It’s not the United Nations which is failing in Syria but the nations who are failing the UN…..

Lord Bates

The newspapers and news channels are bulging with criticism of the United Nations for ‘failing to halt the bloodshed in Syria.’ They are right to be outraged but the target of that frustration which we all share should be the member states not the institution of the UN.

Consider one small matter—the Olympic Truce which commenced on 27 July and will run through to the end of the Paralympic Games on 9 September. This resolution of the UN General Assembly says that all member states will observe ‘individually and collectively, a truce in the spirit of the ancient Games.’

The resolution was not only signed, but co-sponsored by all 193 member states of the UN General Assembly when it was proposed by the UK and the IOC (International Olympic Commission) in October last year.

Contrast this with the vote on Syria in the UN General Assembly on 3rd August which had 133 votes in favour, 12 against and 31 abstained and you begin to see what an extraordinary achievement the Truce resolution is and yet politicians and journalists are bewailing the unanimous resolution we didn’t get at the UN General Assembly and yet failing to honour the unanimous resolution we did get.

Moreover the Olympic Truce UN resolution was not only supported by all 193 member states of the UN, it has been signed up to by all 205 National Olympic Committees taking part in the Games and all 15,000 athletes are required to sign the Truce Wall before taking part in the Games.

With the eyes of the world on London and Damascus why isn’t the world coming together calling for the Olympic Truce? China was the last nation to propose the Olympic Truce at the UN for the Beijing Summer Games, Russia will be the next nation to propose the Olympic Truce for the Sochi Winter Games.

Why can’t the world come together through the Olympics, for which in ancient times the Truce was not just part of the Games it was the entire point of the Games, and call for a pause in the violence so that civilians can receive much needed humanitarian aid and political negotiations given a chance to restart?

Prime Minister, David Cameron called the Olympic Truce and “historic opportunity” and yet the opportunity is draining away with every shell fired in Syria. National politicians schmoozing around the corporate hospitality suites of the Olympic Park and  basking in photo opportunities with national medal winners might do well to recall that the in the ancient Olympic Games there were no city-states represented.

The whole point of the Games was to get athletes and warriors to leave behind their small-minded nationalism and embrace the greater unity of Olympianism. If athletes violated the Sacred Truce or sought to celebrate their narrow city-state identities then they were either expelled or fined.

One man has not forgotten what the ancient Games were about and their potential for peace today and that man is the Secretary General of the United Nations, who reminded us last week:

“The Truce may sound like something from the distant past that has no place in our times,” Mr. Ban said. “It may seem naive to think that hardened fighters and their patrons will listen, but relevant it is, and try we must.” Mr. Ban said he was particularly concerned with the situation in Syria and the escalating violence in the city of Aleppo, and urged the Syrian Government to halt their offensive. “The violence from both sides must stop for the sake of the suffering civilians of Syria,” he said.

There is hope: traditionally in the Modern Olympics the Opening Ceremony all athletes enter the stadium behind their national flags, but at the Closing Ceremony they enter the stadium together as Olympians.

Could this be the moment at which the world comes together in unity to call a halt to all violence and the honouring of the Olympic Truce which we have all “individually and collectively” sworn to observe?

In sport, as in politics and life in general, to try, to give you’re all and yet to fall short is a position of honour but to declare failure without having tried is cowardly and brings dishonour to that great ancient Olympic spirit.

For one moment during the Closing Ceremony could the UN, the IOC, all athletes and national leaders rise above our narrow differences and historical prejudice and strain every sinew to breathe a message of peace into the suffering corners of the world.

If this ‘historic opportunity’ is missed then it will not be the UN which has failed but the nations who have once again failed the UN.


Michael Bates is a campaigner for the Olympic Truce. Last year he walked 3000 miles from Olympia in Greece to London to highlight the Truce. Currently he is in Lebanon seeking to provide humanitarian relief to refugees fleeing the fighting in Syria.


14 comments for “It’s not the United Nations which is failing in Syria but the nations who are failing the UN…..

  1. Gareth Howell
    04/08/2012 at 4:41 pm

    How is the consensus of opinion reached in the UN, every time a dictator/president seems to be toppling, to become involved in the chorus or cacophone to depose him/her, and more actively in providing arms and technology?

