Thank you for joining us to celebrate the Second International Day of Sport for Development and Peace.
I am delighted to welcome the Presidents of the International Olympic Committee and the International Paralympic Committee, Dr. Thomas Bach and Sir Philip Craven. They are steadfast partners of the United Nations.
I also want to express my appreciation to my Special Adviser on Sport for Development and Peace, Mr. Wilfried Lemke. Through his efforts, including the Youth Leadership Programme, he has enabled many young people to drive change. Thank you very much.
I would also like to pay tribute to the distinguished athletes Ms. Billie Jean King and Dr. Cheri Blauwet who are with us today. Your extraordinary successes and unique contributions to sport are an inspiration to us all.
As you know, in August 2013, the General Assembly established April 6 as the International Day of Sport for Development and Peace to commemorate the first opening of the Olympic Games in 1896.
I also commend the enormous contribution of the many athletes and sports personalities who are working as UN Goodwill Ambassadors.
This year we are encouraging all sportsmen and women to throw their energy into advocating the new sustainable development agenda of the United Nations.
Sport plays an important role in society. It encourages individuals to take on challenges, build strong relationships and strive with others towards shared goals.
It can help keep kids in school, promote leadership skills and healthy lifestyles, and empower marginalized people.
And at times of conflict and unrest, sport can help provide victims with space to heal and grow.
I am grateful to the Special Envoy on Youth Refugees and Sport, Jacques Rogge – although he is not here - for the work that he is doing for the growing numbers of displaced young people. Sport has an important role to play in helping to restore some degree of normalcy to their lives.
The Olympic and Paralympic Games are advancing the work of the United Nations.
Last year, I participated in the opening of the Sports for Hope Centre in Haiti, a new complex established with the generous support of the International Olympic Committee. I am pleased that a major Paralympic event has already taken place and that many International Federations have hosted activities there.
This year, when the Ebola epidemic erupted in West Africa, FIFA, the Fédération Internationale de Football Association, helped turn stadiums into treatment locations, such as Monrovia’s Antoinette Tubman Stadium in Liberia.
The strengthening of the Olympic Charter to include non-discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation is a significant step forward. I extend my sincere appreciation to President Thomas Bach for his leadership.
The International Paralympic Committee has been a key player as well in encouraging a culture where individuals with disabilities are encouraged and celebrated.
I also commend athletes who are using their fame and influence to help bring about social change.
Let us also recognize the scores of volunteers who serve as coaches and supporters in local community clubs and projects.
We must also pledge to strengthen the role that sport plays around the world.
Let us use sport to leave a transformative and sustainable legacy for our children and grandchildren. It is their motivational appeal that gives hope and helps improve the lives of many.
Lastly, I sincerely hope that the Member States of the United Nations, while they negotiate to shape the future development agenda [see] the importance of sport, not only in health, but in peace and harmony, reconciliation, mutual understanding and respect for others, and fair games and rule of law and human rights – all these will be duly reflected so that we all can work together to build this world better for all, where all the peoples human dignity and human rights and happiness and prosperity and wellbeing will be respected. I count on the Member States and particularly co-facilitators who are negotiating this [text] will duly reflect this.
Through sport we can foster inspiration and hope for a better future for all.
I thank you very much.