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GA/12391
2 December 2021
Seventy-sixth Session, 43rd Meeting (AM)

General Assembly Adopts Consensus Resolution Spotlighting Unifying Power of Sport, as Delegates Note Complex Global Landscape Ahead of Beijing Winter Games

Delegates Also Adopt Resolution Proclaiming 2022 International Year of Basic Sciences for Sustainable Development

Adopting two consensus resolutions today, the General Assembly recognized the unifying power of sport and science as humanity struggles to emerge peacefully from a devastating global pandemic.

Against the backdrop of today’s manifold challenges, delegates paid tribute to the ancient Greeks’ use of sports competition to foster peace, adopting the 193‑member Assembly’s annual draft resolution entitled, “Sport for development and peace:  Building a peaceful and better world through sport and the Olympic ideal” (document A/76/L.13).  Members then spotlighted the role science can play in helping people and communities forge a more sustainable world, adopting a second draft resolution titled “International Year of Basic Sciences for Sustainable Development, 2022” (document A/76/L.12).

Abdulla Shahid (Maldives), President of the General Assembly, said the draft resolution on sport and the Olympic ideal urges countries to observe the Olympic Truce — an ancient tradition of halting conflict in order to give the Games’ athletes and spectators safe passage.  Emphasizing that the world’s common destiny draws together every national flag and background, he said nations should use sport as a tool to support dialogue and reconciliation, striving for a peaceful world aligned with the principles and values enshrined in the United Nations Charter.

The representative of China, introducing that text, agreed that Olympic values are consistent with the United Nations mission to preserve international peace and security.  Since 1993, the Organization has called for the renewal and observance of the seven‑day Olympic Truce before and after the Games.  China is committed to hosting an open and inclusive Winter Olympic Games in 2022, which will build resilience to the COVID‑19 pandemic as it fosters tolerance and mutual understanding.  He called on Member States to reject any acts that undermine the Olympic values and remain open to the peaceful resolution of disputes.

The representative of Zimbabwe said sport transcends cultural, religious and language barriers as it unites people around a common goal and promotes good health, teamwork and friendly competition.  The twenty‑fourth Winter Games and the thirteenth Paralympic Winter Games in Beijing are arriving at a perfect time to help counter the widespread effects of the COVID‑19 pandemic, he said, adding that the Olympics demonstrate humanity’s unity and resilience as well as the power of international cooperation to overcome global challenges.

The representative of Greece said the Assembly’s annual resolution invites Member States to observe the Olympic Truce and use peaceful and diplomatic means to resolve all international conflicts.  The text also recognizes the International Olympic Committee’s initiatives to promote human well‑being and international understanding.  She expressed her hope that the young athletes participating honestly and ethically in the upcoming Games will herald the concept of the Truce and spread a message of tolerance, good will and peaceful settlement of disputes around the globe.

Colombia’s delegate noted that the concept of using sports to transform wars into peaceful events first emerged in ancient Greece.  Emphasizing that sports can contribute to healthy human co‑existence and give hope to children and youth, he recalled that Colombia has invested $53 million in 2021 to upgrade its sports infrastructure.  Urging the International Olympic Committee to ensure that the development of sports infrastructure reaps lasting benefits for host communities, he reiterated his country’s view of sports as a measure to advance both peace and development.

The representative of the Russian Federation agreed that the Olympic ideals remain as relevant as ever and can help foster harmony in today’s complex world.  He urged all States to observe the resolution’s call for an Olympic Truce before and after the upcoming Games.  Pointing out that sport can foster sustainable development, he said it can also shield youth from negative influences, such as terrorism.  However, he warned that sport should not become a political tool or an instrument of intrigue, such as blackmail, and it must never be used as an instrument of power involving sanctions.  Indeed, the collective punishment of athletes remains an unacceptable practice, he said.

In a similar vein, the representative of Belarus described some individual politicians’ attempts to “put on a show” and demagogue against the backdrop of the forthcoming Olympic Games as equally unacceptable.  He noted that Belarus was deprived of its right to host the World Ice Hockey Championship in 2021 for political reasons and the Belarusian team has been unexpectedly excluded from the Dakar 2022 rally marathon, just 33 days before the event’s start.  Those dangerous precedents are a good example of how easily sporting events — designed to unite countries and peoples — can become an instrument of discord, pressure and political intrigue in the hands of dishonest politicians.

