While Sport for Development and Peace is still widely seen as an emerging field in the area of development, its antecedents can be traced back to antiquity when the Olympic Truce was first used to establish temporary peace between warring states, to allow for competition by their athletes. However, recognition by the United Nations of the value of sport with regard to development and peace is far more recent.
- The Sport for Development and Peace agenda gained momentum when in 2001, former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan nominated former President of the Swiss Confederation Adolf Ogi as his Special Adviser on Sport for Development and Peace. In April 2008, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon appointed Wilfried Lemke, of Germany, as his Special Adviser.
- In July 2002, then Secretary-General Kofi Annan convened a UN Inter-Agency Task Force on Sport for Development and Peace to review activities involving sport within the UN system.
- In October 2003, the Secretary-General published the report of the Task Force entitled: “Sport for Development and Peace: Towards Achieving the Millennium Development Goals” which concluded that sport at all levels, from play and physical activity to elite and competitive sport, is a powerful and cost-effective way to advance the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). This report represents a synthesis of the long-standing relationship between the world of sport and the UN system. The Task Force brought together ten UN organizations with a range of expertise in the field of Sport for Development and Peace, namely ILO, UNDP, UNESCO, UNEP, UNHCR, UNICEF, UNODC, UNV, UNAIDS, and WHO.
- Since 2003, the UN Member States, gathered in the General Assembly, have repeatedly demonstrated their commitment and support to the use of sport as a vehicle for human development and peace-building by adopting a series of resolutions.
- In 2005, Resolution 58/5 proclaimed 2005 as the International Year of Sport and Physical Education (IYSPE 2005), stating that “the United Nations is turning to the world of sport for help in the work for peace and the effort to achieve the MDGs.”
- In 2008, Resolution 63/135 welcomed the integration of the Secretariat of the Sport for Development and Peace International Working Group (SDP IWG) into the United Nations Office on Sport for Development and Peace (UNOSDP), under the leadership of the Special Adviser.
- Sport has also been acknowledged as a vehicle for peace and human development in several key UN documents and declarations, in particular, the 2000 United Nations Millennium Declaration (General Assembly Resolution 55/2), the 2005 World Summit Outcome Document and the 2010 MDG High-level Meeting Outcome Document, whereby Heads of State and Government “recognize that sport, as a tool for education, development and peace, can promote cooperation, solidarity, tolerance, understanding, social inclusion and health at the local, national and international levels.”
- More recently, since 2010, the Human Rights Council has been addressing several topics at the crossroads of sports and human rights.
In April 2011, on the occasion of the 10th anniversary of the establishment of the mandate of Special Adviser to the UN Secretary-General on Sport for Development and Peace, Wilfried Lemke officially called upon “UN Member States, UN entities, sports organizations, international and civil society organisations, the academia, the private sector and the media to work in close partnership [...]." Recalling the history of the Sport for Development and Peace movement, he pointed out a “remarkable acceleration over the past decade with regard to recognizing and harnessing the transformative power of sport and physical education, in particular within the UN system.” He continued: “As demonstrated by major policy developments, by increasing media attention, and by a growing number of specialized projects, organizations, research, and corporate social responsibility practices, Sport for Development and Peace has grown into a strong movement and has hopefully reached a point of no return.”