First presentation is given by Brigadier General Giovanni Gola, order President of the International Military Sports Council (CISM). He’s giving a historical review of the relationship between sports and the military and brings plenty of examples from the Military World Games (some editions took place in Croatia and India). After CISM has received UN military recognition they started promoting “sport for all” soldiers under the headline “soldiers running for peace”. CISM currently numbers 48 member countries.
My question is why, when there are so many sports competitions around, a specially dedicated competition to the military – also a good opportunity for world military leaders to meet – is necessary. An answer I received via Facebook, just now, was that is a good opportunity for militaries to show that they are not only about war but that they can be about peace as well. While that might be a good answer to consider, I am not fully satisfied with it one of the reasons being that I would think that the resources dedicated to organizing these games, although spent towards a peaceful cause and towards setting a positive example, could be redirected to peace supporting initiatives.
Edwin Odur-Luru, Social Worker, together with Ernst Suur, Project Advisor from Warchild Uganda are next. One of the speakers observed that the number of women is the room is very small compared to the number of men, saying that is a big disappointment especially when comparing with IOC mission to promote women rights. The presenters bring a successful case study of a charity sports league.
A presentation of Somalia and how sport can bring hope to the country follows. The presenter, HE Suleyman Olad Roble, Minister of Youth and Sport of the Somalian Government says that “despite the prevalent insecurity, sport remains the only event that defied the artificial political barriers” and “one of the few things that can unite all somalians including people with hard line ideologies”. He shows the most of the sports facilities in present Somalia are used by the army – which brings me back to the first presentation of the day – if Somalia were to join the Military Games how would their military bring a positive example to their people when they are actually occupying almost half of the sports facilities in the country? However, his presentation is a call for help and for an integrated approach in tacking the Somalian sports promotion. He hopes, that he’ll be able to liaise here with people that would be able to give support to Somalian sports institutions. He concludes by saying that the IOC, UNESCO, UNICEF and other UN-related agencies will also take an advisory role.
Last presentation of the session is about “an ambitious project” brought by Dr Eugenia Vathakou from the International Olympic Truce Centre and by Dr Max Stephenson, Director of the Institute for Policy and Governance from Virginia Tech University, USA. Sports can be a tool for conflict transformation, Dr Vathakou says, and claims that plenty of research and examples are out there to prove it. But, she continues, sports has also been used to create conflict and create people. Therefore, she suggests that a lot of attention need to be paid when using and promoting sport. She dismisses that learning processes of sports can only promote peace her argument being that learning processes are as dynamic as anything else, and that they too, as sport can be used to enforce a conflict. Their project, she says, brings together a group of highly qualified people with experience in conflict transformation that will develop a practical manual for peace keepers. A handbook for UN workers stressing the importance of communication. An ambitious project I would say and I cannot stop wondering how big this handbook would be and how much they can offer simple solutions to complicated and nuanced conflictual situations.
Q&A session starts.
Prince Faisal brings an interesting point – such initiatives for peace promotion don’t have neccesarily to take place in post-conflict areas traumatized by violence. Conflict to him needs to be prevented and factors generating conflict are many from socio-economic to tribal differences.
Questions about whether and where the presentations from the Forum, conclusions and works would be made available later are asked. There’s no clear answer but the NOC will most probably be briefed about the results.
Sport, and military sport too, has the important role of bringing young soldiers together, have them meet each other and understand each other. That’s what the Military Games are about… said Brigadier Gola.
Now lunch. Session 3 will be about the Legacy for education, development and peace of the Olympic Games.