Translating April 6 into a global mobilization
The international community, activated by Peace and Sport, engaged last week in a successful mobilization, which proved that sport generates positive social change in the world. On the 4th edition of the International Day of Sport for Development and Peace (IDSDP), more than 43 million people were reached with the #WhiteCard campaign and inspired by the values of sport.
The 2017 #WhiteCard campaign successfully portrayed the universality of sport and brought together diverse groups of people. This year’s slogan ‘Show us Where you Play your Peace’ encouraged people to share their location alongside their photos holding a white card on social media to emphasize the global nature of sport. For instance, I was pleased to see a great number of athletes and Olympians posting pictures from iconic and symbolic places such as Eiffel Tower, Coliseum, United Nations and Capitol in Washington DC. Children and youth from remote areas were mobilized too by the vision of the latter digital campaign and posted a big amount of pictures on social media.
For the first time a great number of leaders and decision makers engaged in peace initiatives participated actively in the campaign. For instance, the President of Colombia Juan Manuel Santos participated in the #WhiteCard campaign, as well as other Nobel Peace Laureates such as former President of Poland, Lech Walessa, Yemeni journalist Tawakol Karman and members of the Tunisian National Dialogue Quartet.
In an unprecedented way this year, national and international sport institutions, including the Olympic Bids LA2024 and Paris2024 supported our efforts by posting pictures on social media holding #WhiteCard at the one of the most important sports events – SportAccord. For instance, representatives of WAKO, IPPA, WKF, WTF, ITTF, ISF, ISA, AS Monaco, FIBA, IBSFS and the USA Baseball Federation joined too.
I have the firm conviction that one #WhiteCard picture sends a powerful message, but simultaneously thousands of white cards present a universality of sport by raising awareness about the interconnected world.
Additionally, in an extraordinary demonstration of cooperation, this year sport leaders, and governmental and non-governmental organizations engaged in an unprecedented number of concrete transformative actions and sport-based initiatives. More than 630 projects in 180 countries from five different continents were registered on the www.april6.org platform.
For example, Peace and Sport together with the Permanent Mission of Monaco to the United Nations, the International Fencing Federation, the International Table Tennis Federation, the World Taekwondo Federation, the staff of the United Nations and high-level athletes sent a common message of unity and peace from the United Nations Headquarters in New York. In Colombia, a basketball match between girls from Choco, a territory with high presence of armed groups, and girls from Bogota was organized to promote social inclusion and reconciliation following the peace agreement with the guerrilla group FARC.
One of the most inspiring moments of this year’s April 6 edition took place in South Korea. Athletes from both North and South Korea accepted to stand united behind a common goal of world peace. Players from both nations posed together for a picture in support of the #WhiteCard campaign following their match at the International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF) Women’s World Ice Hockey Championship. This photography is a considerable achievement for the peace through sport movement, with the well-documented poor international relations between those two nations. I hope that this type of initiatives will encourage and motivate more diplomats, governments, athletes and sport leaders to use sport as a tool to build trust between countries and bring people together.
Thanks to the active participation of Champions for Peace, Peace and Sport has also been successful in fostering intercultural dialogue and social inclusion during this day. Over 17 Champions for Peace lead this year impactful sport-based initiatives. For example, Marlene Harnois taekwondo Champion and Olympic medalist organized a number of cultural and sporting activities in Bamako, Mali; Yelena Isinbaeva, pole-vaulter Champion and double Olympic Champion, hosted sports competitions for children in a social rehabilitation centre in Volgograd, Russia. Aya Medani, Olympian and World Champion helped children discover new sport activities in Cairo, Egypt. World record-holding free diver Pierre Frolla spoke at high schools around the Principality of Monaco. Honey Thaljieh, Tony Estanguet, Pernilla Wiberg, Imanol Harinordoquy and Philippe Gilbert were among the athletes that participated in the #WhiteCard.
Considering that April 6 has passed Peace and Sport is carrying the responsibility to spread the peace message to relevant decision makers and international institutions. I see that every year more and people are participating on April 6, as they are understanding that it is more than another international day. They are starting to understand that sport for development and peace is a legitimate movement that contributes through concrete actions and programs to the social and human development, conflict prevention and post conflict management.
I am convinced that there is a high range of opportunities where governments, global leaders and sporting institutions can use the movement’s spirit in order to create strategic partnership and positive social change. We need the knowledge of the international sporting federations for the effective implementation of sport-based initiatives. We also need the support of athletes spreading the positive message of sport by being role models for youngest generations. The work of the NGO’s is critical in developing effective sport initiatives, especially in vulnerable communities and post-conflict areas. The sport for development and peace movement also needs the involvement and support of the private sector. We need sensitive and effective public policies with national and international impact from governments and policy-makers. Researches from educational institutions are also needed, particularly in terms of effective project monitoring and evaluation systems. Finally, but not least, we need the youth. They will play a key role in the accomplishment of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.
Consequently, I want to thank to everyone who has been mobilized through sport-based initiatives and projects within the Peace and Sport vision during the last 4theditions of April 6 and also to invite them to be optimistic and to take leading roles promoting peace and development through sports. A lot of work is still needed so let’s all get together and unite to use sport as cost-effective tool and maximize sport simple solutions in sport-based projects to meet many development and peace challenges.