"Sport possesses an unprecedented capacity to mobilize, unite, and inspire" - Interview with Mr. Lemke

1 June 2016

UN Photo/Mark Garten


UN Office on Sport for Development and Peace (UNOSDP) has been working in for many years to promote the positive values of sport and to contribute to conflict resolution by means of sportive activity. Currently, UNOSDP is developing projects to enhance dialogue and reconciliation amongst parts in conflict all over the world, from the Middle East to both North and South Koreas. We talked about these projects and about the potential of sport as a peacebuilding tool with UNOSDP Special Adviser, Wilfried Lemke.

How can Sport contribute to the promotion of Peace and Development?

Sport contributes to the promotion of development and peace in many ways, but in particular there are three key aspects. First, due to its global reach and popularity around the world, sport possesses an unprecedented capacity to mobilize, unite, and inspire. It is a cost-effective, flexible and powerful tool in promoting peace and development objectives. Second, sport instills positive values for personal and social development. In fact, it rests upon inherent values, such as teamwork, respect, fair-play, and leadership to stimulate sustainable and positive development among societies. Finally, sport promotes ideals of peace, solidarity, and friendship. By bringing people together, regardless of their origins and backgrounds, it creates strong social cohesion and bonds, and facilitates mutual understanding and dialogue. Participants acquire transferrable skills that can be applied to other social areas, to foster further collaborative and positive action.

Which are the projects carried out by UNOSDP for the promotion of Peace and conflict resolution?

The Office has long been using the power of sport to bring people together and supporting sport for peace initiatives from mega sport events to the grassroots level. Together with the International Olympic Committee (IOC), since 1993 the United Nations calls all Member States to abide by the Olympic Truce an ancient tradition originating in Greece in the 9th century B.C. with the purpose of providing safe passage for athletes, families and pilgrims traveling to the Olympic Games. For seven days before, during and seven days after the Olympic Games, in the spirit of peaceful cooperation, participating countries agreed to cease all conflicts.

On 2015, the UN General Assembly adopted by consensus the latest edition of the “Olympic Truce” Resolution. It was co-sponsored by 180 UN Member States’, agreeing to observe the Olympic Truce for a 45 day period from the opening ceremony of the Rio 2016 Olympic Games to the closing ceremony of the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games.

On the grassroots level, UNOSDP launched the Youth Leadership Programme in 2012, in order to contribute to building a peaceful and better world by developing youth leaders and role models in and through sport. UNOSDP continue to encourage dialogue between parties of conflicts such as in the North and South Korea. In July 2014, we invited youth and officials from the two Koreas to the YLP in Gwangju (South Korea), and the Imagine PEACE Youth Camp in Olympia, Greece. This learning opportunity provided the youth with a chance to think about the value of sport and peace. Through UNOSDP’s efforts, the power of sport to help bring people together, build trust and provide a communication platform to the two Koreas has been further recognized...

Read the full interview in the latest issue of Peace in Progress