The observer for the International Olympic Committee said that by adopting the Olympic Truce resolution, the Assembly supports the mission of uniting the world’s best athletes, without discrimination, in the spirit of peaceful and respectful competition.  This mission can only be accomplished if the Olympic Games are politically neutral.  Describing the upcoming Winter Games in Beijing as the start of a new era, he noted that their venues will be powered by renewable energy and organized safely under a “zero‑COVID‑19” strategy.

Introducing the draft resolution designating 2022 as the International Year of Basic Sciences for Sustainable Development, the representative of Honduras said the COVID‑19 pandemic shows that society needs to better develop the scientific knowledge to tackle similar emergencies in the future.  The proclamation of an interdisciplinary, international year of basic sciences for sustainable development makes it possible to identify interested partners — including the scientific community, political leaders and civil society members — to develop synergies.  The text also demonstrates the commitment of all delegations to promote and teach basic sciences to improve humanity, she said.

Also speaking today on the topic of sport and the Olympic ideal were the representatives of Monaco, Maldives, Qatar, Singapore, Venezuela, Cambodia, Morocco, Viet Nam, Pakistan, the United Arab Emirates, India, Cyprus, Ethiopia, Syria, Ecuador, Nicaragua, Egypt, Bahrain and France.

The representative of the United States spoke in explanation of position.

Before the adoption of the resolution, the International Year of Basic Sciences for Sustainable Development, Cuba’s delegate spoke in explanation of position.

In other business, the Assembly agreed to extend its seventy‑sixth session until Thursday, 23 December, upon request of its Fifth Committee (Administrative and Budgetary).  Members also agreed to extend the work of that committee until the same date.

The Assembly will reconvene at 10 a.m. Monday, 6 December, to discuss the return or restitution of cultural property to countries of origin, as well as the culture of peace, and to consider draft resolutions on each topic.

Opening Remarks

ABDULLA SHAHID (Maldives), President of the General Assembly, said the world’s common destiny draws together every national flag and background.  Nations must acknowledge their obligation to one another, realize the pointlessness of conflict and aspire to peace.  The Assembly’s draft resolution on building a better world through sport urges countries to observe the Olympic Truce — an ancient tradition of halting conflict so as to allow athletes and spectators safe passage — both individually and collectively, he said, also calling on Member States to support the International Olympic Committee.  Moreover, nations should use sport as a tool to support dialogue and reconciliation, striving for a peaceful world aligned with the principles and values enshrined in the United Nations Charter, he said.

Sport for Development and Peace

ZHANG JUN (China), introducing a draft resolution titled “Building a peaceful and better world through sport and the Olympic ideal” (document A/76/L.13), praised the Olympic ideal as consistent with the United Nations mission to preserve international peace and security.  Recalling that the Organization has called each year since 1993 for the renewal and observance of the seven-day Olympic Truce before and after the Games, he noted that in keeping with that tradition, the draft embodies a powerful message of cooperation, celebrates a joyous occasion and promotes a better world.  Emphasizing China’s commitment to hosting an open and inclusive Winter Olympic Games in 2022 — which builds resilience to COVID‑19 and contributes to tolerance and mutual understanding — he urged countries to show political will through concrete actions, and pointed to awareness‑raising measures undertaken in China to support those values.

He went on to call upon Member States to reject acts that would undermine the Olympic movement and to remain open to the peaceful resolution of disputes. Recalling that the Olympic flame will reach Beijing in 63 days, he highlighted China's efforts to ensure the safety and health protection of all attendees during the upcoming Games, through the implementation of best practices developed in conjunction with the International Olympic Committee.  He also detailed important environmental measures — including the use of renewable energies in 85 per cent of the Games’ transport operations and 100 per cent of its residences — and said China is prioritizing the reuse of the existing sports installations.  It is also prioritizing the fight against corruption and has taken a zero-tolerance policy towards doping, he said.