    When that decision is reached do the Russians normally oppose as the Soviet Union always did,
    but today in a more muted way?

  2. 04/08/2012 at 7:10 pm

    Lord Bates,

    I think that a worthy effort has been made in your efforts to renew the Olympic Truce. It is not cetain that it will mature over future Olympics but certainly you and others have made that possible…

  3. MilesJSD
    05/08/2012 at 3:57 am

    Lord Bates unfortunately includes fallacious argumentation

    1) news channels “bulging” with criticism of the United Nations for ‘failing…’:
    this is both
    a fallacy of Argumentum ad modum (i.e. distractional Emotional Appeal)
    and the insinuation of the fallacies of Composition and Division vying with each other
    (when the fact is, that since the United Nations is where every Nation publicises its attitude towards the Issue,
    every Nation has already ‘failed’
    (i) to prevent,
    and thereafter
    (ii) to halt
    the bloodshed in Syria.

    The matter is also a Complex Question one.
    Next fallacy, that the soft-gloved “Olympic Truce Agreement” (193 votes)
    is in the same class as the vote to “Stop” the already well-advanced civil-war fighting and ‘bloodbathing’ within Syria
    (133 votes for, 12 against, 31 abstentions – which incidentally adds up to only 176):

    these two Intentions are not in the same class.

    The fallacy of Dicto simpliciter has been committed: getting a unanimous vote in favour of a “Truce”
    is far simpler than
    getting in between two already hotly-warring armies and actually “stopping the bloodshed, “arresting the culprits”, and then “bringing them all to The Peace Table” and into “The Olympian Brotherhood”;
    noble and necessary ‘though the latter most probably is.
    The UN has by no means yet established itself as being “Always the Best, Always Reliably Right”.
    Lord Bates ’emotes’ his last paragraphs believably enough,
    Yet there is confusion:
    where he is saying (in effect):
    (“) For the first time in History, the Leaders of our World,
    those drawing multiple-human-livings each, from the Common Purse and who can’t keep themselves healthy, Earth-citizenlike, and environmentally-supportive on just one-human-living like the billions on small fractions of a human-living-each, in “the suffering corners of the World”,
    should “strain every one of their sinews to -‘breathe a message of peace’
    into the eagerly-awaiting ears of the maimed and starving and industrially-disabled billions, of many kinds of People, mostly huddled away in “the suffering corners of the world”
    but some leaning back, feasting gut with fastfoods, and eyes with TV Olympic Games feat-after-feat, are in cold-steel-fact lazily deluding themselves that they are “an integral and co-creative participant and (each in his-her own way) the ‘best-in-the-world’ (“).
    Once you can get an effectively leaderful critical mass to begin building the Individual-Health, Earth-citizenship, and ewnvironmental-supportiveness, and be always building it exemplarily and emulably,
    from the ‘bottom’ upwards i.e. throughout the povertied billions in the suffering corners of the world equally with those of us ‘First-Worldians’ who can loll back and unconsciously fantasise ourselves up there winning Gold-Medals or at least completing our various attempts at that,
    you will be achieving good and honest governance, as well as sustainworthy-leadership.

    But until then ?
    not a snowball’s chance in Hell.

  4. maude elwes
    05/08/2012 at 5:18 pm

    This country must look into its own duplicity before hacking away at telling the rest of the world what it should and should not be doing.

    I read in the paper today that Britain’s key role in Libyan rendition was a flat out violation of ‘hunman rights.’ And who was playing the role of Prime Minister at the time? Well, of course, the notorius Blair, with his side kick, Jack Straw, in tow.

    Whistleblowers will keep falling out of that closet we have them in, and all the money in the world will not keep them quiet in the long run. Because, money doesn’t satisfy and what they really want is redress. Justice cannot be had by buying off those who were brutally abused.

    So, the Hague should prepare itself for a Nuremberg style inquest into all of this criminality and now. No point in hesitating, yet again, is there?

