Wilfried Lemke
Special Adviser to the UN Secretary-General on Sport for Development and Peace

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23/10/2016 par Wilfried Lemke

Promoting the United Nations values through Sport

Sport is a cost-effective, flexible and powerful tool in promoting peace and development objectives. It brings people together regardless of their origins and backgrounds, creates strong social cohesion and bonds, and facilitates mutual understanding and dialogue. Sport promotes universal values that transcend language and culture. Therefore, sport has unique potential and can be used for social change around the world.

These unprecedented values have been acknowledged in numerous Resolutions of the General Assembly. In the Declaration of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development sport was recognized as ‘an important enabler of sustainable development’.

In August 2013, the UN General Assembly established 6 April as the International Day of Sport for Development and Peace. The day offers a natural focal point for the movement, which was buoyed by sport’s recognition in the sustainable development agenda adopted by the UN last year.

Harnessing this considerable potential of sport, my Office, the United Nations Office on Sport for Development and Peace (UNOSDP) has long been bringing people together through sport and supporting sport for peace initiatives from mega sport events to the grassroots level. These initiatives help sport achieve its fullest potential in realizing the global goals.

Since being appointed Special Adviser to the UN Secretary-General on Sport for Development and Peace in 2008, I have identified five priority areas: conflict resolution, gender equality, development of Africa, inclusion of persons with disabilities, and youth development. Leading the United Nations efforts on sport development and peace, my mandate serves to advocate, facilitate and represent the use of sport as a platform for social enhancement and development around the world.

In regard to these areas, in 2012 UNOSDP launched its flagship grassroots level initiative, the Youth Leadership Programme, with the aim of training and empowering young leaders from disadvantaged communities through sport. With over 600 alumni from more than 100 countries, the Progamme utilizes the core values of sport such as dialogue, respect, and inclusion.

UNOSDP continue to encourage dialogue between parties of conflicts and in 2014, youth and officials from the two Koreas were invited to the Camp in Gwangju. UNOSDP also welcomed six young refugees to its Hamburg camp this year to educate on how sport can unite communities and ease with integrating in a new area. Using the multiplier effect, participants then return home to their local community to implement the new skills and knowledge they have acquired, through their own sport for development projects, which further increases the reach of the YLP.

UNOSDP is the entry point to the United Nations system with regard to the use of sport and physical activity as tools in pursuit of development, humanitarian and peace-building efforts. The Office has supported numerous grassroots projects around the world. Most recently, I visited the Diyar Consortium project in Palestine which effectively illustrates sports’ ability to promote gender equality. The project established a sports center which provides an opportunity for women to safely participate in sport in and learn key transferable skills and knowledge for employment.

In April this year, I went to Nepal for the inauguration of the ‘Table Tennis For NepALL’ project, which promotes the inclusion of people with disabilities. It is a great example of how sport can foster social development, by changing perceptions about people with disabilities as well as providing them with a valuable opportunity to participate in sport. The project specifically targeted the areas of Nepal most effected by the devastating earthquake in 2015, by helping to rebuild accessible facilities and supporting children with impairments through table tennis.

These kind of initiatives were made possible thanks to a powerful network of partners and stakeholders with a common commitment to harness the power of sports as a catalyst for development and peace.

An outstanding example of such a partnership in this context is the one between the UN and the International Olympic Committee, who holds an Observer status to the UN General Assembly and is a key partner of UNOSDP with several joint initiatives in Sport for Development and Peace. Each Olympic year both parties urge Member States to cease conflict and observe the Olympic Truce. The Olympic Truce Resolution, adopted in several United Nations General Assembly resolutions, calls for Member States to respect a period of truce during the celebration of the Olympic and Paralympic Games with the hope that one day of Truce can lead to a week of peace, a month of peace and eventually an end to war.

As we celebrate the United Nations Day today, let us come together to promote a more inclusive and peaceful world through sport’s universal values and principles. The United Nations Office on Sport for Development and Peace and its partners will keep using sport to promote the United Nations values and ensure that major sporting event leaves behind a sustainable and inclusive legacy.

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