Statements

ISABELLE F. PICCO (Monaco) praised the Olympic ideal, noting that the Assembly must commit to its values of trust and resilience.  The global spirit of the Olympic Games should be a symbol of hope and friendship for all people.  Lauding the commitment and spirit of the thousands of Olympic athletes and staff working on the event, she said the Olympics are an opportunity to demonstrate excellence, friendship and respect and generate the solidarity to meet challenges — whether in the sports world or more broadly, as demonstrated in the global race to achieve net‑zero carbon emissions.  Sports must also be all inclusive and safe and play a role in helping countries recover from the COVID-19 pandemic, and they should contribute to the development of peaceful and sustainable societies, she added.

Mr. LATHEEF (Maldives), welcoming today's draft resolution, said the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games were a rare moment of light in the global darkness wrought by the COVID‑19 pandemic.  The circumstances of the Games were emblematic of the immense value of sport as a unifying force, he said, also underscoring the link between sport and sustainable development.  In 2019, with assistance from the World Bank, the Maldives ran a pilot workshop using female‑led soccer training sessions to empower and inspire self‑confidence in girls.  Also highlighting significant investments in sports infrastructure, he stressed the importance of inclusive sport policies and facilities, and noted the impact of stadium closures and the cancellation of events on athletes, businesses and the community at large.  In that context, he voiced regret that the Maldives must withdraw from hosting the 2023 Indian Ocean Island Games, owing to the difficult challenges caused by the pandemic.

ALYA AHMED SAIF AL-THANI (Qatar) stressed the importance of sports in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals and contributing to people’s physical and mental health.  Qatar has been investing in high‑quality sports facilities capable of hosting major events.  Last week, it opened a stadium in preparations to host the 2022 Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA) World Cup, she said, adding that Qatar will be presenting a draft resolution on the event to the Assembly.  Its text contains a paragraph underscoring the importance of a healthy 2022 World Cup in promoting physical and mental health as well as safe future sporting events, she said.

Mr. TAN (Singapore) praised Japan for hosting the 2020 Olympic Games despite the difficulties posed by the COVID-19 pandemic and wished China a successful winter Games.  Stressing that sport is more important than ever against the backdrop of pandemic disruptions, he said the Olympics and other sporting events provide an opportunity for people to come together in a spirit of camaraderie.  Recalling that Singapore chaired the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN)’s sixth Session in Sports, he said his country is also developing a plan to combat doping in collaboration with the International Olympic Committee.  In addition, he stressed the importance of harassment‑free competitions that create an enabling environment protective of women and girls.

ROBERT ALEXANDER POVEDA BRITO (Venezuela) said the development of national policies to foster sports is pivotal for peace and inclusion.  Noting that sport serves as a lynchpin of human rights principles in Venezuela, he said the COVID‑19 pandemic has had an impact on all parts of life, and sports helps counter those challenges by promoting discipline and mental and physical well‑being.  As such, States have an urgent responsibility to promote sports within their societies.  In the complex environment of the pandemic, Venezuela has broadened its sporting policies for both amateur and professional athletes, with the aim of bringing people together. Recalling that more than 40 Venezuelan athletes competed in 14 disciplines at the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games, he expressed support for the draft resolution, adding that sports can promote social inclusion, justice and the fight against poverty.

SOVANN KE (Cambodia) said his country is pleased to co‑sponsor the draft resolution titled “Building a peaceful and better world through sport and the Olympic ideal”, which was initiated and facilitated by China.  Sport creates opportunities for people to meet and have fun and helps improve physical, mental and emotional health.  It also contributes to a better world and sustainable development.  Noting that the work of the International Olympic Committee is critical for the strengthening and improvement of sport, he said coordination among the Committee, the host country and Member States, among others, is vital to promote the Olympic spirit.  Cambodia will proudly host the thirty-second Southeast Asian Games in 2023, he said, adding that the biannual games will further promote friendly relations among the participating countries in the region.

OMAR HILALE (Morocco) said sports have an important role to play in advancing sustainable development, peace and social progress, as well as supporting physical and mental health.  It also contributes to the empowerment of women and youth, he said, adding that sports have the potential to protect young people from violence, extremism and drug use.  He went on to describe sport as an essential element in cultivating solidarity in the international arena, noting that it also builds social ties between peoples.

