Today Parliament will hold its first ever debate on the Olympic Truce, which it will be my privilege to lead off in the House of Lords. I believe the Truce represents a golden opportunity to advance a Conservative vision of international society and should be grasped with enthusiasm by Her Majesty's Government.
The Truce runs from seven days before the Olympic Games until seven days after the Paralympic Games conclude. Since 1993 the Olympic Truce has been backed by a United Nations Resolution (A/RES/48/11) which ;
“Urges all Member States to take the initiative to abide by the Truce, individually and collectively, and to pursue in conformity with the purposes and principles of the Charter of the United Nations the peaceful settlement of all international conflicts.”
This UN Resolution which is renewed before each Winter Olympic and Summer Olympic Games is remarkable in two respects: First, it is signed up to unanimously by all 193 Member States of the United Nations and second, there is absolutely no record of any signatory to the Resolution ever taking any ‘initiative to abide by the Truce, individually or collectively’.
Some may say that I would have more success winning of the endorsement of the Unite Union for more radical public expenditure cuts than trying to win support for adherence to the Olympic Truce on a Centre Right blog, but I want to make the case that peace and truce as a means of achieving it are absolutely core to Conservative beliefs and values:
Law & Order: We believe in the abiding by the law and in the orderly conduct of state affairs. So when Her Majesty’s Government go before the United Nations General Assembly in 2012 to propose a legal instrument (a UN Resolution) which it currently has absolutely no intention of adhering to how is that ‘law abiding’? What example does that set to rogue states on the importance of adhering to UN Resolutions? War and conflict destroy order and create chaos. Peace gives a chance to restore order.
Defence & Immigration: We have seen all too often how failed states, invariably riven by conflict, become incubators for terrorism and drug running which are then exported around the world to devastating effect. Resolving conflicts is therefore surely a matter of enlightened national interest. We all stand in utter admiration for the courage and commitment of our brave armed forces, so surely any initiative which prevents one more death or injury of these heroes worth taking? There are globally over 36 million displaced refugees as a result of war, much of the pressure on our own borders comes from migrants fleeing violence and insecurity in their home country.
Freedom & Prosperity: Conflict promotes fear and erodes freedom. Conflict destroys efficient functioning of markets and the process of wealth creation. I am involved in politics because I believe in the peaceful resolution of disputes under the law. That is what parliamentary democracy was designed for. The rejection of violence and tyranny and the protection of the rights of the individual upheld by parliament is the purpose of politics. Why should we so diffident in taking every opportunity to advance abroad what we have come to enjoy at home. Prime Minister, David Cameron made a Statement to the House of Commons on 14 June, 2010 in which he concluded:
“Insurgencies usually end with political settlements—not military victories... and we need a political process to bring the insurgency to an end.”
It needs also to be stressed at this point that a Truce is an agreement between two or more warring parties, and if one of those parties doesn’t abide then the others are released from their obligations also. Moreover, Truce itself does not bring peace and security it is the fact that when the guns fall silent then the voices of reason can be heard and when the guns stop then the delivery of vital humanitarian aid can start. We know that the ceasefire in Northern Ireland was the essential pre-cursor to political agreement and political agreement the pre-cursor to economic development.
David Cameron, William Hague and Andrew Mitchell have revolutionised the Conservative approach to foreign policy under the banner of ‘One World Conservativism’. The Olympic Truce represents the first and best opportunity to advance this positive vision at home and abroad and with it the possibility for London 2012 to leave a legacy not just of sporting venues and medals, but in lives saved, freedoms protected, law upheld, prosperity enhanced and hope in the veracity of international order restored. Surely that is something that all Conservatives would consider a legacy worth ‘not-fighting’ for.