|Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York|
At Event, Secretary-General Stresses Importance of Sport in Restoring
Normalcy for Refugees in Conflict, Post-Conflict Situations
Following are UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s remarks to the event “Celebrating Sport for Development and Peace”, in New York on 28 April:
I thank all of you for joining us to celebrate and discuss the power of sport for development and peace.
President [Thomas] Bach, thank you for your leadership. Your experience as an Olympian and long career as an International Olympic Committee (IOC) member will bring new vision to the Olympic movement. The Sochi Olympics, the first Games under your tenure, were a great success and I look forward to more such achievements in the years ahead.
Let me also offer a special welcome to the Honourary President Dr. Jacques Rogge, and distinguished Olympians and other athletes in the audience.
Last August, the General Assembly established 6 April — the day of the opening of the first Olympics Games of the modern era in 1896 — as the International Day of Sport for Development and Peace. Earlier this month, we celebrated the first observance of the Day with numerous events that showcased the diversity and strength of our movement.
Of course, our efforts are not limited to one day. Sport is at work for peace and development around the clock and around the world. Physical education and special sport programmes in schools motivate children to enrol and can help to improve academic achievement.
Sport empowers girls and women by providing opportunities for leadership and accomplishments. The immense popularity of sport helps reach many groups and communities with important messages on HIV/AIDS, non-communicable diseases, drug abuse and environmental protection. Sport helps to reduce stigma and increase the social and economic integration of marginalized people, minorities and persons with disabilities.
Sport can be used to bridge cultural, religious, ethnic and social divides. As Magic Johnson said in response to the controversy involving the Los Angeles Clippers, “We all play with different races of people when you’re in sports. That’s what makes sports so beautiful.”
And its values, such as teamwork, fairness and respect for one’s opponent and the rules of the game, are understood all around the world and are useful well beyond the playing field, in our personal and professional lives. In short, sport is a low-cost, high-impact tool.
I am especially eager to focus these efforts on the holistic development of young people. My Special Adviser on Sport for Development and Peace, Wilfried Lemke, is championing the concept of sport for youth development, including through the flagship Youth Leadership Programme.
Let me also thank the International Olympic Committee and the wider Olympic Movement for being such a steadfast partner of the United Nations. This year, the Winter Games in Sochi brought together thousands of diverse athletes from around the world to foster the Olympic values of excellence, friendship and respect. I was pleased to attend and I look forward to deepening this relationship.
In that spirit, I am very glad that later today President Bach and I will sign a Memorandum of Understanding between the United Nations Secretariat and the International Olympic Committee. I am also pleased to announce that I have decided to appoint the IOC’s former and Honorary President, Dr. Jacques Rogge, as my Special Envoy on Youth Refugees and Sport. Thank you for your commitment. Thank you.
A few years ago, exactly two years ago, Dr. Rogge and I travelled together to Zambia — the first joint visit by a UN Secretary-General and Olympic Committee President. At the Olympic Youth Development Centre, we saw the way sport can provide skills for the future.
I also saw Dr. Rogge’s own strong commitment to this work, and so I am very glad that he has taken on this new assignment. He will focus primarily on promoting sport as an empowerment tool, with an emphasis on peace, reconciliation, security, health, education, gender equality and inclusiveness.
We are all keenly aware that in Syria, the Central African Republic, South Sudan and elsewhere, conflict, unrest and other circumstances have forced many young people to flee their homes, placing their futures on hold. Sport has a role to play in helping to restore at least some sense of normalcy.
This morning, I have discussed with President Bach and we have also agreed to initiate a second visit, a joint visit by the President of IOC and Secretary-General of the United Nations to open this sport complex initiative in Haiti. So, we will coordinate a mutually convenient date. Thank you very much.
In highlighting the importance of sports for youth refugees it is especially exciting to be joined today by Meb Keflezighi, who is himself a refugee from Eritrea and who, just last Monday, won the Boston Marathon. Mr. Keflezighi, last week’s race was a moving day for all involved. You moved everyone by moving the fastest! Congratulations on your victory!
I also commend the International Paralympic Committee for its work on behalf of persons with disabilities. The Paralympic Games inspire millions around the world. The International Paralympic Committee has done a tremendous job over the years to break down negative stereotypes, fight discrimination, and build positive attitudes.
I would also like to recognize the significant efforts of the Special Olympics in protecting and promoting the right of children and adults with intellectual disabilities to take part in sport, whose President, Ms. Na Kyung Won, is now here representing from [Republic of] Korea.
And I would like to thank the numerous sports federations and organizations that have partnered with the United Nations. Let us do more together. I encourage Member States to look at all possibilities to use sport as a tool for development and peace.
Over the past two years, I have had the honour of being the first UN Secretary-General to run with the Olympic Torch twice, in London and Sochi. In Sochi, I had the special honour to run with IOC President Dr. Bach. We both ran with the single resolve to carry the flame of peace and development through sports. These were exhilarating experiences. We had what they call — Olympians call — kiss of flame — flame kiss. This was our demonstration of strong commitment to work for peace and development through sports.
While running I felt the charge of the crowd. I felt, for a slight moment, like an athlete who has scored a goal or sunk a basket. But, of course, I was in uniform for just a couple of hours. I know that real athletes do so much more to train and compete. So it is especially inspiring that, in addition to their commitments on the field, they are also contributing off the field, to the UN’s global mission: peace and development and human rights.
It is my sincere hope that this International Day, year after year, will act as a catalyst for new and exciting partnerships. Let us, together, tap the full potential of sport as a driver of peace and social change. Thank you.
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