MARIA THEOFILI (Greece) said that through the Assembly’s annual resolution titled “Building a peaceful and better world through sport and the Olympic ideal”, the United Nations invites its Member States to observe the Olympic Truce and to seek the peaceful resolution of all international conflicts through peaceful and diplomatic means.  It also recognizes the importance of the International Olympic Committee’s initiatives for human well‑being and international understanding.  Against that backdrop, she expressed her hope that the young athletes who will make honest and ethical efforts during the upcoming Games will be heralds of the concept of Truce, spreading the message of tolerance, good will and peaceful settlement of disputes.

EKATERINA MOZGOVAYA (Belarus) described attempts by individual politicians to “put on a show” and demagogue against the backdrop of the forthcoming Olympic Games as unacceptable.  In the current context of international instability and disunity, sport is the only resource that promotes the ideals of peace, friendship and mutual understanding, she said.  Recalling that Belarus was deprived of the right to host the World Ice Hockey Championship in 2021 for political reasons, she said that for the same reasons the Belarusian team has been unexpectedly excluded from the Dakar 2022 rally‑marathon just 33 days before the start of the event.  Those dangerous precedents have become a good example of how easily sporting events — designed to unite countries and peoples — can become an instrument of discord, pressure and political intrigue in the hands of dishonest politicians, she said.

TRA PHUONG NGUYEN (Viet Nam) said the Olympics are among the most remarkable global events through which peace and development are promoted.  The Olympic spirit is manifested in the common aspiration of people around the world, as it fosters friendship, peace and exchanges among countries, the integration of civilizations and harmonious coexistence.  The Olympics unite people from all around the world, regardless of culture, religion and ethnicity, she said.  In that connection, Viet Nam is proud to be hosting the thirty‑first Southeast Asian Games in 2022, she said, expressing confidence that they will promote solidarity and friendship among the peoples of the region.

GUILLERMO ROQUE FERNANDEZ DE SOTO VALDERRAMA (Colombia) said one week ago United Nations Secretary‑General António Guterres visited Colombia on the fifth anniversary of its Peace Agreement, which brought hope to the Colombian people.  The Assembly’s draft resolution on sports now provides more hope for peace.  Recalling that the concept of using sports to transform wars into peaceful events first emerged in ancient Greece, he said Colombia is a firm believer in the power of sports, which can contribute to healthy human co‑existence and give hope to children and youth.  In 2021, Colombia invested $53 million in municipalities around the country to upgrade their sports infrastructure.  Urging the International Olympic Committee to ensure that the development of sports infrastructure reaps lasting benefits for host communities, he reiterated Colombia’s view of sports as a measure to advance both peace and development.

MOHAMMAD AAMIR KHAN (Pakistan) noting that sport brings people together from different, societies and backgrounds, underscored its valuable contributions to health, peace, solidarity and sustainable development.  Pakistan is committed to promoting sports, including the participation of women and girls, he said, emphasizing the positive contribution they can make to the achievement of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

Ms. ALHOSANI (United Arab Emirates) noted the negative impact of the COVID‑19 pandemic on the physical and mental well‑being of all people.  Her country has institutionalized sports as part of a national strategy which focuses on promoting it at the community level, without regard for ethnicity and religion.  She pointed out that the United Arab Emirates has hosted major sporting events and participated in the organization of international and regional competitions.  Noting that the World Expo 2020 is currently taking place in Dubai, providing athletes an opportunity to promote their countries, she described sport as the most effective tool to promote the values of the United Nations and achieve sustainable development by spreading the culture of peace.

ASHISH SHARMA (India), noting that the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development recognizes sport as an important enabler of sustainable development, said it is hard to imagine a more powerful medium than sports to inspire and bring people together for a common purpose.  Recalling how the Indian philosopher Swami Vivekananda, when approached by a young man to explain the meaning of a sacred text, was reported to have advised him to first go play football, he added that India has a long tradition of sport and physical education.  The Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports provides the policy framework and institutional support for sports‑related activities, he said, noting that various tournaments have also been organized to promote the participation of girls and women.