    • MilesJSD
      07/08/2012 at 1:22 am

      maude, allow me to attempt a small piece of kindly-and-hopefully-constructively-criticism, if I may:

      in reporting that (“) Britain’s key role in the Libyan rebellion was a violation of human rights(“)

      and then yourself stating that that violation was caused by

      ‘the notorious PM Blair with his sidekick Straw’

      is to commit the fallacy of
      “It’s All the Government’s Fault”

      which Professor Madsen Pirie in his “How To Win Every Argument” innovatively introduces as

      “The Thatcher Fallacy”
      (certain unpopular events came to be by public-rote automatically, and somewhat blindly, blamed upon PM Maggie).
      I do not want to lose your insightful contributiveness
      But to see it strengthened, dear maude.

      • maude elwes
        07/08/2012 at 11:17 am

        Dear Miles,

        The gist lies in the word facilitator.

        If you link your action and beliefs to a policy and you are declared the open leader of such policy, then you are its generator.

        Thatcher proclaimed her government was following her will. She was a powerful instigator of all she surveyed. Therefore, what resulted from her time in office, puts her squarely in the frame. Good or bad.

        That goes with every man or woman who takes that path. And they must be held accountable for their actions.

        Think of it this way. Would you declare Hitler a pawn in another groups intention? I don’t think so. Collaboration is to collude in bringing about an event.

        As, Thomas More, said, or, was said to have said, ‘to remain silent is to agree.’ Silence is collusion.

        Your counsel is always respected. And I take your point.

        • MilesJSD
          08/08/2012 at 7:28 am

          A true statesman, Thomas More’s added support in that same part of his ‘trial’ (rigged also by one ‘Richard Rich’, a veritable traitor and tapeworm to his benefactor Thomas More, wasn’t it ?);
          “The People must judge according to their wits”
          should surely have catatalysed both Citizenship-Educators and Peoples to be ever-improving their, and each others’, Wits;

          but it didn’t;

          neither have any of the Governance Classes since, seriously improved their wits, either;
          this is what I am finding.
          Thank you for your other insights;

          (but I do think that Hitler started off as a ‘pawn’,
          in the hands of mixed and witches brews of sponsors, power-brokers and manipulators, from Krupps Messerschmitt, and Speer to Heinrich, Himmler and Doctor Mengele;
          yet by the end of WW2 he had been put down by a leading German historian as being “not just the worst tyrant in History but the only totally-destructive one”.

          My most-useful definition of ‘facilitator’ is the recent one, for Meetings where his/her focal task is to “keep the other participants two-way commujnicating with each other –
          and to support or ‘lead’ the Chair into keeping them reasonably ‘on track’, ‘on-topic’, cooperatively-participative.

          (I don’t like seeing a ‘facilitator’ as ‘an accomplice in crime’, ‘a mole’, or a ‘getaway-driver’).

          ((Neither do I see “silence” as being “tacit -approval”;
          only as being a form of “abstention”))

          • maude elwes
            08/08/2012 at 11:46 am

            Well, Miles, what you’re saying, I think, is Blair was a pawn. I have yet to come in contact with a pawn who makes millions from his pawnery.

            He was and is no pawn. Those around may well have been pawn’s in his clutches, but he was and is an instigator of hell, with his eyes wide open.

            Remember that ad the Tories put up of him and removed? Whoever came up with that little mind shaker had his finger right on the button.


  5. Gareth Howell
    07/08/2012 at 7:38 pm

    “How is the consensus of opinion reached in the UN, every time a dictator/president seems to be toppling, to become involved”

    My question is, who puts the resolution in the UN, and who decides whether it should be put?

  6. 10/08/2012 at 3:16 pm

    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?

  7. maude elwes
    14/08/2012 at 12:21 pm

    As footnote to what I wrote in a post above, does anyone here realise that one of the main reasons for pulling out of Europe and getting rid of our commitment to Human Rights and the keeping of the, Human Rights Act, is to enable those who committed crimes against humanity, whilst they were in government, to be pushed one step further away from being tried in the Hague? They hope, that is.

  8. Gareth Howell
    22/08/2012 at 3:43 pm

    The Syria files on the website of the Wikileaks organisation seems to have been making the running, but this time not just to government secrets scandal, but following the
    collapse of a regime as it does so, a slight change of direction, but “leaks” nonetheless.

    The work was done by “Anonymous”, an old friend of Julian Assange.

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