2010 in review: Sport in focus also at the United Nations22 December 2010
Geneva (UNOSDP) – Wilfried Lemke, the UN Secretary-General's Special Adviser on Sport for Development and Peace, returned from Nairobi, Kenya, on Saturday after delivering the opening address at the East African University Games. This capped off a busy year for the Special Adviser and the United Nations Office on Sport for Development and Peace (UNOSDP), marked by advocating for sustainable development at the year’s major sporting events, the creation and strengthening of partnerships with the sporting world, increased support to projects in areas of devastation and poverty, and many developments on the horizon towards the MDG deadline of 2015.
GOVERNMENTS CONTINUE THEIR SUPPORT TO HARNESSING THE POWER OF SPORT FOR POSITIVE CHANGE
- Exchanges between Governments continued to flourish in 2010, in particular within the framework of the Sport for Development and Peace International Working Group (SDP IWG). The meetings held in Geneva (5 May) and Brussels (8 December) brought new strategic action plans and continued to foster cooperation between engaged actors.
- In October, the UN General Assembly passed its latest resolution on “Sport as a means to promote education, health, development and peace,” marking its renewed support to the use of sport as a vehicle for positive social change.
- This year’s resolution followed a high-level Roundtable on Sport for Development and Peace, entitled “The Value of Sport as a Development Tool”, which took place on 20 September at the UN Headquarters in New York in the framework of the MDG Summit.
NEW PARTNERSHIPS: STRENGTHENING OF THE ‘SPORT FOR DEVELOPMENT AND PEACE’ MOVEMENT
2010 also saw a number of partnerships either formed or re-solidified in the arena of Sport for Development and Peace, hence contributing to bringing the worlds of sport and development closer together and to the realizing MGD 8 of a “global partnership for development”:
- In August, UNOSDP was honoured with the 2010 Monaco Charity Award by the Union of European Football Associations (UEFA). UEFA and UNOSDP are now working together to distribute the award of € 1 million to five projects on different continents. “This new partnership allows the UN to solidify our cooperation with one of the premier sports organizations in the world” Mr. Lemke declared after receiving the Award from UEFA President Michel Platini.
- In May, the first UN-IOC Forum was held at the Olympic Museum in Lausanne. The second edition of the Forum will take place at the UN in Geneva on 10 and 11 May 2011.
- In April, the United Nations launched a five-year partnership with SportAccord, the umbrella organization grouping together 104 International Sports Federations and Organizations. This signalled a new relationship between the UN family and sport federations. As Mr. Lemke stated: “Traditionally, sports federations focus on the success of their events and championships. However, sport is more than gold medals and records. We need partnership between the world of sport and United Nations to harness the full potential that sport has to be an agent for social change.”
MAJOR SPORTING EVENTS AS CATALYSTS FOR SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT AND AWARENESS-RAISING
Three events stand out when thinking about sports events in 2010:
- In February and March respectively, the Winter Olympic and Paralympic Games were held in Vancouver, Canada. The organizers had set a series of ambitious environmental goals for themselves, enhancing the event's environmental performance and increasing green awareness. The Paralympics afforded Mr. Lemke and other UN players the opportunity to further highlight the importance of advancing the rights of the almost 650 million persons living with disabilities worldwide. The empowerment of people with disabilities is a major priority for Mr. Lemke and in November he received the Bobby Award bestowed by the Federal Association of Counselling for Persons with Intellectual Disabilities for his engagement and support for people with disabilities. This included his public call to the worldwide media to give greater coverage to disability sport.
- From 11 June to 11 July, the FIFA World Cup was held for the first time on African soil and was a monumental achievement for South Africa and for the whole continent. This event was used across the UN system – as well as by many other actors in the area of Sport for Development and Peace – to harness the power of sport to make a positive change in the region (not just in connection with the World Cup but a sustainable change which will create a legacy for the future). The UN Secretary General’s attendance at the opening match of the World Cup underlined the importance that the UN attached to this unique event. In the lead-up and during the competition, Mr. Lemke paid visits to several grassroots projects in South Africa.
- In August, the first-ever Youth Olympic Games were held in Singapore, where more than 3,600 teenage athletes from across the world had a chance to participate in a Cultural and Education Programme (CEP). Various international organisations, including three UN agencies (UNAIDS, UNEP and UNICEF), supported the organisers to implement these activities. The UN Special Adviser was also at hand in Singapore to support this important initiative.
PROJECTS IN THE FIELD: WHEN WORDS TURN INTO ACTION
Of course, 2010 was also marked by the devastating earthquake that hit the Caribbean nation of Haiti. In October, Mr. Lemke visited the country and saw first-hand the urgency of the situation on the ground and how actors (including the Government, UN agencies, the National Olympic Committee and civil society actors) are mobilizing the power of sport and physical activity as a tool for psychosocial support, social cohesion and integration.
Throughout 2010, in many other parts of the world plagued by natural disasters, poverty, violence, diseases and inequalities, the UN family – with the support of its partners and Goodwill Ambassadors – has reinforced the mainstreaming of sport and physical activity into its policies and programmes.
The Special Adviser actually had the opportunity to visit a certain number of these projects, like in September, for instance, when he was able to witness the dedication of grassroots organizations in some of the poorest areas of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
With 2010 winding down, the MDG deadline of 2015 is yet another year closer. In this connection, the Special Adviser stated: “We must not lose focus on 2015; we are now in a critical phase in which all actors must work in partnership to make sure that we achieve the MDGs. Sport can continue to be a valuable tool in this pursuit and will contribute to improve the lives of those who need it most. I look forward to working together with our UN partners and other key partners in 2011 to succeed in this common goal.”