ANDREAS HADJICHRYSANTHOU (Cyprus) stressed the importance of the Olympic Truce, noting that seeking peace by creating an environment that serves collective values is a paradigm the United Nations can learn from.  Sport can teach equality at a time when inequities are growing both within and between nations, and the Olympic arena is a great equalizer, where success is based only on hard work and personal sacrifice, rather than race, gender, wealth or disability.  The international community must create a similar level playing field in societies and among nations, he stressed, beginning with granting youth full and equal access to sports.  Due to its universal appeal, convening power and sheer force to unite people and overcome barriers, sport’s social potential is largely untapped.  Mainstreaming sportsmanship into culture and education — well beyond allegiance to specific team — can help promote Olympism as a philosophy and way of life, shaping the ethos of nations.

ANTENEH ALEMU SENBETA (Ethiopia) said the Olympics embodies the power of sports to bring people together.  Ethiopia, with its long and decorated history of participation in the Olympic Games, is a witness to the values of Olympism.  From Melbourne in 1956 to Tokyo in 2021, Ethiopia’s athletes have proudly hoisted their flag and made not only their country but also their continent proud.  The Olympics represents the potential of humanity, and at several junctures in history, the Games awakened the world to faulty divides based on race, religion, class and ideology.  In that regard, Ethiopia is especially pleased to support today’s resolution, he said.

STEPAN Y. KUZMENKOV (Russian Federation) said sport can serve as an ambassador of peace and help raise future generations in a world of non‑violence.  The Olympic ideals are as relevant as ever and can help foster harmony.  Noting that sport can be used to bring the international community together, he supported the draft resolution’s call for an Olympic Truce before and after the upcoming Games and he called upon everyone to observe it.  Pointing out that sport can help foster sustainable development, he said it can also shield youth from negative influences, such as terrorism.  Sport should not become a political tool or an instrument of intrigue, such as blackmail, and it must never be used as an instrument of power involving sanctions, he said, describing the collective punishment of athletes as an unacceptable practice.

WAEL AL KHALIL (Syria), noting that Beijing will be the first city worldwide to host both the summer and winter Olympic Games, lauded important progress made in stadium and infrastructure construction.  The Beijing Winter Olympics and Paralympics will be a grand gathering of countries and a fair stage for athletes to compete, he said, stressing that they should be free from political interference.  Calling on countries to demonstrate the Olympic spirit of togetherness, he said they should show unity, resilience and international cooperation.

ANDRÉS EFREN MONTALVO SOSA (Ecuador), noting that his delegation is a co‑sponsor of the draft resolution presented by China, said the text calls for the observance of the Olympic Truce in the context of the two Olympic Games to be held in Beijing in 2022.   Stressing the internationally recognized link between sport and sustainable development, he said the former promotes the empowerment of women and the protection of human rights.  In that regard, States must uphold the value of tolerance embodied by the International Olympic Committee, he said.

JASSER JIMÉNEZ ECHEGOYEN (Nicaragua) echoed other speakers in expressing hope that the 2022 Olympic Games in Beijing can be used to harness the power of sports to promote a spirit of harmony and world peace.  Underlining the connection between sport and the United Nations, he said the power of sport can be used to promote everything from health to education in all societies.  All are crucial elements for a more peaceful world.  Nicaragua uses sports as a tool to help young people avoid crime and to create a safe republic, he said.

Mr. HASSAN (Egypt) stressed the importance of sport in advancing sustainable development, building mutual understanding and establishing better communication among peoples.  Adding that international sporting events also promote solidarity and interdependence, he echoed other speakers in emphasizing that such events can help the international community triumph over its current challenges.

FRANCIS WINSTON CHANGARA (Zimbabwe) said sport unites people from diverse backgrounds around a common goal, transcending cultural, religious and language barriers, promoting good health, teamwork and friendly competition.  Citing the importance of harnessing sport as a force for good, he said the twenty‑fourth Winter Games and the thirteenth Paralympic Winter Games could not have come at a better time, given the widespread impacts of the COVID‑19 pandemic.  The Games will be an opportunity to demonstrate the importance of unity and resilience, as well as the power of international cooperation in overcoming global challenges.  Against that backdrop, he expressed support for adoption of the draft resolution before the Assembly.

