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Sport in Conflict and Post-Conflict Situations

The use of sport to advance peace in conflict situations must always take into account what is realistically achievable – not just through sport – but by any means. Basic security and self-preservation concerns, as well as difficulty in transport and communication, can make everyday activities near impossible in conflict zones. As a result, most sport-based peace-building initiatives are established in the post-conflict phase, where objectives can be more comprehensive and programs have a reasonable chance of being successful. However, examples of interventions during conflicts do exist. There are necessarily less ambitious and need to be considered in this lights.

In periods of short-term conflict, sport-based initiatives may be limited to providing people with temporary relief from the tension and concerns they are experiencing. During longer, more protracted conflicts, peace-building is more likely to succeed when conflicting communities have begun to re-establish positive contact while fighting is still underway. Sport-based initiatives can be one means of establishing and re-establishing relationships and nurturing points of communication that can eventually serve the peace process. Use of sport for more complex networking and peace-building efforts, however, is extremely difficult in high-intensity conflicts and generally cannot be undertaken until conflicts have subsided.

The SDP IWG Report, “Harnessing the Power of Sport for Development and Peace: Recommendations to Governments”, made the following policy and programmatic recommendations which Member States, with SDP IWG support, are encouraged to implement:


  • Observe the Olympic Truce.


  • Ensure an effective sport for peace program focus by first undertaking a context analysis that answer the following questions:
    • What is this conflict not about?
    • What needs to be stopped?
    • What are the regional and international dimensions of this conflict?
  • Understand how the sport for peace initiatives will contribute to broader conflict prevention and/or peace-building strategies for the community/region/country before it is launched.
  • Consider whether it is appropriate or beneficial to coordinate with other peace partners before launching a program.
  • Monitor all the variables of the program and be ready to change them to reduce possible negative impacts such as increased conflict.
  • Respect the values of competition and build programs on the respect that competition can stimulate.
  • Address conflict and peace-building at the socio-political level and the individual level.

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