- 1986-1999, predominant 1994-1997 (Creation)
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In 1993, the 27th session of the General Conference endorsed the idea that youth should contribute to ideals of peace on an international scale. Within this context, the UNESCO ‘Peace Games’ (‘Jeux de la Paix’ in French) were conceived, and based on an idea of an ‘Olympiades de l’Esprit’ (Olympiad of the Mind), wherein young people from around the world would compete through tests or activities centred around the theme of peace. The Games were approved by Director-General Federico Mayor in 1994 on the condition that an evaluation (test edition) take place to demonstrate the viability of the project. The soon-to-be-named Administrator of the Games, Suzanne Diop, would manage the project under the supervision of Arthur Gillette, Director of the Division of Youth and Sports Activities (SHS/YSA). After surveying the activities related to youth and peace among Permanent Delegations, it was decided that the test edition would take place in 1995, coinciding with the 10th Anniversary of the International Year of Youth, as well as the 50th Anniversary of UNESCO. This small-scale, trial edition took place in Romania in collaboration with the Romanian Ministry of Education and the National Commission, and saw some 5,000 youth participating from 30 UNESCO Associated Schools and Clubs throughout the country. Youth competed in the categories of spelling, choral singing and relay racing. Medals were awarded 7 June 1995 in Bucharest by Mr. Mayor. The Games received some financial and in-kind contributions from businesses in Romania and France, as well as from Non-Governmental Organizations.
In the Programme and Budget for 1996-1997, presented to the 28th Session of the General Conference in 1995, the Peace Games were included under the umbrella of the larger transdisciplinary project ‘Towards a culture of peace’, as they contributed to wider efforts of “peace-building ”. The Programme and Budget simply states that “Consideration will be given to the possibility of instituting a UNESCO Peace Games competition” (UNESCO. General Conference, 28th Session. 1995. 28 C/5, para. 05216). The Peace Games were discussed again at the 149th session of the Executive Board. The Board requested that the Director-General prepare a Feasibility Study to be submitted at the Board’s 150th Session.
Following on the first trial edition, an international trial edition of the Games was subsequently held with five countries participating: Benin, Costa Rica, Morocco, Romania and Togo. Approximately 20 youth from each country competed in the final which took place in Lomé, Togo, in September 1996.
Upon consideration of the feasibility study, the 150th session of the Executive Board called for a “scope that is less ambitious yet more consistent with the need for programme decentralization and concentration and with the Organization’s financial constraints” (UNESCO. Executive Board, 150th session. 150 EX/decision 8.1). The Board further invited the Director-General to take any “necessary steps to create a ‘UNESCO Peace Games’ label” that could be awarded to future ventures (UNESCO. Executive Board, 150th session. 150 EX/decision 8.1). However, after this point no further UNESCO Peace Games were awarded or held.
These UNESCO Peace Games are distinct from the UNESCO-IADC (Inter-American Defense College) PeaceGames which took place in the late 1990s and early 2000s, and aimed to include military organizations in wider, concrete peace-building efforts.