Secretary-General, at Forum on Sport, Peace and Development, Spells Out Areas for Further United Nations Collaboration with Olympic Movement

11 May 2011

Secretary-General, at Forum on Sport, Peace and Development, Spells Out Areas for Further United Nations Collaboration with Olympic Movement

11 May 2011
Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Secretary-General, at Forum on Sport, Peace and Development, Spells Out


Areas for Further United Nations Collaboration with Olympic Movement


Following are UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s remarks to the second International Forum on Sport, Peace and Development in Geneva today, 11 May:

It is a great pleasure and honour for me to address this second Forum on Sports and Peace and Development.  I am now here for two specific reasons.

First, because this Forum is the first of its kind to be held at the United Nations, in this Palais des Nations, and I wanted to show my full support for the growing cooperation between the United Nations and the Olympic Movement.  Second, because I want to explain why I believe you should get even more involved in our global work for development and peace.

You are all big sports fans.  And sports fans, I understand, like trivia questions.  So let me test you and give you one question this morning, right now before I begin.

My question is: what do Ronaldo, Didier Drogba or [Zinedine] Zidane have in common?  If your answer would be that they are all football players, you would be half right.

They are all among the United Nations Goodwill Ambassadors.  So we have many such Goodwill Ambassadors who are working for the common cause of peace, development and human rights, and I thank them very much.  They also star in an educational comic book on the Millennium Development Goals.  It is called Score the Goals.  Their involvement is helping us to make inroads against poverty, hunger, expand education, promote the women’s role and women’s rights and protect our environment.

This is just one initiative among many in which we work together.  The “Nothing but Nets” campaign has helped to bring anti-malarial bednets to millions of people.  We have been saving tens of millions of people, particularly young children.  The Indian Premiere League is working with the UN Environment Programme, UNEP, to raise environmental awareness among cricket fans.

These efforts show teamwork in action — the sporting world coming together on a wide range of issues, on behalf of all humankind.  We are here together today to explore what more we can do for peace and development.

Two years ago, as President [Jacques] Rogge said, in 2009 in Copenhagen, I myself participated in the IOC [International Olympic Committee] Congress.  And thereafter I had been visiting the headquarters of IOC.  I have been meeting President Rogge and other Olympians — how we can work together to promote and to work for the common goals of the United Nations.

That same year, the IOC was granted Permanent Observer status of the United Nations General Assembly — this is a great opportunity and occasion.  Now IOC representatives participate in official meetings of the United Nations and make important contributions.

In this regard, I would like to particularly commend highly the leadership and vision of President Jacques Rogge in making our two organizations work ever closer together in pursuit of common goals.  He has helped in bringing up our closer cooperation to an even higher level.

Dear President Rogge, I know that the Olympic Movement has many excellent development projects in Africa, developed under your distinguished vision and leadership.  With a view to further strengthening our cooperation in the implementation of sports for development projects, I should like to invite you to join me and my Special Adviser in one of my future trips to Africa to show us a concrete project on the ground.  If you agree with me, I’ll try to arrange that, thank you very much.

Many United Nations organizations are working productively with the IOC and the Olympic family — for example at the First Youth Olympic Games last August in Singapore.  But the Olympic Movement does more than just organize games.  It encourages global partnership.  It promotes equality, fairness and it stands for a culture of peace.

Together, the IOC and the United Nations have revived the idea of observing an Olympic Truce.  Of course, guns do not always fall silent, but we shall keep trying.  We are still being troubled by all what’s happening in North Africa, in Libya and in many other parts of the Arab world.  However, such Olympic Truce pauses can offer a much-needed respite from violence — periods in which humanitarian assistance can be delivered.  The Truce can also give mediators crucial time.

The United Nations also uses sport to support peacebuilding.  Participation in football matches, for example, has helped ex-combatants to reintegrate into communities and break down stereotypes and stigma.

We have much experience under our belts.  But where do we go from now?  Allow me to propose four areas for further collaboration.

First, let us make the most of “mega” sporting games.  Large-scale events such as the Olympics, or the football or cricket World Cup, or the Superbowl, they offer tremendous visibility to the people.  I invite the Olympic family and the entire sporting world to consider how we can seize these opportunities.  Let us make London the greenest Games yet, as the United Kingdom has pledged to do.  Let us make Sochi accessible to all people with disabilities, as the Russian Federation intends to do.

Second, let us do more to mainstream sport in our development, peacebuilding and peacekeeping activities.  There is a tremendous potential here — to educate future leaders, to create positive role models, to reach out to the poorest and most troubled areas in the world.  But only a few countries have done this to date.  I urge Governments to integrate sport in development assistance programmes and in national development programmes.

At the policy level, the United Nations can assist by sharing best practices through the Sport for Development and Peace International Working Group.  At the practical level, cooperation between peacekeeping operations and the sporting world can contribute to stability in conflict and post-conflict areas.

Third, let us explore how the sporting community can support the transformations that are under way in North Africa and the Middle East.  The United Nations has used sport in many troubled societies — from the Balkans to Cyprus to Africa — to promote reconciliation and help children learn positive social values.  We all know that children and youth are often those who suffer most from conflicts.  Sports programmes can help give them a second chance — a chance to learn skills and regain confidence.

Fourth, I urge Governments, the sporting world and other partners to support the work of my Special Adviser and the United Nations Office on Sport for Development and Peace.  Mr. [Wilfried] Lemke, my Special Adviser, and his predecessor have helped us come a long way in the 10 years that this Office has existed.  We want to go further still, and the Special Adviser can be a catalyst for deepening partnerships and making most of what you all have to offer.

Sport has become a world language, a common denominator that breaks down all the walls, all the barriers.  It is a worldwide industry whose practices can have widespread impact.  Most of all, it is a powerful tool for progress and for development, and I thank you for your active cooperation and leadership in working together with the United Nations to achieve the Millennium Development Goals.

Of course, for the Olympians and athlete sportsmen, the important thing would be competition, but competition gets heated at times.  Sports can also bring out some of the more troubling sides of human beings — intolerance, corruption, mindsets that seek to win at any cost.  I am counting on you to guard against such behaviours – and to join together so that sport can do its part to reach out to our shared goal of a healthier, more peaceful and more prosperous world.

Last September, I welcomed a very brave Dominican swimmer, Marcos Diaz, to New York.  He had swum all across the globe and he finally reached New York harbour, and I went there to meet him, and he was carrying these Millennium Development Goals; he was carrying this banner while swimming.  I was so moved.

About a year ago, I participated in Uganda in a football match.  Well, the families of the victims were participating in that game.  That was quite moving.  Our aim in attending was to raise awareness of their plight, their challenges, and of the need to strengthen the International Criminal Court.

Last summer in Sierra Leone, I met another unique group of young people.  Their limbs had been amputated during the civil war.  And yet, there they were, playing soccer.  Competing, kicking, running and scoring with just one foot or just one hand.  They were much better than World Cup players.  It was a moving display, the most moving display of determination.

I do not remember the scores of those games, but in my view they were all the winners of the games.  So are the millions of other people who are active every day, all over the world, showing the power of sport.  So are all of us, thanks to your efforts.

Let us do more such good work together.  As the Secretary-General of the United Nations, I am committed.  I am very much humbled whenever I see these people who need our helping hand.  But you, you can do it, you can do it.  Working together with the United Nations, upholding the values of peace, development and human rights.  Let us make this world a better place, a safer place and better for all.

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For information media • not an official record
For information media. Not an official record.