SUMA SAMEER ABDULKARIM ALALAIWAT (Bahrain) said her country is currently enjoying a very active sports movement, hosting many sporting events, especially for youth.  Underlining the role of sport in promoting peace and development across the world, she added that Bahrain supports all United Nations initiatives aimed at entrenching peace and believes that sports, in particular, links social relations with the high ideals of brotherhood and tolerance.

Ms. MOTTE (France), noting that her country will host the 2024 Summer Olympic Games in Paris with an emphasis on the principles of engagement and celebration, expressed her hope that the COVID‑19 pandemic will be behind the international community at that time.  She also wished China every success in organizing the upcoming Winter Olympic Games in 2022.

LUIS ALBERTO MORENO, observer for the International Olympic Committee, said by adopting the Olympic Truce resolution, the Assembly is supporting the mission to unite the world’s best winter sport athletes without discrimination, in the spirit of peaceful and respectful competition.  That mission can only be accomplished if the Olympic Games are politically neutral.  The ancient Greeks understood this 3,000 years ago, establishing the principle of ekecheiria — a sacred truce — allowing the participation of all athletes and spectators from the Greek city‑States, who were otherwise almost constantly engaged in conflict with each other.  History also shows what happens if political neutrality is not respected, as when Roman emperor Theodosius effectively abolished the Games for political reasons, leading to a gap of almost 2,000 years before the International Olympic Committee revived them.

Olympic athletes demonstrate that it is possible to be fierce rivals engaged in intense competition while living peacefully and respectfully together, regardless of social background, gender, race, sexual orientation or political belief, he continued.  Hailing the upcoming Winter Games as the start of a new era — with 300 million Chinese people taking global participation to new levels — he pointed out that all Olympic venues will be powered by renewable energy and organized safely under a “zero-COVID-19” strategy.  The Committee’s efforts to strengthen sport as an enabler of the Sustainable Development Goals are featured in its Olympic Agenda 2020+5 strategic roadmap, he said, adding that the Committee itself is already carbon‑neutral and has committed to becoming climate‑positive by 2024, partnering with the United Nations to plant an Olympic Forest in Sub‑Saharan Africa, and improve lives in 90 villages across the region.

Action on Draft Resolution

The Assembly then adopted the draft resolution titled “Sport for development and peace: building a peaceful and better world through sport and the Olympic ideal” (document A/76/L.13) without a vote.

Speaking after the adoption, the representative of the United States said sports should transcend all barriers, including race, religion, identity and sexual orientation.  While his country has long supported international athletics, which build universal respect, inclusivity and fairness, he said the United States nevertheless disputes language in preambular paragraphs 12 and 15, and disassociates itself from them.

Integrated and Coordinated Implementation of and Follow‑up to the Outcomes of the Major United Nations Conferences and Summits in the Economic, Social and Related Fields

YOLANNIE CERRATO (Honduras) introduced a draft resolution titled “International Year of Basic Sciences for Sustainable Development, 2022” (document A/76/L.12), noting that the ongoing COVID‑19 pandemic has demonstrated the need for society to develop the necessary scientific knowledge to tackle similar emergencies.  The proclamation of an interdisciplinary, international year of basic sciences for sustainable development has made it possible to identify interested partners and parties, including the scientific community, political leaders and civil society members, with the aim of developing synergies.  Noting that the initiative has been spearheaded by a strong coalition of scientists, she said the text demonstrates the commitment of all delegations to promoting and teaching basic sciences for the betterment of humanity.

Action on Draft Resolution

Speaking in explanation of position before the action, the representative of Cuba expressed support for the broad use of science for the betterment of society.  That vision should have more robust support from international bodies, he stressed, adding that the COVID‑19 pandemic has posed unprecedented social and health challenges and multilateralism — especially the sharing of information and resources — is the only way to tackle them.  However, the pandemic also revealed how few resources have, in fact, been shared.  Against that backdrop, the upcoming year is the ideal time to promote the crucial role of sciences in international development.

The Assembly then adopted draft resolution titled “International Year of Basic Sciences for Sustainable Development, 2022” (document A/76/L.12) without a vote.

For information media. Not an official record.