Imperial War Museum Build The Truce
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During the Olympic and Paralympic Games, all the nations taking part agree to support global truce. The host nation shows support for the Truce through practical and cultural activities  (see  June news) and here are some of the ways the UK  is making this happen for 2012:

In Barbados the British High Commission and a local NGO hosted a football match bringing together rival gangs from underprivileged areas -  neutral ground for  young people who would not go into each other’s areas for fear of violent conflict.

In Quito, Ecuador the British Embassy is sponsoring children’s rights projects, and supporting children’s participation to reduce their chances turning to social violence

In Sri Lanka, the UK High Commission hosted a sports day inspired by the Paralympics for participants with disabilities. Soldiers, ex- combatants and civilians, many of them former enemies in conflict, took part in the event.

In the Philippines the UK’s Foreign & Commonwealth Office worked alongside local people to organise a coaching and football tournament, bringing together Christian and Muslim communities.

In Colombia 8 young sportspeople visited London 2012 as Olympic Truce ambassadors

The British High Commission in Sierra Leone hosted a basketball tournament between rival groups, calling the event ‘Hoops for Peace’.

I found this last item especially interesting. It may not sound like a huge achievement, but the ‘rival groups’ in Sierra Leone have a background of extremely violent civil war and armed conflict. I knew very little about this country and its conflict situation until we interviewed  Courtny Edwards, who worked with a medical aid agency just after the war ended in Sierra Leone. Some of her interview features in our displays at IWM North and IWM London. In case you miss them, I’ll upload links to clips from Courtny’s interview next week – more Truce films coming up over August and September as we head towards International Day of Peace in September.

It’s easy to be cynical about these kinds of projects. But for the people taking part – perhaps especially the young people born into conflict or post-conflict zones – it means a day, or maybe just 90 minutes, to play the game and celebrate. Its time out from conflict. It sounds a bit like truce to me.

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Aung San Suu Kyi delivering her Nobel Lecture at the Oslo City Hall, 16 June 2012.

Aung San Suu Kyi delivering her Nobel Lecture at the Oslo City Hall, 16 June 2012. Copyright © Nobel Media AB 2012 Produced by NRK

The Nobel Prize for Peace was awarded to Aung San Suu Kyi in 1991. 21 years later she was able to accept the award in person and delivered her acceptance speech in Oslo last weekend.
I watched this on Saturday. After working on the Build the Truce project for nearly 3 years I have met with, and heard the stories of, a lot of people with different experiences of conflict. Some of these experiences were of violent, armed conflict and war. Others were related to  undeclared, underlying conflict – situations of apparent ‘peace’ where people still lived with fear, threat and injustice every day. So this is the part of Aung San Suu Kyi’s speech that stood out for me personally:

‘War is not the only arena where peace is done to death. Wherever suffering is ignored, there will be the seeds of conflict, for suffering degrades and embitters and enrages.’

If you haven’t already, you can watch or read the speech here.

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I directed the Build the Truce film now installed at IWM London, having worked on the project for several months with curators Catherine Roberts at IWM and Dr Tim Jacoby (University of Manchester). Becoming involved in a project like this can be daunting. There’s masses of research to do, new expressions to learn and experts to talk to. The learning curve is steep but once the research has started you wonder how on earth you went through your life not thinking about this stuff before.

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December 10 is Human Rights Day. In 2011 you watched as people around the world stood up for their rights and their freedom. Maybe you did too.

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights belongs to all of us, and was the world’s international response to the shared horror of the Second World War. It sets out, in 30 separate articles, the promise made by the international community to the people of the world: to respect and protect humanity through a commitment to defending  basic, human rights.

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