It’s not just a game: UN-hosted event spotlights power of sports to advance shared values

High Representative for the Alliance of Civilizations (UNAOC), Nassir Abdulaziz Al-Nasser. Photo: UNAOC/Dan Sakamoto

22 May 2014 – High-level officials, prominent athletes and youth teamed up at the United Nations in New York today to spotlight the values that the world of sports can advance, including, diversity, inclusion, peacebuilding and development.

“We must look to the world of athleticism to find constructive strategies on how to overcome today’s challenges,” Nassir Abdulaziz Al-Nasser, High Representative for the UN Alliance of Civilizations, said at the opening of the World Sports Values Summit for Peace and Development.

“I believe that this can be drawn from one of the most prominent principles of modern-day athletics: just and fair play,” he continued.

“Imagine if the entire world was like this; a global community in which anyone could ‘play’ the game; social inclusion would not be determined by size, colour, race, language, faith or anything else. One would participate simply because of his or her interest, passion and skill. The love of the game would unify all individuals, all teammates. Nothing else would matter.”

Mr. Al-Nasser noted that sports unify those of all faiths, all cultures, and all languages, and that sports teams transcend physical, cultural and educational borders.

Sports, he added, convey values such as discipline, sacrifice, solidarity, courage and ethics. “These are many of the same values that started the very idea of sports and competitive play so many centuries ago. They exist still today, and they are more important than ever – particularly in the resolution of significant global issues.”

The event at UN Headquarters, which will wrap up tomorrow, is hosted by the UN Alliance of Civilizations (UNAOC) and sponsored by World Faiths Development Dialogue, Worldwide Support for Development and International Sports Promotion Society.

Mr. Al-Nasser has identified sports, among other forms of collective expressions of human values including art, music and entertainment, as additional tools that UNAOC can use to foster the culture of peace and diversity.

“It is crucial that we cease to dwell on our differences and instead use our common interests, skills and powers to foster international inspiration and break down the barriers which continue to divide us,” he told the gathering.

The summit is the third part of a series of annual international symposia aimed at highlighting the positive role that sports can play in furthering the cause for peace and human development. A first event in London in June 2012 launched the series, and a second was held in Tokyo in July 2013.

In a related development, the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) today appointed Carlos Alberto Parreira, the technical director of Brazil’s national football team, as UNICEF Brazil Champion for the Right to Safe and Inclusive Sports. He now becomes part of the team of celebrities supporting the agency’s work in Brazil in defending and promoting the rights of children and adolescents.

“For us from UNICEF, it is a great honour and joy to have Parreira as an ally so we can move forward in ensuring the rights of every child and adolescent,” said UNICEF Representative in Brazil Gary Stahl. “We believe that the passion for football and the positive vibrations of Brazilian fans can unite more and more people so that the right to sports is guaranteed, safely and inclusively, in the life of all boys and girls.”


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