Sport and Peace


Sport as a universal language can be a powerful tool to promote peace, tolerance and understanding by bringing people together across boundaries, cultures and religions. Its intrinsic values such as teamwork, fairness, discipline, respect for the opponent and the rules of the game are understood all over the world and can be harnessed in the advancement of solidarity, social cohesion and peaceful coexistence.

Sport programmes permit encounters on neutral territory and in an environment where aggression can be controlled, regulated and transformed and hence facilitates rapprochement and reconciliation between opposing parties.

Many UN funds, programmes and specialized agencies have used and continue to use sport programmes to achieve their objectives. In post-conflict situations, sport programmes are systematically used by UN peacekeeping operations and UN country teams as a “door opener” to rebuild trust by bringing together former opponents, and to re-integrate child soldiers and ex-combatants into the civil communities.

Although sport alone cannot stop or solve an acute conflict, it represents a flexible and cost-effective medium for post-conflict relief work and peace building as well as conflict prevention.


“Sport and Peace” (pp. 212-246) in Sport for Development and Peace International Working Group (2008), Harnessing the Power of Sport for Development and PeaceRecommendations to Governments. Available online here.

“Sport and Peace” (pp. 78-89) in United Nations (2006), Report on the International Year of Sport and Physical Education. Available online here.

“Sport and Peace” (pp. 15-17) in United Nations (2003), Report of the United Nations Inter-Agency Task Force on Sport for Development and Peace. Available online here.

"Sport and Peace-building": Online resource available on the International Platform on Sport and Development.


UN peacekeeping operations:

Côte d’Ivoire  In June 2009, a football tournament was organized by the UN peacekeeping operation in Côte d’Ivoire (UNOCI), bringing together the armed forces of the rebel-led FAFN and the government-led FDS to promote reconciliation and unity. Liberia  In 2007, the UN peacekeeping mission in Liberia (UNMIL), the IOC and UNOSDP teamed up to implement the country-wide “Sport for Peace” programme with the goal of fostering peace in the aftermath of the civil war and to educating youth about HIV/AIDS issues. Democratic Republic of the Congo  To promote the reconciliation process, the UN Organization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUC), the IOC and UNOSDP partnered in 2006 to organize the two-week long “Jeux de la Paix” (Peace Games), which included a variety of sports competitions and brought together youth from all parts of  the country. Read more about Sport for Peace activities in field missions led by the UN Department of Peacekeeping Operations.

UN funds, programmes and specialized agencies:

UNDP Burundi and the IOC collaborated for a sport project promoting inter-ethnic tolerance and understanding involving 13,500 children. Since the mid-1980s, UNICEF has played a key role in advocating and securing the release of children from armed forces and other combatant groups as well as facilitating their demobilization and re-integration into society with the help of sport, for example in Afghanistan, Angola, Burundi, Colombia, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Guinea-Bissau, Liberia, Mozambique, Rwanda, Sierra Leone, Somalia, Sri Lanka, Sudan and Uganda. UNHCR has used sport and play, in particular in the settings of refugee camps, to bring physical and psychological relief to refugees, internally displaced persons and victims of violent conflict and natural desasters. UNESCO undertook a series of Sport for Peace programmes for youth in Central America in 1995 (El Salvador, Costa Rica, Honduras, Nicaragua, Guatemala, and Panama) with the objective of strengthening the internal social cohesion in the societies of the region.

sport and peace