sports. The IOC President, Lord Killanin, who addressed the Conference, defended the maintaining of independence of sport and its administration. UNESCO thereon, adopted an ‘International Charter of Physical Education and Sport’, and established an Intergovernmental Committee for Physical Education and Sport.
After his election in 1980, and the successive boycotts affecting the Olympic Games on political grounds, Juan Antonio Samaranch, a skilful Spanish diplomat, also realised the need to establish working relations with Governments, the United Nations system, and other inter-governmental organisations. His first attempt was, to obtain the protection of the Olympic Games, from political upheavals, by involving the United Nations. He met with the United Nations Secretary General, Javier Perez de Cuellar, and set up an IOC Committee for follow-up purposes. But nothing of a concrete nature was achieved, for various reasons, and the Committee was dismantled. However, the Director General of UNESCO, Amadou Mahtar M’Bow, was invited to address the Olympic Congress in Baden Baden, Germany, in 1981, and cooperation agreements were also signed in the 1980’s with UNESCO and the World Health Organisation (WHO). Nevertheless, Samaranch continued his campaign around the world, to explain the Olympic Movement stand, to Heads of States and Governments, Ministers of youth and sports, education and foreign affairs. Before the end of his term of office, he visited 199 countries and territories.
It was in 1992, when the United Nations Security Council, included sport as an element of sanction against Yugoslavia, which was going to prevent its athletes from taking part in the Games of the XXV Olympiad in Barcelona (Spain), that the IOC decided to launch its appeal for the 'Olympic Truce'. This has now become an historical initiative, with the support of the UN General Assembly and regional political organisations. Politics has never been separated from sport, right from the first Olympic Games, held in 1896 in Athens (Greece), the cradle of Olympism. Thus, in 1993, a resolution on the observance of the Olympic Truce during the Olympic Games was adopted unanimously by the UN General Assembly. Even better, on the occasion of the centenary of the IOC, founded in 1894, the Assembly proclaimed 1994, as the International Year of Sport and the Olympic Ideal. From then on, the United Nations General Assembly, examines a resolution on the Olympic Truce, one year prior to the celebration of the Olympic Games. This is how 180 Member States, a record in the history of the United Nations, were co-sponsors of the resolution in 1999, prior to the Games of the XXVII Olympiad in Sydney (Australia).
The Olympic Truce resolution, entitled “Building a peaceful and better world through sport and the Olympic ideal”, is a symbol in favour of peace and is in no way binding. In other words, there is nothing forcing a State, or States, to respect the Truce. Despite this, the Olympic Truce has been taken into account each time, be it in 1994 during the war in Bosnia and Herzegovina, or in 1998 during the conflict with Iraq.
The fact that the world’s political leaders responded, and subscribed, to an initiative launched by the IOC, a non-governmental institution, is a source of satisfaction to the Olympic Movement. The United Nations Member States’ support for the Olympic Truce project is based on their conviction, of the role that the civil society, and particularly the youth, can play in promoting peace in the world. The most essential component in this IOC undertaking, is the prospect of using sport and the Olympic Ideal, as an instrument to foster dialogues and reconciliation, and the search for diplomatic solutions in conflict areas. It is undoubtedly a gesture of goodwill and solidarity.
The Olympic Movement and the United Nations system have now established close working relations. Since the XVII Olympic Winter Games in Nagano (Japan) in 1998, the UN flag flies at the main stadium and the Olympic Village as testimony to the excellent cooperation between the two organisations that share the same ideal of promoting peace and human understanding.
The IOC, like all international organisations, has its own specific responsibilities. It is therefore beyond that framework, that it has extended its cooperation to intergovernmental organisations, as a willingly accepted duty, to serve the world’s communities.
This new chapter of international cooperation, in the history of Olympism, provides practical expressions, to the fundamental principles of the Olympic Charter, and is also in conformity, with the purposes and principles of the Charter of the United Nations. Sport and Olympism can, finally, serve diplomacy and, inversely, diplomacy can serve sport. Yet, in the final analysis, everything depends on what humans do, for better or worse.
Taken from "The International Olympic Committee and the United Nations System" – document prepared by the IOC Department of International Cooperation, January 2002.
GENERAL (New Zealand)
On Olympic Day representatives of UN agencies in New Zealand and the Ministries that we are working with, are invited to Olympic House for an afternoon tea. This is an opportunity to discuss the various programmes and to give an overview of Olympism and how this relates to their current involvement with the Olympic Committee.
IOC / UNITED NATIONS (UNANZ)
Every two years prior to the Olympic Games, summer and winter, the General Assembly of the United Nations urges all member countries to observe peace throughout the world for the period of the Games by observing the Olympic Truce. Our role, in partnership with UNANZ, was to work with the Ministry for Foreign Affairs, (UN & Commonwealth Division), so that New Zealand supported the resolution for observance of the Truce during the Sydney 2000 Olympic Games. This resulted in the New Zealand Government co-sponsoring the resolution.
The Truce was announced in the NZ House of Parliament and UN flags flew side by side with Olympic flags outside Parliament throughout the duration of the Sydney Olympic Games.