MINEPS VI: When Ministers Determine Ways of Making Sport a Stronger Tool for Peace
The Sixth International Conference of Ministers and Senior Officials Responsible for Physical Education and Sport (MINEPS VI) held in Kazan, Russian Federation was a fruitful opportunity for Peace and Sport to appeal to governments for enhanced effort to develop peace-through-sport policies. This important meeting is dedicated to reflect on the key role that governments can play in promoting and integrating sport policies and actions in their domestic and international agenda.
On this occasion, the conference facilitated intellectual and technical exchange between various actors such as governments, intergovernmental organizations, the sport movement, academia and specialized NGOs in order to share experiences on the field, reflections on policies outcomes and impacts. MINEPS VI also served as an institutional mechanism for a coherent international strategy in this domain.
We live in times where there is an urgent need to go beyond sport-based initiatives on the field. There is an urgent need to shift from declarations of policy intent towards measurable actions at national level. Sport by itself is insufficient to make beneficial transformative change, but a well-co-ordinated multi-sectoral approach is necessary.
Consequently, Minister of Sport gathered at MINEPS VI to acknowledge the important role of multi-sectoral collaboration and agreed on an action plan related to developing a comprehensive vision of inclusive access for all to sport; maximizing the contributions of sport to sustainable development and peace; and protecting the integrity of sport.
In the last decade, an increasing number of governments have implemented peace through sport policies and field programs as a mechanism to support conflict prevention and peacebuilding efforts within communities. Colombia is one of the countries that has been actively developing sport programmes to promote reconciliation, reduce tension and generate dialogue with a multi-sectorial approach. For years, civil society organizations have been working hard to make Colombia a safer and better place through sport such as the organization Futbol con Corazon. Additionally, over the last couple of years, the Colombian government under the mandate of President Juan Manuel Santos have promoted a number of sport based projects through the different ministries of COLDEPORTES and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
On the other side of the world, the use of sport as a foreign policy and diplomatic tool has been used on the politically divided Korean peninsula. For instance, North and South Korea were re-united at the Beijing Olympics in 2008 by fielding a joint team for the first time since the troubled peninsula was divided 60 years ago. More recently, the 2017 IIHF Ice Hockey Women’s World Championship on the 6th of April North and South Korean athletes stood together behind a common goal of world peace in a memorable #WhiteCard photo.
Sport’s role as a tool for peace and social cohesion is relevant not only in conflict zones or post-war countries. In France, for instance, athletes are taking up their responsibilities as Ms Laura Flessel, Champion for Peace and Fencing Olympic Champion, who has been appointed by the French Government as the Minister of Sports. Ms Flessel is working on using sport as a mean to fight against discrimination and social exclusion. One of her objectives as French Minister of Sports is to make the most of her ‘Champion for Peace’ title. Hence, she attended MINEPS VI and promised a long-term reflection and action plan to integrate sport for inclusion, development and peace into domestic development programs.
Now more than ever, the world is looking for bold leadership at every level to tackle discrimination and exclusion. Governments, particularly ministries and policy makers, have a key role in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals by including sport in their agendas. Peace and Sport and I look forward to continuing the reflection nourished at MINEPS conference together with governments, NGO’s, academia and the sporting world to make sport a concrete tool to promote social cohesion and sustainable peace in national and international agendas.