2013 Theme: "Racism and Sport"
"We must join forces to end racism, and sport can help reach this goal. On this International Day, let us recommit to ending racial discrimination and realizing our vision of justice, equality and freedom from fear for all."
Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon
Children at a 'Sport for Peace' soccer tournament aimed at encouraging Liberians to embrace and use sport in promoting peace, reconciliation, and development. UN Photo/Eric Kanalstein
This year's theme was chosen by the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights to highlight the problem of racism in sports, which remains a disturbing occurrence in many parts of the world, as well as to raise awareness of the role sports can play in combating racism and racial discrimination.
Both sports and human rights share many fundamental values and objectives. The principles underpinning the Olympic Charter, such as non-discrimination and equality, are also the bedrock of human rights. The Olympic Charter notes that the "goal of Olympism is to place sport at the service of the harmonious development of man, with a view to promoting a peaceful society concerned with the preservation of human dignity."
According to the UN Office on Sport for Development and Peace, well-designed sport activities that incorporate the best values of sport – self-discipline, respect for one's opponent, fair play, and teamwork – can help integrate marginalized groups and teach individuals the values necessary to prevent and resolve social tensions and conflicts.
The 2001 Durban Declaration and Programme of Action – a document at the centre of the international community's efforts to prevent, combat and eradicate racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance – urges States, in cooperation with intergovernmental organizations, the International Olympic Committee and international and regional sports federations, to intensify the fight against racism in sport (para 218).
In a resolution of 2010 (A/HRC/RES/13/27), the UN Human Rights Council urged States to prevent, combat and address all manifestations of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance in the context of sporting events.
The UNESCO Charter of Physical Education and Sport states that "every human being has a fundamental right of access to physical education and sport." The first article of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights affirms that "all human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights." The International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination reminds us of our collective responsibility for promoting and protecting these ideals.