Sport and Sustainable Development Goals


After fifteen years of progress in the unprecedented Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), the world turned its attention to the successor Sustainable Development Goals in a period of transition to the newly adopted 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. In a time of recapitulation of achievements and pending business around the eight MDGs (poverty eradication, universal primary education, gender equality, child mortality reduction, improving maternal health, combating HIV/AIDS and other diseases, environment sustainability, and global partnership for development), the international community, led by the United Nations, undertook a thorough consultation process with all spheres of society and agreed on the following 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to be pursued in the next 15 years. With the overarching aspiration of getting people and planet closer together and leave no one behind, the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development is a unique opportunity to inspire global action for development worldwide, including the field of Sport for Development and Peace.

Sport has proven to be a cost-effective and flexible tool in promoting peace and development objectives. Since the inception of the MDGs in 2000, sport has played a vital role in enhancing each of the eight goals, a fact which has been recognized in numerous Resolutions of the General Assembly. In the Declaration of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development sport’s role for social progress is further acknowledged:

"Sport is also an important enabler of sustainable development. We recognize the growing contribution of sport to the realization of development and peace in its promotion of tolerance and respect and the contributions it makes to the empowerment of women and of young people, individuals and communities as well as to health, education and social inclusion objectives."

Driven by this milestone recognition and based on the past success of Sport for Development and Peace activities and programmes across multiple sectors, sport will continue to advance global development assisting in the work towards, and the realization of, the SDGs. The United Nations envisages sport to do so as an important and powerful tool with the potential to tackle challenges entailed in each of the 17 SDGs.

Click on a goal to learn about specific targets related to it. 

Sport can develop transferable skills and toolkits which play a key role in a self-reliant and sustainable life and lead to income-generating activities and economic participation. It can advocate for ending poverty as well as generate funds and facilitate partnerships for this goal.                                                                            


Sport can raise awareness on sustainable food sourcing, food security, healthy nutrition and sustainable agriculture. Sport organizations can set an example by sourcing food from responsible producers and tackling food waste impact. Sport-based educational initiatives can aim at changing behaviors towards a sustainable future. 


Through sport, individuals can adopt active lifestyles that enhance well-being, health and prevent diseases, particularly noncommunicable diseases. Sport can be a successful tool for health education and awareness raising towards healthy lives, especially among hard-to-reach or vulnerable individuals and communities such as refugees.


Sport and physical education can motivate children and youth to attend and engage in formal and informal education, as well as improve academic performance and learning outcomes. Sport can teach transferable life skills and key values such as tolerance, inclusion and can lead towards learning opportunities beyond school. 


Sport can contribute to the elimination of discrimination against women and girls by empowering individuals, particularly women, and equipping them with knowledge and skills needed to progress in society. Sport can advocate for gender equality, address constricting gender norms, and provide inclusive safe spaces. 


Sport contexts such as aquatic sports can promote and realize improvements in water quality by reducing pollution, dumping and wastewater. Water-use efficiency can also be enhanced in sport facilities.


Sport can contribute to targets on renewable energy, energy efficiency and access to clean energy by applying relevant standards and recommendations. It can support initiatives aiming at providing access to energy for all. 


Sport can promote inclusive and sustainable economic growth by aligning production and employment with labour standards, in particular being free from child or forced labour and discriminations of all forms. It can create job opportunities for all and develop employability enhancing skills which are transferrable into the workplace.  


Sport can encourage innovative approaches to industrialization and inspire innovation. It can contribute to equitable access for all by providing accessible sport infrastructure and spaces. Sport can also support building and reconstruction of resilient infrastructure, including sport facilities.


Sport can advocate for equality, diversity and inclusion of all irrespective of age, sex, race, ethnicity, origin, sexual orientation, gender identity, religion, economic or other status. It can be a successful tool for tackling inequality in hard-to-reach areas and for empowering individuals and communities.


Sport can help eliminate obstacles and barriers in the environment, transportation, public facilities and services to ensure access by all, including people facing those barriers and in vulnerable situations such as persons with disabilities. It can also promote the use of public safe spaces where diverse populations can interact and create friendly relations.


Sport can support sustainable consumption and production, and nature-friendly lifestyles, for example through education and awareness raising campaigns around sport products, services, events and related industries.


Sport can contribute to combating climate change, for instance through sport-based projects aimed at supporting the relief of communities and reconstruction of facilities in natural disaster recovery. It can also raise awareness on climate change by transmitting messages on its impacts and encourage action in this context.


Sport and sport events, especially aquatic sport, can be platforms for advocacy towards the conservation and sustainable use of oceans and seas.


Sport can advocate for the protection and sustainable use of terrestrial ecosystems, for instance with safeguards, activities and messages encouraging environmentally respectful practices in outdoor sport.


Sport provides a powerful communication platform for disseminating solidarity and reconciliation messages and fostering a culture of peace and dialogue, especially by promoting core values in sport such as respect, fair-play and team work. Sport institutions can be effective, accountable and inclusive by respecting human rights and striving for good governance.


The global reach, unmatched popularity and universal character of sport make it a versatile means of implementation. Sport can pool resources, create synergies, and build multi-stakeholder networks and partnerships for sustainable development and peace goals by bringing together a wide variety of actors from different sectors. 

Learn more about the contribution of Sport to the SDGs on the full overview. 

* Acknowledging that the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change is the primary international, intergovernmental forum for negotiating the global response to climate change