Sport has historically played an important role in all societies, be it in the form of competitive sport, physical activity or play. But one may wonder: what does sport have to do with the United Nations? In fact, sport presents a natural partnership for the United Nations (UN) system.

Sport as a Fundamental Right

The right of access to, and participation in, sport and play has long been recognised in a number of international conventions. In 1978, UNESCO described sport and physical education as a "fundamental right for all." But until today, the right to play and sport has too often been ignored or disrespected.

Sport as a Powerful Tool

Sport has a unique power to attract, mobilize and inspire. Sport plays a significant role as a promoter of social integration and economic development in different geographical, cultural and political contexts. Sport is a powerful tool to strengthen social ties and networks, and to promote ideals of peace, fraternity, solidarity, non-violence, tolerance and justice.

Sport encourages:

  • Individual development.
  • Health promotion and disease prevention.
  • The promotion of gender equality.
  • Social integration and the development of social capital.
  • Peace building and conflict prevention/resolution.
  • Post-disaster/trauma relief and normalisation of life.
  • Economic development.
  • Communication and social mobilisation.

Sport and Peace

Sport as a universal language can be a powerful tool to promote peace, tolerance and understanding by bringing people together across boundaries, cultures and religions. Its intrinsic values such as teamwork, fairness, discipline, respect for the opponent and the rules of the game are understood all over the world and can be harnessed in the advancement of solidarity, social cohesion and peaceful coexistence.

Sport programmes permit encounters on neutral territory and in an environment where aggression can be controlled, regulated and transformed and hence facilitates rapprochement and reconciliation between opposing parties.

Although sport alone cannot stop or solve an acute conflict, it represents a flexible and cost-effective medium for post-conflict relief work and peace building as well as conflict prevention.

Sport and Sustainable Development

Sport has proven to be a cost-effective and flexible tool in promoting peace and development objectives. Since the inception of the MDGs in 2000, sport has played a vital role in enhancing each of the eight goals, a fact which has been recognized in numerous Resolutions of the General Assembly. In the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development sport’s role for social progress is further acknowledged:

"Sport is also an important enabler of sustainable development. We recognize the growing contribution of sport to the realization of development and peace in its promotion of tolerance and respect and the contributions it makes to the empowerment of women and of young people, individuals and communities as well as to health, education and social inclusion objectives."